I have always relished being in the detail of ‘big’ ideas, and I had therefore wanted to go to university for as long as I can remember. During my first year though, I was not well. A lecturer suggested meeting with the University’s “Disability Adviser” and I replied, “What on earth for?” It was the first time anyone had spoken the word “disability” to me.
I have Phenylketonuria (PKU), a genetic condition, which I now manage with a low protein diet, many daily tablets, and a wonderful medical team on speed dial. When I graduated, I built a career in the NHS and then human resources management whilst completing three more postgraduate degrees.
I like to challenge myself, so I don’t stay anywhere people have lower expectations of me than I have of myself.
This mind-set generally leads me to employers who value and develop me.
I often hear resistance to the statement that a disability ‘defines’ someone, but PKU does defines me; it is in my very genes! It is only by considering everything through a ‘PKU lens’ that I make sensible decisions about what I do and don’t take on. The achievements I am most proud of have been realised when I have consciously aligned my goals with what my body needs.
I am now doing my PhD. My ambition is to be a Doctor of Philosophy, and I am excited about my continued career in policy and research.
My Plus is ensuring my professional and academic goals also meet the needs of my body.
Angela Matthews is currently doing a PhD is theology and law at the University of Kent. She also works as an Advice Service and Policy Manager at Business Disability Forum.