Osayuki Igbinoba, a future pharmacist joins us for a Q&A to give us some insight into her life as a disabled pharmacy worker.
Why did you decide to study pharmacy?
I decided to study pharmacy because I enjoy learning about science. I also like helping others and making a difference, which is part of the career as a pharmacist.
Where are you now in your pharmacy career and where do you aspire to be in the future?
I am a 3rd year pharmacy student at Kingston University. I work part time at Boots pharmacy at Valley Park in East Croydon as a pharmacy advisor. I have been accepted onto the 3 week summer placement scheme at Croydon University Hospital. I also had an offer for the Boots summer placement but due to the coronavirus, they have given me the opportunity to work in a branch at my preferred location during the summer as a pharmacy advisor. They also said I will gain a taster of what their pre-registration programme looks like. I think I will have a greater idea of where I would like to do my pre-registration year afterwards.
You’ve recently featured in Stylist, the Metro, The Independent and spoken to the Disability News Service discussing the difficulties you’ve faced whilst travelling to work during the current pandemic – can you tell us more about what happened?
Since the lockdown, I had to move home from my halls of residence and take up a different commute to work. Across the first 2 weekends I was denied ramp assistance at various train stations. Train staff treated me as if I was outside for no reason and assumed that disabled people do not work. At London Bridge station, on the way home from work, a woman working on the platform said she would not bring the ramp for me to board the train. Apparently they had been ‘instructed by their manager not to assist disabled passengers because of social distancing’. After a long discussion, they reluctantly agreed to bring the ramp. I asked for someone to help push me up the ramp but the man on the platform did not even want to touch the handles of my wheelchair and said as much. He reluctantly assisted me in the end. The whole experience was very traumatic. I made a complaint, but the following weekend, a similar thing happened. ‘One of the staff members caught the coronavirus after helping a wheelchair user and has taken three months leave’, was the ludicrous comment I was told by staff at London Bridge. Because of the horrendous experience I had the previous week, my mum had joined me on the commute. Staff only agreed to bring the ramp for me to board the train after my mum said she would pull the emergency lever if they refused to help.
This is the link to my Metro article for further details: https://metro.co.uk/2020/04/08/disabled-key-worker-public-transport-12526270/?ito=article.desktop.share.top.link
We know that you’re a part of the Scope for Change community, what’s your campaign about?
I graduated from the Scope for Change programme with the disability charity Scope at the end of February. My campaign was for disabled access in workplaces especially step free access and disabled toilets. I was also campaigning for better attitudes towards disabled employees and other areas such as employers implementing reasonable adjustments. I have recently been working with the Scope team during my recent campaign about accessibility on trains for disabled passengers during the lockdown. My campaign was a success as the Minister of State for Transport, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, wrote an open letter to the rail companies about providing access for disabled passengers during the lockdown. There was also a national meeting held amongst rail companies regarding assisting disabled passengers during COVID-19 and about social distancing.
This is the link to Chris Heaton-Harris’ open letter: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/letter-from-the-rail-minister-to-the-rail-delivery-group-on-maintaining-accessibility-during-the-covid-19-outbreak
What keeps you motivated?
One of my motivations is to succeed in life and qualify as a pharmacist. Also, my goal is to make a difference in other disabled people’s lives. Disabled people have not been given an equal chance to succeed in society, as we face discrimination in various aspects of our lives. I want to be a voice standing up for the rights of disabled people.
In this country and others across the globe many parents give up their children, just because they have a disability. In the future, I want to encourage more parents to raise their children with disabilities as disabled people have potential too.
Moving forward with the experiences that you’ve had and the challenges you’ve met, what changes would you like to see in the future?
After the momentum my campaign gained, there has been a great improvement with the assistance I have received from staff at the train stations during my commute to and from work. I hope delivering accessibility for disabled passengers in this way continues beyond the pandemic, as beforehand there were many flaws in the system.
In the future I would also like all workplaces to provide disabled access in their premises especially disabled toilets and step free alternative access.
Additionally, I would like all driving schools to have driving instructors that have hand control adaptations available in their cars. I am a double amputee above the knee and I use prosthetic legs. I have not been able to learn how to drive yet, as none of the driving instructors in my area provide hand controls in their cars. It is a simple adaptor that can be attached on and off the steering wheel, as I have trialled it before. The driving instructors that do have them are many miles away and charge higher fees for standard lessons, which is not fair. Disabled people should have a chance to learn how to drive like everyone else. This is an issue I will be campaigning about in the future.
We would like to thank Osayuki for her contribution to pharmacy, commend her strength in character and wish her the very best in her studies and campaigns!