Bev embraces life with disability, with support from JobAccess
Image description: Beverly is smiling at the camera. She is wearing a white collared shirt and rests her right hand on her neck. Photo by Danni Briglia.
The global pandemic affected us all in different ways. For Beverly, known as Bev, the pandemic also brought to the surface the disability she had kept to herself for decades.
Bev is a Secondary Teacher and has worked in education for over 20 years. Bev is also hard of hearing. Bev had likely been living with her disability for years; however, it remained undiagnosed until well into her twenties. Bev attended 12 different schools during her education, and she left school at the end of year ten. “I wasn’t aware that I had a disability. It had been undiagnosed for years,” said Bev. “Specialists now think I have had it since I was a child.”
At 22, Bev went on to complete year 12 with the great support of a teacher named Prue Gill. Bev then became a qualified Youth Worker. Although Bev enjoyed the work, she found it too challenging as through this work, she realised that for disadvantaged youth to thrive, school is very necessary. “So, I became a teacher, I really wanted to support students from a disadvantaged background,” shared Bev.
A brief background on Bev’s life
Bev is passionate about advocating for young people and has made this her mission for her career, teaching face-to-face across primary and secondary sectors working across states and territories around Australia.
Over the years, Bev continues to be inspired by her past involvement in research work with Deakin University and The University of South Australia. The research project, ‘Teachers investigate Unequal Literacy Outcomes: Cross-generational Perspectives’ focused on increasing literacy outcomes for students from disadvantage. “I’m passionate about supporting kids, especially those who fall through the cracks,” said Bev.
Bev has also worked in remote Australian communities, “I have worked alongside First Nations people and their children, it was such a rich experience,” she shared.
Amongst Bev’s busy schedule pursuing her mission to enhance the lives of disadvantaged youth, Bev was previously a reserve in the Australian Army and found solace in exercise, including completing ultra-marathons.
Bev currently works at a school for students in pre-prep (first year at school) through to year 12. Bev works across the school to help staff create learning material for students with learning needs and support teachers in ensuring respectful and inclusive practices to achieve learning outcomes. She also teaches subjects to year seven and ten students.
In summary, Bev’s role involves optimising learning outcomes for students, and sometimes it’s not always just within the classroom that this takes place. “It’s the yard chats and checking in, being there for the students,” she shared.
With the arrival of COVID-19, Bev realised she needed help
Bev describes her disability as invisible, and over the years she wanted to keep it to herself. “I had shame. I wanted to hide my disability, I would hide my hearing aids behind my ears,” she shared. However, the pandemic changed her life overnight.
“Pre-COVID I could hide my disability. I used to lip read, but with masks, I could no longer see people’s mouths. I also used to lean in to hear more, with COVID, that frightened people away,” shared Bev.
Bev struggled to do her work, “there were huge barriers,” said Bev. When reflecting on her experience pre-COVID and coming to terms with her disability, Bev realised how hard she had worked to keep her experience living with disability private. “I didn’t realise how hard I was working and how tired I was.”
Bev recognised she needed some support. “To ask for help was a really big challenge for me,” she shared. Bev contacted various organisations, including Hearing Australia, which she described as a “safe haven.” Hearing Australia connected Bev with an NDIS provider, who put Bev in touch with JobAccess. “Suddenly, I was talking to people and was supported by people who knew what it was all about,” commented Bev.
JobAccess offers holistic and tailored advice on workplace adjustments. It also supports employers and people with disability to apply for funding adjustments. This funding, called the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF), gives financial help to eligible people living with disability and mental health conditions and employers, to buy work-related modifications, equipment, Auslan services and workplace assistance and support services.
The EAF is available to eligible people living with disability who are about to start a job, are self-employed or are currently working.
After an EAF application was lodged, JobAccess organised an independent assessor to visit Bev and assess her work environment, barriers in the workplace due to disability and identify solutions. At this point, Bev didn’t know what she needed. “I wasn’t aware of all the tech or what I needed. It’s been a real learning experience regarding the support that exists,” shred Bev.
With support of the JobAccess Professional Adviser, Bev was provided with a wireless loop microphone system (a Roger mic system) with three microphones. Bev can adapt how many she uses at a time, depending on her space. “The Roger mics do all the work for me. I use them in all areas of the school. It’s truly appreciated, as I couldn’t afford this equipment myself,” shared Bev.
Not only has Bev been learning how to use her new technology, she is also very upfront about her journey of learning to accept her life living with disability.
“I didn’t realise I was this hard of hearing. I was doing all the work to function. The equipment provided by JobAccess resulted in a lot of tears. It was terrifying. And it meant truly acknowledging that I have a disability,” shared Bev. “I have had to unpack my own unconscious bias.”
“It’s been life-changing, and I am less tired now. I now have a voice, and one of my privileges is that now people see these little mics and ask questions. I get to educate them about the supports available for people living with disability.”
With time, Bev is now embracing her technology and her experience, using it to help guide her work even more. “This kit is my little safety net now. It’s been life-changing, and I am less tired now. I now have a voice, and one of my privileges is that now people see these little mics and ask questions. I get to educate them about the supports available for people living with disability,” said Bev.
What’s next for Bev?
Whilst Bev acknowledges she is still on her journey and has much to learn, she notes, “It’s also been really nice to share my disability with my peers. As a teacher with lived experience of disability, we bring a unique perspective. We are very good at connecting the dots.”
Bev is very passionate about advocating for students and ensuring all schools within Australia understand the barriers for students living with disability and how to support students best. “I’m blessed to be in the industry I am in. Every day, I get the opportunity to make kids feel they matter (a quote from Maggie Dent). That’s what I think about every day when I get up in the morning,” said Bev.
Bev’s learning continues, too. Not only does Bev continue to push for more change for students living with disability and disadvantage, Bev is also pleasantly challenged by her students, whom she learns from every day. “I also teach kids who use hearing aids, and they correct me. It’s gorgeous; we share a nice laugh about it,” shared Bev.
The best part of Bev’s experience with JobAccess?
“Now that I’ve got the support, I feel included. I’ve got agency”
Bev felt truly heard and understood on her journey with JobAccess. “They did everything they could to understand me. They showed empathy, and they wanted to help me. JobAccess showed up for what I needed.”
When thanked for sharing her experience with JobAccess, Bev replied, “Without your service, I wouldn’t be sitting here smiling.”
What is the best part from JobAccess’ perspective? Bev continues to thrive at work, and she feels included at work. “Now that I’ve got the support, I feel included. I’ve got agency,” concludes Bev.
Need support with workplace adjustments? Experts are a call away.
Contact JobAccess on 1800 464 800 to speak to our Advisers for expert, confidential and tailored advice on workplace adjustments. You can also submit an online enquiry through our website.