I thought I would write a little about Epilepsy and how it seems to of become an invisible illness regarding everyday living.
I have noticed lately through my own experiences and from other people’s perceptions that there are things we could do to prevent this.
The first thing we need to do is to understand that people with Epilepsy are classified as “disabled” under the Equality Act 2010. Because of this very important piece of legislation we have been given the rights of any other physically disabled person. This means that we can use disabled toilets, we can get a guaranteed interview under the two-tick scheme and we have the right to discounted travel.
I know I am not the only person who has felt discriminated against when I have been asked to produce my ID for my disabled train fare. Or even asked why I am using the disabled toilets when I am not in a wheelchair.
There are two answers to this: I may have a seizure at any given moment and need to use the disabled facilities. I can not drive due to my seizures so YES, I do need a disabled rail pass.
The second thing I have noticed is the lack of understanding of Epilepsy in the workplace. Questions such as ” are your seizures controlled” or “do you think it will impact your duties” I argue should never be asked at an interview. This is because it does not matter. If I am sat in front of you for a job then you can be sure I am fit enough to work for you. YES, I may need adjustments, but it makes me no less of a candidate for the job. Nor does it make anyone else with Epilepsy a unsuitable candidate.
So what can you do? ask me how Epilepsy has positively impacted my life and how I can relate it to the job I am applying for. Ask me if I need to take more breaks than the average person. Ask if I would prefer to type notes rather than write. ASK the important questions.
The last and most important thing is to never assume a person who is looking a bit unsteady on their feet, vacant, tired or odd to be what I have heard as “drunks” or “crazy people”.
One of the biggest things people need to be aware of is that Epileptics display all the behaviour of a person under the influence of alcohol. BUT we are actually having a seizure.
For example: A few year ago, I was walking across a road and I had an absent seizure (aka petit mal). I stopped in the middle of the road, vacant and staring. A car was coming down the road and was a millimetre from running me over. The only thing that brought me around was the sound of the car horn beeping and the barrage of abuse from the woman in the car. She called me an idiot and sped off still shouting verbal insults whilst I was left to recover by myself.
If you take anything from this post then please take away this message:
If something looks wrong, it probably is. If you are unsure of whether a person is disabled, then do not judge. If you are interviewing a disabled person than please be positive about their illness. If you are looking at a person’s ID do not doubt their medical needs. Be kind and compassionate in a world full of misunderstanding.