Interviewing Susan Archibald
In the usual ridiculous dash to find a 13 Questions, I headed for the Ouch! Inbox in desperate need of post-Christmas inspiration. About 4 emails down was a message from Susan Archibald. I'd called her a year ago because I heard she was going to be blogging for the Sunday Mail, but nothing ever came of our exchange. She was letting me know that it had all fallen into place.
I tell 13 Questions interviewees that the chat will take 30 to 40 minutes. Susan and I spoke for an hour and 35 minutes and I had to drag the phone away from my ear when we ended the call. She is a fascinating person and less than half of what she said made it to the final cut.
After a short and fearful time where neither of us could understand what the other was saying, I'm Irish and she has a very strong Fife accent, Susan jumped straight into telling me about herself. Shortly after she became disabled , having previously been the main breadwinner, she then felt guilty for not bringing in money, a failure as a parent and described becoming a wheelchair user as being like a social death. Then, when she did try to get back to work, every possible barrier was put in her way. She says that Fife Council suggested jobs she could never manage, brought her to interviews where the actual office she would be in was up stairs, etc. etc. She admits that she tried to take her own life around that time.
So it is all the more brilliant, and dare I say it, inspirational, that Susan archibald is where she is today. She went to the library to read up on the laws she would need to know about to bring her ultimately successful case against Fife Council. Then, she entered into a degree in community education and while she didn't finish it due to lack of support, she found herself campaigning for the other disabled students at the university.
She had never driven in her life and when she decided that it was a necessity, she read the theory book two hours before her test and took lessons for just 5 weeks, passing both exams first time.
Then she got the campaigning bug and within a couple of years, everyone who was anyone on the Scottish disability scene was not only aware of her, but regularly calling on her to help them "get things done". But all her helpfulness came at a price.
Everything Susan was doing was voluntary and while she insists that she didn't mind this, her family fell into debt and she had to do something to bring them out of it. So now she is self-employed and while she sets up her official foundation, Susan gets by on speaking to businesses about disability discrimination. Susan hopes to widen her campaigning and speaking work out to Europe over the next year or so and I', for one, wish her the very best of luck. I just love speaking to people who "get things done".
Read my 13 Questions interview with Susan Archibald here.