Mark Blois, Partner and National Head of Education at Browne Jacobson, makes Disability Power 100 for second time
We spoke with Mark almost two years ago, when he was included in the 2021 Disability Power 100 and The Lawyer Hot 100 2022. This year, Mark has again been included in the Disability Power 100 list, this time in the ‘Politics and Law’ category, recognising him as one of the 100 most influential disabled people living and working in the UK. Mark has also recently featured in the Financial Times, speaking about how employers can support people with long term health conditions.
“People with long term conditions shouldn’t have to rely on a lottery of whether colleagues are motivated to help them or not”
I’ve been very fortunate in my career and by chance ended up working with good people who were keen to see me succeed and manage my condition to the best of my ability. Cystic fibrosis is an example of a really unpredictable condition and impacts everyone differently, which is why supporting people in the workplace should be bespoke to them and their condition.
It is important that colleagues listen, be curious about how to help, and not have a set view. It’s got to be a very personalised approach. Sometimes they will get some things wrong but that’s fine, we all learn from that.
“Modulators offer a moment of opportunity”
Before Kaftrio, I was frequently in and out of hospital with IVs. But I haven’t needed them since I started taking Kaftrio and from a physical point of view, it’s been phenomenal. My FEV1 was mid-30s in the middle of the pandemic which was an anxious time for me and my family. Before I started taking Kaftrio, any cold or bug could wipe me out and it would be a long climb back. I’m a lot more robust now, and I’ve got a lot more energy and more optimism about my physical health. Even things that might not seem a big deal, like planning a holiday are easier. Before we would have to be cautious and build in contingencies in case I was unwell or in hospital. We still have to be careful, but it’s certainly not as bad as it was.
The psychological impact of Kaftrio has also been huge. I spent 50 years of my life fighting to survive a condition which I had been told to expect to die from, and having spent as much time as I have struggling to survive I have now allowed myself to be a little angry about that experience. I also now need to think about my future life, which stretches further toward the horizon than I had previously expected, very differently. Overall, it has been something of an emotional whipshaw and a period of adjustment. But as challenging as that’s been, it’s of course an incredible privilege to have this experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world and my sense of gratitude for modulators is overwhelming.
“But CF isn’t cured”
Invisible conditions are uniquely challenging and we need to make sure CF doesn’t go from being thought as a serious condition to having everyone thinking that it’s basically cured. Though I’m not now going into hospital all the time, all the other parts of my day to day treatment burden are still there. And there are still plenty who don’t have access to modulators too.”
“As a society we are more inclusive than when I started out in my career – it’s good progress”
I think both employers and employees can benefit from people with serious medical conditions like Cystic Fibrosis in the work place and demonstrating ambition & achievement. There is a value both in terms of education for employers as to how to help disabled people in their workplaces unlock their full potential as well as inspiration for employees and potential employees. I started my legal career in 1996 and while I am sure there were role models out there, I didn’t feel I could identify anyone like me. More recently the internet and social media have helped this by giving an improved profile to relevant individuals with conditions who have positive professional stories to share and I think people in general are more interested in hearing from different perspectives too
You can read Mark’s full profile in the 2023 Disability Power 100 here.
On making the list again, Mark said: “I am genuinely honoured to be included in the Disability Power 100 2023 and very pleased to be able to thereby support the important role that the Shaw Trust’s Disability Power list plays in inspiring others to believe that they can achieve their full potential, regardless of disability or impairment.”
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition which causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. It affects more than 11,000 people in the UK. One in 25 of us carries the faulty gene that causes it, usually without knowing.
Since 1964, we've supported people with cystic fibrosis to live longer, healthier lives – and we won’t stop until everyone can live without limits imposed by CF.