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A life changing accident 

In 2018, I slipped on a dog toy, fell down the stairs, and suffered injuries to my brain and spinal cord. I was later diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) – this means my brain turned off the feeling to my legs while my spine was healing, but then never turned the feeling back on again.  

As first, I was disheartened by my injury. I felt like I couldn’t do anything anymore, and I unsuccessfully applied for over 1000 jobs without getting feedback from a single organisation to tell me where I’d gone wrong.  

Being offered an opportunity to shine 

When I applied to join Co-op as a Customer Team Member, I ticked a box to state that I wanted to be interviewed under the Disability Confident Scheme. This meant I’d be guaranteed an interview if I met the minimum criteria for the job. I was lucky enough to be interviewed, and offered the job, by a manager who looked past my wheelchair to see me, my skills, and my potential. 

I needed some adaptations to be made so that I could do my job to the best of my ability. Some of these adaptions were obvious, like making the doors wider and installing a wheelchair accessible toilet. Other changes meant reducing the number of aisles in the store to make sure both my wheelchair and our trollies could fit. A brand new till was also created, so I could fit my wheelchair. These changes enabled me to perform all the same tasks as other team members. 

Re-discovering my confidence 

Thanks to the changes made in the store, and the support from my manager to develop, I thrived in my role. I quickly felt comfortable to put myself forward for a promotion. I was successful in July, and happy to be promoted to Customer Team Leader. I’m now training and coaching new team members myself. I always try to give them the same kind of support I received when I joined.  

Since joining the team, I’ve regained some of the confidence I lost after my accident. I’ve taken positive steps in my career, whilst also studying History full-time at university. It’s occasionally been difficult to balance my studies, but through open and honest conversations with my manager, we’ve found a schedule that works for me and the team. I feel lucky to have found an employer that offers me the flexibility I need to fulfil my potential.  

Jade Hughes, 

Customer Team Leader