At the end of my first two weeks as a parliamentary intern here at the Scottish Parliament. Generally, I have enjoyed it so far! I had induction sessions informing me about the workings of the Scottish Parliament on both the member and parliamentary side, I met with Graeme Dey, MSP for Angus South who is one of the MSPs that have taken me on as their parliamentary intern through Inclusion Scotland – the other is Linda Fabiani, MSP for East Kilbride. After the introductions, Graeme’s Parliamentary Assistant and Researcher, Julia, helped me through the formalities of being a new employee, getting security pass and IT login details. From then on, I felt like an employee, with my pass around my neck and computer access. It is the small things that make you feel like part of the wider picture, really. Anyway, I got the opportunity to attend a briefing delivered by Scottish Natural Heritage about the visual representation of wind farms. I’m sure most of us know that the sight of wind farms are widely considered to be a blot on the Scottish landscape. It was very encouraging to see evidence of the Scottish government’s efforts to try and make better the problems caused by this. Personally, I think that although the sight of wind farms are not particularly nice, the benefits that they bring outweigh the visual aspect of them. For instance, while wind-farms provide us with the means of producing cleaner ways of producing electricity that is likely to help reduce Scotland’s carbon footprint they also present Scotland with the opportunity to create a new industry that will bring new forms of employment within engineering or design, for example. The following day, I attended a supporting businesses debate in the chamber. Part of it covered the issues of encouraging and supporting Scottish businesses to employ disabled workers. As the debate on the matter developed, I found myself nodding my head in agreement or disagreement. I became enthralled by it all. I guess it is mainly to do with the fact that I have myself experienced difficulties finding paid employment. Besides this, it also gave me a throwback to the days of seeing my late Granda John become animated as he watched FMQs or PMQs live on the television. Funny how things come back to you.
In the office environment, things are going well, considering the challenges around making adjustments for my hearing impairment. Human Resources here in the Scottish Parliament have been keen to support me, and are looking into getting me a textphone. The lack of a textphone does cause me some difficulty because it means that I have to rely on and wait for someone to get back to me by email with information that I may need, things that can be done quicker by telephone, or textphone in my case. It appears that there are some technical issues to do with the phone system which mean that for me to get a normal textphone the SP would need to install another telephone line and I wouldn’t be able to transfer calls and suchlike, which is a bit inconvenient, but maybe we can find ways around that. Some people may think that I can use a BSL interpreter to make and take calls on my behalf, but I would much rather do such things independently with the use of adaptive technology so it’s good that we are looking into this. Also, BSL interpreters are not always available as there’s a desperate shortage of them- something that being on this internship has made me all the more aware of! We were able to get them in for most of the induction sessions which was good, and the times we weren’t able to book the Parliament staff arranged to meet with me separately when I had interpreters available.
There’s one thing I’ve been regretting. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend and take notes at a budget meeting. This would have been a great way to meet other people. However, I was worried that taking notes wouldn’t work for me given my hearing loss and so in the end I didn’t go. Since then I’ve discussed this with Human Resources. They are keen to support me and have been great. Perhaps next time another staff member could take notes and I would tidy them up on the PC, and maybe there are other things we could do, and we are going to look into this. However, the fact that I chose not to go at the time is bothering me – I see it as a missed opportunity to make connections.
I spoke about it with Phyl at Inclusion Scotland and he reminded me that part of the reason I am here is to flag up things like that where tasks might be difficult so that we can learn from it and come up with more ways to make adjustments, and the best way to do that is to go anyway even if I do think it might not work well. The Parliament and my MSPs are very keen to be inclusive, and I’m keen to do my bit to help them learn how. I am talking to friends and doing web research to find other ways I can do things and am going to talk further with HR in the Parliament and with Phyl about options.
Well, that’s it for now! I will keep you all updated. Watch this space!