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  • Writer's pictureEmma Vogelmann

A timeline of my career

On my podcast The Wheelchair Activist, I ask my interviewees all about their careers and how they ended up in the amazing roles they are in now. I occasionally share little stories from my career, but I haven't done a deep dive into my career and how it led to The Wheelchair Activist. Until now!

A black and white photo of Emma, a white woman in an electric wheelchair, on stage at a panel. There are 3 other young women on stage looking at Emma.

In 2013, I started my law degree at Queen Mary University of London.

In short, I hated university. I've written about my experience of feeling very depressed entering my second year and I experienced disability discrimination for the first time. What I haven't shared very widely is that I entered university wanting to become a human rights barrister.

It's not uncommon to end up doing something different from what you thought you would do on day 1 of university. But for me it's because I was told by a barrister that I wouldn't be able to succeed as a barrister due to my disability. This was in 2014. Accepting this as true remains the biggest regret of my life.

From 2014 to 2016 I interned at the British Institute of Human Rights.

This is when I found my love for the charity sector. I was able to put my legal knowledge and passion for human rights into a new career. I really enjoyed my time there.

I've shared how this moment changed everything for me. I realised that I loved writing and I finally starting identifying as disabled. While checking the date of that blog for this piece, I re-read the opening paragraph, it really shows how far I've come in my disability journey.

I never intended to write about the way some young people treat me as a person in a wheelchair. I always thought it would either be seen as moaning or trying to make people feel sorry for me and I never wanted either. What has made me write now is the attitudes of some of the students I've encountered at university towards a seemingly small issue to them but of huge importance to me. Using the lift.

I graduated university in 2016.

After university I struggled to find a job so I did some freelance editing and research for some of my professors. I continued to blog for The Huffington Post about disability related issues.

In 2017 I started as a Policy and Campaigns intern at Muscular Dystrophy UK.

I got this internship after sending out lots of Direct Messages on Twitter asking for opportunities. I sent a message to the Campaigns Manager at Muscular Dystrophy UK at the time and he replied saying he'd like to talk. This turned into an unpaid internship for 2 days a week for about 6 months. It was the first time I used my lived experience of disability in a professional context and I really loved the whole experience.

Muscular Dystrophy UK

I was hired as Employability Officer at Muscular Dystrophy UK in 2017.

This was a fixed-term policy role looking at the barriers to employment faced by young disabled people. I loved leading focus groups with young disabled people and London based employers to identify the issues on both sides. I turned these experiences into a report which was launched at a Parliamentary reception which was an amazing day!

Employability Project for Muscular Dystrophy UK
Employability Project for Muscular Dystrophy UK
A photo of Emma, a white woman in an electric wheelchair with brown hair and glasses. She is in a black blazer. She is in a room in Parliament.
A photo from the reception at Parliament taken by Chris O'Donovan

In Parliament for Muscular Dystrophy UK
In Parliament for Muscular Dystrophy UK

In 2019, I became the Work Experience Development Officer at Muscular Dystrophy UK.

This job wasn't part of the plan. To be really honest, I didn't really want to run a work experience program but as my policy role was ending it felt like a secure option. I iterviewed for different policy and campaigns roles but had no luck. I also really liked working at Muscular Dystrophy UK and loved my colleagues. I wasn't in the role very long before Covid started.

In 2020 I joined Scope as Policy Advisor on the Consumer Affairs team.

This was a fixed term role so while it was less secure than my permanent role. I just couldn't get excited about running a remote work experience program and I wanted to get back into an influencing role so I was thrilled at the chance to join Scope. It is a much bigger organisation than I was used to but I was excited to see how they operated and used their reputation and influence to improve the lives of disabled people. I looked into disabled people's access to food during the pandemic. I worked closely with Scope's Big Hack team where I met Elisabeth Ward, the first guest on the podcast, and learned so much about digital accessibility. I co-authored a report on access to food which I am so proud of.

Scope Consumer Affairs Team
Scope Consumer Affairs Team

In 2021 I became Lead Policy Advisor at Scope on the Children and Young People team.

One of the great aspects of working at a large organisation is the chance to progress. The promotion to Lead Policy Advisor meant I was in charge of the policy development for a big public facing piece of work on disabled children. This turned into the beautiful and amazing campaign, Let's Play Fair which calls for playgrounds to be more inclusive to disabled children. Please sign our Open Letter to put pressure on the Government to introduce funding for playgrounds.

In 2022 I will become the Content Strategy Lead in Scope's Partnerships team.

I start this role in July and I am so excited! I will be developing a content strategy for a new platform at Scope. This will mean working with The Big Hack and the Work With Me team among others. I think this is the perfect next step for me as I continue to develop The Wheelchair Activist.

Who knows where I'll end up with my career. CEO of a charity perhaps? Watch this space!

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