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 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.