The first series of Employable Me was celebrated and criticised in quite equal amounts, a balance which seems likely to follow with this series as well. Whereas the first series focused exclusively on Tourette’s Syndrome and Autism, series two has moved on to focus on a wider range of disabilities or conditions.
Employers see the wheelchair first and me and my abilities second
This week the focus is on Ryan Stevens, who has Tourette’s Syndrome, and Andy Ibbott, who had a stroke which left him with partial paralysis and aphasia.
Doctor Nancy Doyle, one of the professionals from the first series who worked with the individuals with Tourette’s returns for this season and the set-up has changed somewhat. Rather than being a series of assessments which show just how high scoring individuals are on certain tests, this time around there is a kind of mixed disability group job centre workshop with Nancy at the helm.
I think I prefer this because there was something that didn’t quite sit right about the first series where they were assessing the individuals and their abilities and all of them were coming out with assessment scores which were really high. I felt like it was reinforcing the idea that people with Tourette’s or autism must all be super-capable and high-achieving in certain areas and that left a lot of people unrepresented. This time around, the only assessment that takes place is to boost Andy’s self-confidence around his speech – where his verbal abilities fall within average range so he can be reassured that he is getting his point across when he talks to people.
Ryan has one of the most severe cases of Tourette’s in the country. He was let go from his previous job in retail because of verbal ticcing and watching him on the screen, it looks exhausting – particularly when he has a self-injurious tic-attack.
I can stop it but it hurts to stop it, so my brain says “No, we’re gonna do it”.
Whereas Andy has overcome doctor’s expectations in his recovery from his stroke. He discusses his low points with his depression and suicidal ideations when, despite his previous career as a managing director, he applies for hundreds of jobs and gets no positive responses.
As both Ryan and Andy renew their job hunt following their job group experience, it can be hard to watch. Andy’s wife does not come across as supportive at all; although there’s always the possibility that this is due to editing. Ryan’s tics and general medical condition worsens and he struggles to balance his desire to hunt for a job with also looking after himself, his boyfriend also struggles to know exactly how to help him.
And whilst there is a positive ending with both obtaining paid employment, there’s no big hurrah because you can’t help but get the feeling that neither of those places would have considered either Andy or Ryan if the cameras hadn’t been present. There was no real enthusiasm from the employers and the job offers were awkward and uncertain. Perhaps that doesn’t matter because now Andy and Ryan are in post, their passion and their personality can show their respective employers just how valuable it is to be more open-minded in hiring staff. Although, if the BBC don’t follow up on the people from the last series, we may never find out whether the job offers are genuine or a publicity exercise.
It’s superb to have a job, it’s as simple as that. It’s superb.