By Lee Braddock, Transformation Lead

The theme of this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities is about how not all disabilities are visible.

I guess that if you were to meet me in work, pass me in the street or look at my picture above you wouldn’t think I was disabled. And I’ll let you into a secret, despite having a disability (in my case a chronic condition) and taking tablets and injecting insulin for over 25 years, I didn’t think I was disabled either. But I am. 

I’ve got type one diabetes which has to be managed with medication. The moment of realisation that I am disabled only came for me earlier this year. I’m not sure if you’re aware but the Co-op has a newly formed network for disabled colleagues called Represent, and it was after attending one of their sessions that I made the connection between diabetes and disability.

Coming to terms with it has been a bit of a rollercoaster but it feels good to know I’m part of a disabled group who are there for each other. And having Represent there to be the voice of colleagues with disabilities in work is amazing – I’d urge anyone to get involved with this group, it’s been life changing for me.

I can generally manage my condition but sometimes I’ll have hypos where my blood sugar doesn’t regulate itself. Whilst I can normally stabilise it, the day after can be incredibly tough and I’ll feel exhausted. In the past I would’ve powered through but since I’ve started to identify as disabled my mindset has changed. I’ve got a really supportive team and now, if I need more time or need to postpone a meeting because I don’t feel well, I will do. My work ethic and what I produce hasn’t changed, I’m just being kinder to myself.

Did you know that only 17% of disabled people are actually born with their disability? The other 83% go on to develop a disability, this could be a chronic condition or something that is temporary rather than permanent. So there may be a time when you need more support.

If you want to chat to likeminded people in similar situations, please contact Represent by emailing disabilitynetwork@coop.co.uk or joining our Yammer page where you can share your stories and experiences, simply have a chat or ask for help and advice.  Even if you’re not disabled you can join the group, we want all colleagues to get behind Represent and the movement at Co-op and be a part of making a positive difference for our colleagues.