Time for change

This week, I did a sad thing. I handed in my notice at SSCL, where I've been working for almost three years. It was sad because I genuinely love my job. The team I work with are amazing! I will miss them so much! However, at the end of this month, I will be leaving the team.


I will also miss my main client. I've been working with the HMPPS (Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service) learning and development team since I got this job. It brought me into a world that I had never even thought about. I have learned so much about our justice system and particularly how offenders are dealt with, than I could possibly imagine. The thing that has leapt out at me, time and time again, is how much energy, time and resource goes into those who have committed offences. HMPPS is a huge organisation, and I'm sure they don't get it right all the time, and I'm sure there are a few individuals that don't fit this model... however, the emphasis on treating offenders with respect, understanding them, helping them to understand themselves better, changing their behaviours, etc., has been truly inspirational to me. 

There have been times, I won't lie, when the ethos of HMPPS has challenged me. I have been a victim of crime and as a family, we have been deeply affected by crime. Sometimes the thought of those people being rehabilitated doesn't sit well. I'm human. There is a part of me that would prefer to make them suffer, as they have made others suffer. Forgiveness is not an easy path. I have increasingly realised though, that most offenders started off as children... innocent, harmless... much like you and me. For many, their lives took them on a journey that doesn't bear thinking about. Through abuse, neglect, poor parenting, poor schooling, poor health, (the list is endless) they ended up making wrong decisions and paying the price via the justice system. I could go on but this is a tangent.


One of the first things my line manager told me, almost three years ago, was that they were trying to make their products (learning management system, eLearning, etc) accessible for people who used screen readers. This was the beginning of a journey for them... a journey that I have become deeply passionate about and that has changed the course of my thinking and where I want my career to go.

Digital accessibility is still something of a hidden world. It sometimes feels a bit like Narnia. A few select people pop through the wardrobe every now and then but back in the real world, nobody knows or cares much about it. This is changing. Gradually, the concept of online accessibility is becoming better known, better understood. However, there is still a very long way to go.

Over the last three years, my work has become less about eLearning and more about meeting the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.1) and more recently, it has moved towards awareness raising, training, and changing culture. And this is where I had a bit of a moment.

For such a time as this

Becoming disabled has been a rollercoaster journey. There have been some major downs and even moments where jumping off the rollercoaster has been tempting. What has pulled me through though, is a sense of purpose. I can't explain it well. It's very personal. Throughout history, there have been people who could relate though. People who lived through a time of huge change. People who lived through pain or injustice but rather than letting it define them, they used it to fight for a better world. Like Esther, in the Old Testament, they were born for such a time as this. They didn't have to step up. If they hadn't, maybe someone else would have come along. But they did. 

I doubt that my contribution will ever be that monumental but I couldn't be in this situation, at this stage of my journey, and pass up an opportunity to step up.

At this stage, I'll leave you wondering where I'm moving to... it may be a little controversial. In the new year, I'll be starting my new role as a senior accessibility specialist. It's a role that centres around accessibility... mainly digital accessibility... and culture change within an organisation. 

I'm excited! This new opportunity should allow me to share my skills with others and benefit those who are often forgotten, left sitting behind their assistive technology, wondering whether anything will ever just work. I've been on that end of it so many times. I long for the day when equality of access is so good that my new role isn't even needed. When that happens, I will retire. I'm also excited because I know I have so much more to learn and this is the opportunity to learn more. Every time a question has arisen in my current work, but I haven't had the time to find the answer... I hope this can now be my 100% priority and focus. 

Not in the sense of monumental world change, but more in the sense of working in an area that encompasses by whole being, I feel that I am here for such a time as this.


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