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Young disabled woman reveals her fight for employment

Jasmine Rankin from Taunton campaigns to tackle the 50% unemployment rate for disabled people. Photo: ITV News

A young disabled woman from Taunton, who has a full-time job, her own house and claims no benefits, is calling on local employers to tackle the 50% unemployment rate amongst disabled people.

Jasmine Rankin, 23, believes companies often discriminate when sifting job applications. She's experienced this first hand, as a result of living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

The condition has caused her muscles progressively to weaken. She was able to walk with a frame until she was about eight but from the age of eleven has used a wheelchair full time.

As she grew older, she went through school, gained good grades and left home to move into her own place. Her independence now means everything to her.

I am so lucky to have independence. When I was diagnosed at 18 months they told my mum that I wouldn't be here today. So the fact that I'm driving, working, living on my own - I have got my own team of carers coming in and out - I think is great in itself. But the fact I've also got the independence on top of that is even better.

– Jasmine Rankin, disability employment campaigner
Jasmine Rankin. Credit: ITV Westcountry

Jasmine went through a period of her life when she wasn't working and found it very tough. She was depressed and unmotivated and felt she was wasting her ability. So she started volunteering for the company that she now works for and made her way up the ladder.

Jasmine enlisted the help of Fixers and her project with them is to change employers' perceptions of disabled people.

At a Q&A session with pupils from Taunton Academy she told them she sent out three job applications to potential employers telling them she was disabled and three applications that didn't mention she had a disability. The responses were very different.

She heard nothing back from companies where she had revealed she was disabled but employers who didn't know she had a disability did offer her interviews.

You know I went through school and I got A stars, all my qualifications are great. But somehow the chair seems to get in the way with some employers. Obviously I am working now, so someone does appreciate my abilities.

– Jasmine Rankin.
Jasmine Rankin sharing her experiences of applying for jobs with pupils at Taunton Academy. Credit: ITV News
Richard Pitman, Compass Disability Services. Credit: ITV Westcountry

Employers get it wrong often through their misconceptions really. They always believe there's going to be a huge amount of cost employing a disabled person when there is support out there. They believe that they're always going to be off ill, which often is not the case, and I think positive stories like the work Jas is doing with her project is all about changing those attitudes.

– Richard Pitman, Compass Disability Services.

Jasmine feels employers are getting it wrong from the moment they see the application form and when it's apparent an applicant is disabled, they're not given a chance.

My main message to employers I suppose would be - just give us a chance, see the ability that we have rather than the disability.

– Jasmine Rankin.

Watch Jasmine' story below, in her own words:

If you have any concerns about the issues raised by Jasmine's story then get in touch with Scope.