This week organisations across the UK are celebrating National Careers Week and what better time to share the uplifting story of our Ethos trustee Darren Hughes who has forged a successful career from his wheelchair.
During the last three decades Darren, 55, has played a huge role in helping people with life-changing physical disabilities live full lives.
He has drawn on his own experiences of life in a wheelchair after being paralysed in a swimming pool accident at the age of 25.
Today he is a fully qualified lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester specialising in cases where people have suffered injuries similar to his own. But he still finds the time to volunteer as a trustee with us at the Ethos Group helping our clients achieve their own independent and fulfilled lives.
His message to anyone with a disability is “go for it” and don’t let your disability get in the way of your career aspirations.
“Don’t give up because you are disabled. If there is a career that you want to pursue or something that really interests you, go for it and don’t let your disability hold you back,” he said.
Darren first came to Ethos as an Independent Living Advocate before taking on administrative roles and becoming Manager of Transhouse, the Ethos Group’s former name, from 1995 to 2003 before then going on to train as a solicitor and qualify in 2005.
Darren explained that he completed a degree in Health Studies at Chester University soon after leaving the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital and was approached to work as a volunteer with Ethos as an Independent Living Advocate. This led on to a paid administrative post with the charity and later to the Manager’s role which he did for six years.
“I met many personal injury lawyers while I was working with the Ethos Group and became really interested in what they did. I made enquiries and was able to do two years of post-graduate study at the College of Law in Chester University. I then did another two years as a trainee solicitor with Walker Smith Way Legal in Wrexham and they kept me on as a Personal Injury Solicitor once my training. I began running my own case load whilst also assisting one of the partners on the most serious cases,” he said.
When Walker Smith Way Legal was bought out by Slater and Gordon, Darren stayed with the company as a personal injury solicitor and is now based in Manchester although he works from his Wrexham home three days each week.
He said that advances in technology such as video conferencing and dictation software plus improved access had made his work easier to manage from his wheelchair although he stressed that it had never been a huge problem.
He has received funding to help with some of the extra costs of being a wheelchair user in his working life by the Government’s Access to Work scheme.
“If a disabled person needs equipment, support or software to help in their job, this scheme will give them the funding to get it. I’ve used it to get my dictation software as my typing speed is very slow and also to pay for someone to accompany me if I need extra help getting to a meeting or to court. It’s not a well publicised scheme but the funding can make a big difference. It was funding from this scheme that helped me get my post with Ethos after university.”
He urged anyone with a disability to pursue their career dreams - they might be surprised at what was achievable.
“If there is something that really interests you, pursue it, otherwise you may well look back and regret it. If you investigate it and it doesn’t work, then at least you have tried and it may well lead on to other things.
“Employers are very aware of what disabled people can bring to the workplace and are often bending over backwards to be supportive. So just go for it!”
If you would be interested in becoming a trustee for Ethos, we’re looking for people with a range of backgrounds and expertise. You can find out more here.
Even if you cannot help us as a trustee, please help us spread the word about the work we do to support our clients to live independently after suffering a life-changing injury or illness by liking our Facebook page and following us on Twitter and LinkedIn at ethosgrouposwestry.