Brian Hogan is a 47 year old man from Tulla, Co. Clare in Ireland. He has been described by colleagues and friends as a leader in his community due in part to his extensive and varied work within the voluntary sector in Clare. He has been advocating for the rights of people with disabilities for the last decade and has been actively developing his research knowledge and skills to help with this endeavour. Brian is currently looking for paid employment to supplement his voluntary activities.
What is your personal experience with disability?
I have a learning disability. I lived in an institution when I was younger and then with a few people in a house but now I live on my own.
Can you describe your present and past employment situation and experience?
At the moment I am looking for paid work with the support of Employability in Clare. I would like to work in a local business. In the past I have had many jobs. I worked in Clare Marts for a year and a half and also in a store room of a shop. I worked in an electronics factory for about four years but then it closed down. I really enjoyed working there. I liked meeting people and the work that I did. After that I worked with FAS on a work scheme with Tidy Towns. I did this for 2 and ½ years. I did things like flower beds, weeding, tidying the village, sweeping and cleaning.
While working with Tidy Towns, myself and two friends set up a local coffee shop called ‘Brian and Joe’s coffee shop’ in Scarriff, Co. Clare. This was financially supported by the Brothers of Charity Clare and a local co-op. It was hard work to get it up and running. We made it accessible for people with disabilities, we put in ramps and an accessible toilet. We had a system that people could donate books and then we would sell them on for a small fee. We also had a small coffee shop for coffees, teas and scones. I worked here for two years.
Has it been difficult for you to find a job?
My experience is that looking for work has been slow in coming. It is very hard to get paid employment. It isn’t there. There isn’t much at the moment for people with disabilities in Ireland, that´s what I have seen anyway. I’d like to see more work for people with disabilities. Employers could be more open for people with disabilities and give the kind of work experience for people with disabilities and then make their judgments after. They think once you have a disability you have an illness. There needs to be more support for people with disabilities in the employment sector.
How have you tried to overcome the challenges you have faced in the employment sector?
I’ve kept going, kept fighting. I use all my willpower to keep going and keep fighting. I have been going out and volunteering and keeping myself active. At the moment I am trying to make my C.V. easy-to-read, to use pictures instead of a lot of writing. I have decided to do this to make it more accessible. It is on a pilot basis at the moment with Employability Clare. This is something I have been advocating for, for years and we are hoping that other people looking for work will be able to use my easy-to-read version as a template.
I have also tried to educate myself as much as possible. I have done a human rights course in the Limerick Institute of Technology and adult literacy courses in Scarriff and Ennis. I got a certificate for these. I am very focused now on job seeking and using my skills and really letting employers know how much I have to offer.
What sort of volunteering and research activities have you been involved in?
I have been volunteering with Emotions in Ennis, Co. Clare for about a year and a half. Emotions is a community peer support centre for people with mental health issues. I set it up with four other people. I volunteer there two days a week. Before, I volunteered with Enable Ireland in a charity clothes shop.
I am very active in research about people with disabilities in my local area and nationally. At the local level I am the chairperson of the Clare Self-Advocacy Platform which is a consultation group to the management team of a local service provider. I am also the lead inclusive researcher with the Clare Inclusive Research Group. I do things like campaigning, interviewing and presenting. Nationally, I am joint treasurer on the National Self-Advocacy Platform and I am a steering group member on the Inclusive Research Network which is a national network for inclusive researchers. With the Inclusive Research Network I am providing HIQA training all over Ireland to other people with disabilities about their rights and entitlements about the service they are getting. I get paid for this.
I am also a student on the Research Active Programme with the University of Limerick. I completed an eight week course in 2012 about the steps for doing research that can make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. In 2013 I became a mentor in this programme for other students with disabilities. As a mentor I helped to deliver the programme and shared my experiences with the students.
In my research I am looking at things like the accessibility of towns in Ireland, especially in Clare. I am also working on an easy-to-read version of personal plans for other people with disabilities who get services so that people can be empowered more within their lives. It has been piloted so far with two people and we are hoping to roll it out in the whole service. I am also looking at trying to set up independent living options in Clare.
What is it about research that you enjoy so much?
I like to help other people and to develop my own skills and knowledge. I enjoy learning more about disabilities through doing research into it. The people I work with in research provide me with support, we work together as a team and I really enjoy that.
But they are all voluntary positions because there is no funding. The advocacy field needs more work in Ireland. There could be more research done into it and more funds gone into it to support it. I think more people should have the opportunity to do what I’m doing. And getting paid is important. We’re out putting in the hours and providing help to people and there’s no pay out of it.
What skills have you developed through your advocacy and research work that will stand to you in your future employment?
Well, thanks to my work in research and advocacy I am a lot more confident and assertive. I am good at working as part of team and I also have the ability to provide leadership when needed. I am a good listener, and very motivated and reliable. People have described me as a straight talker and very honest in my dealings with people which I would agree with.
What things do you like to do in your leisure time?
I enjoy cooking and playing darts. I play darts in the local pub in Tulla every Thursday night. I am improving every time. I play in local competitions and I practice regularly at home. I like going to the gym. I try to go twice during the week. I also enjoy taking part in table quizzes in my local pub, tv soaps are my specialty.
What advice would you give to young disabled persons?
Keep trying and don’t give up!