In 2017 I took a job at the Co-op which meant moving myself and my family five thousand miles across the world. It was an exciting opportunity, partly because it gave me the chance to bring the skills I learned whilst living in the US for 9 years, back to the UK with me. I have a long standing connection with the Co-op and the wider Co-op movement. From sticking dividend stamps in the book for a treat as a kid, to a time as a young adult when Housing Co-ops were my route out of homelessness.
ADHD and me
As well as excitement, the move also brought with it a lot of apprehension, and not just because of the distance involved. My life had changed a lot over the previous nine years. I had got married, started a family, and amid all this, I received a diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). This diagnosis helped me to start making sense of some of the struggles that had haunted me up to that point, wherever I went.
ADHD takes different forms, and I didn’t fit the stereotype (one reason it took so long to be diagnosed). It has affected many aspects of my life, with employment the area where I’ve come up against the most barriers. I've struggled most with executive function, which is a set of mental skills involving memory and time keeping. It's the skills we use to keep track of, plan and organise our lives. I have a poor short-term memory and what’s known as “time-blindness”, so it can take a lot more effort for me to undertake tasks and keep track of things. Without medication, my memory and timekeeping are unreliable in ways I can’t control. In the past I’ve often worked and not been paid correctly because I would struggle to get timesheets in on time, or at all.
My experiences over the years have taught me that I need an employer who will take my disability seriously and make reasonable adjustments to support me. Thankfully Co-op puts its values at the heart of what it does, and this includes taking the issues disabled people face seriously. I see this all around me at work. Co-op leaders take the time to listen to my experiences and work with my disability, not against it.
Co-op values my perspective as a neurodivergent person
In my job as a software engineer, I’ve seen Co-op’s commitment to digital accessibility first-hand. I've been able to input into everything from how we recruit new colleagues, to how we can design our websites so they work for neurodivergent folks. Since joining, I’ve also helped start a network called Represent, which helps give disabled colleagues a voice. Through Represent I’ve had the chance to talk in front of hundreds of people about my life and the difficulties I can face, as a neurodivergent person.
No organisation is perfect, but the Co-op provides me with the help I need to thrive at work. I’ve found a place where I don't have to hide my disability, where it's not seen as a burden but as an opportunity to provide a different perspective. I can look back to the time four years ago when everything was about to change, and know I made the right decision when I chose to work here.