Finding a job does not seem to be a problem for most young people. Enough work you would say and no shortage of vacancies. Unemployment rates have never been this low. Employees are drawn everywhere. Only, people with a physical disability are not invited that quickly, or have difficulty applying. The Emma at Work Foundation in Amsterdam helps many young people with a physical disability to find a paid job.
Lisa Schreijer (24 years old) is such a person. She has been physically disabled for three years. Lisa has pain in her legs and is easily tired, probably caused by too little blood flow. It prevents her from working full time, Emma at Work helps and coaches her with work experience. They do this through training, coaching and offering vacancies.
“Before I came into contact with Emma at Work, I felt insecure”
Lisa graduated from the Media School in Hilversum in 2021. In recent years it has been a bit more physically difficult for her, because she has had serious pains in her legs for the past three years. She now walks with the support of elbow crutches. She was overjoyed with her MBO diploma, but applying for a job was problematic for her. “I didn’t dare. I had become disabled, tired quickly and would not be able to explain what was wrong with me during a job interview. I felt insecure. My illness is not immediately visible. I move around on crutches, people see that as something temporary To explain because I am wrong, I found difficult.”
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In September 2021, the Hoofddorp resident came into contact with Ruben van den Boer. He has been a consultant at the employment agency Emma at Work on the Tafelbergweg in Amsterdam for two years. After several conversations and medical examinations, it became clear that Lisa cannot work full-time.
Lisa: “I first followed some internal training courses to get to know myself better, to become mentally stronger and to develop with the limitation I have. I now dare to accept that I get tired quickly and therefore only work a few hours a day can work. After I first worked at the AMC hospital for six months, a vacancy became available for a back office employee at Emma at Work itself. I work at the office in the Hogeschool van Amsterdam building for fifteen hours a week, spread in four days. I sometimes worked an hour overtime and then I was exhausted. Here that is negotiable and clear, but at other companies it probably ended in misunderstanding.”
“I have a motto: you are capable of more than you often think yourself”
“Fortunately, my disease is now fairly stable,” says Lisa. “I will hopefully soon receive an injection that will give me long-term pain-free. It would be nice if it worked. Every week I can be found in the gym to train and maintain my upper body in particular. I can put some strength with my legs , but that is often painful. Moreover, it is frustrating, because four years ago I could physically handle much more. I have never applied for benefits, I would rather not. I have a motto: “You are capable of more , than you often think yourself.’
Emma at Work
Emma at Work is a foundation that guides young people with a chronic illness or physical disability to work. For example, young people aged 15-39 receive guidance according to a certain method, called the GAP track. Young people with, for example, a spinal cord injury, Crohn’s disease, asthma, juvenile rheumatism, chronic fatigue after cancer, or a heart condition are eligible for guidance. Throughout the Netherlands, Emma at Work now works with 52 companies, such as Schiphol, the National Postcode Lottery, Bol.Com, the Free University and the Port of Amsterdam. Since the end of 2021, 379 young people have participated in the GAP Track, of which at least 150 people have found a job.
Ruben van den Boer is one of the consultants who works in the 13-person office in Amsterdam. “We advise young people and companies to start slowly. For example, two days a week, with the intention of building up to three or four days a week. We often notice that, especially in the beginning, many things come to an employee. We want not than our young employees burn out quickly, because then you cause even more mental and physical damage. We want to prevent this by finding companies that can deal with our people sustainably. Suppose they cannot work for a few days, then no pressure is put on them. That is counterproductive. Jobs such as hostess, telephone operator, and back office employee often suit them well.”