“A year ago I didn’t know anything about inclusive design, but the training I’ve received has helped me repair my self-confidence and believe that, yes, I can do this. Now, I’m part of a new community and I feel like this career was destined for me,” says Pathways Academy, trainee Sana Khan.
But it was a different story for Sana a year ago. Before joining Pathways, she had been made redundant due to the Covid-19 pandemic and was finding it tough to secure a new job.
“I had experience in everything from retail and hospitality work to charity work, but I just couldn’t find an appropriate job – I started to think, maybe, it’s because I’m disabled,” she says.
After months of searching, Sana was at a low point, until she came across information about the Pathways Academy and realised a career in access and inclusive design was a good fit.
Life before Pathways
Sana was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Dyspraxia when she was 26 after going through mainstream schooling in two countries.
“My personal experience with disability has been complex”, she says. “Being diagnosed as an adult means that I’m still figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.
“It was a relief to get a diagnosis and be able to explain why I’ve always felt like I don’t fit in. And, one reason I joined the Pathways Academy is that I believed it’d help me figure out and better understand my needs.”
Benefits of a virtual course
At first, Sana thought she might miss out on key aspects of learning as Pathways Academy is a virtual programme. But as time went on, she realised she could reap many benefits from the online format.
“For the most part, I enjoyed that it was virtual. It meant that I didn’t have to spend an hour travelling into Central London for the sessions. It also let me focus on my mental health and, as I was in my own home, I was able to get comfortable with the sessions more quickly.
“While I found the group work a little challenging at times – as it’s usually easier to read design plans and other material in person – the learning environment meant I became more focussed on not talking over other people accidentally, and I had plenty of practice in verbally describing images.”
Where to from here?
Sana hopes that her Pathways training will open up a career in the Heritage sector.
“I hope, long term, that the training will help me transition into a job in a museum or heritage site where I’ll play a part in improving access and diversity for visitors and staff.
“In the meantime, I’m looking forward to starting my career as an Access and Inclusion Consultant.”
A leap into the future
To other young disabled people considering the Pathways Academy programme and a career in access, Sana’s advice is “take the leap!”
“I was so nervous about applying, especially as I have an invisible disability. I felt like maybe I’d stand out and not belong, like people would question why I was there,” she says.
“I worried about the fact that I only had informal, personal experiences with disability and inclusive design. Not to mention that it’s so different from anything I’ve done before.
“But I pushed myself and took a chance on applying and it’s been the best decision of my life. Not only has Pathways Academy given me the confidence to pursue a new career, it’s also introduced me to a group of like-minded peers.”