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Woman Who Was Originally Denied A Job Position For Having 'Special Needs' Is Now Thriving As A Flight Attendant

Photo: Feruzbek / Shutterstock 
flight attendant, plane, special needs

After battling multiple serious health conditions and doctors telling her that she likely would not live past the age of 30, one woman not only made a remarkable recovery but went on to establish a career path she had dreamed of having since she was a little girl. 

Now, the woman’s parents hope that her story inspires others who may have disabilities like their daughter, and send the message to the rest of the world that a disability does not equal an inability. 

Vicky Silk, who has Down Syndrome, always wanted to become a flight attendant. 

Silk, who lives with her parents in Croydon, London, became eager to learn all about the responsibilities of being a member of a flight crew ever since she was young and her parents, Gerry and John, took her on holidays. 

"We've always loved going on holiday, and as Vicky got older, she started to admire the cabin crew,” Vicky’s mother Gerry told Newsweek

However, the Silks were told by doctors early on that their daughter was not expected to live past her teen years due to multiple heart and lung conditions. Thankfully, Vicky defied the odds and recently celebrated her 30th birthday doing what she loves: volunteering as a flight attendant! 

Vicky first expressed her interest in being part of a cabin crew a decade ago, and her father John took the opportunity to contact multiple airline companies seeking employment for his enthusiastic daughter.  Eventually, Virgin Airlines contacted him back, although the process started out a bit rocky. The airline company originally told the Silks that they do not employ those with ‘special needs.’ 

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"It all started with them saying they don't offer work experience nor work with someone with special needs,” John told Newsweek. 

However, the family was eventually connected with Ryan Johnstone, a flight manager for the airline. They met during a flight to St. Lucia, and he quickly took Vicky under his wing. 

"Originally, Vicky's family reached out to Virgin Atlantic to enquire about potential work experience opportunities,” Johnstone shared.  “Subsequently, they were invited to our old training facility for a few days, during which Vicky had the chance to observe cabin crew and ground staff training.” 

For her 30th birthday in September, Vicky was gifted a two-piece red uniform, an invitation extended by Virgin Airlines offering her an opportunity to work with the company. 

"Everyone fell in love with her, we weren't surprised at all as that usually happens,” Vicky’s mother Gerry shared about her daughter’s training experience. “The crew was shocked that she knew the safety procedure by heart.” 

flight crew walking into the airportPhoto: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock 

Since becoming a volunteer for the airline, Johnstone and Vicky have formed an unbreakable bond. 

"Over the years of flying together, our relationship has grown, with special experiences created to make her journeys unforgettable,” Johnstone says. “Each flight Vicky would actively participate in in-flight services and visit the flight deck.” 

Vicky is always ready to lend a helping hand to her fellow crew and passengers by serving food and drinks and collecting garbage from the seats and aisle. 

"Seeing Vicky actively participating in the in-flight activities brings me immense joy and satisfaction,” Johnstone revealed. “It's like watching a dream come true, and it warms my heart to know that I've played a part in making that happen.” 

He added that Vicky’s enthusiasm on the job makes him proud, and it has been inspiring to witness her achieve her dreams. 

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Vicky’s parents hope that her story will serve as an inspiration to others and convey a very important message. 

“There is a perception that anyone who is disabled is not capable. Employers think it's too complicated, and companies are reluctant,” Gerry says. “It would be a wonderful thing if every person could give one person a chance to illuminate their minds and see things are possible.” 

Despite harmful stereotypes that suggest people with Down Syndrome are unable to work or be successful, research has proven this wrong. 

According to a national survey conducted by the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 57% of respondents with Down Syndrome reported working a paid job, 26% were volunteers, and nearly 3% were self-employed. The highest percentage of people worked in the food industry, while others worked in office settings, custodial services, grocery stores, and warehouse settings. 

People with Down Syndrome can also go to college, drive a car, be in relationships, and have families of their own. Even if they may require a bit more help, this does not make them completely incapable. 

two women at workPhoto: Svitlana Hulko / Shutterstock 

Every person, regardless of disability, has a unique set of skills and abilities. Someone with a physical disability might have intellectual strengths or artistic talents, and someone with a cognitive challenge might have remarkable interpersonal skills or physical prowess. 

Generalizing or assuming that people with disabilities lack capabilities can lead to stereotyping, which is often inaccurate and unjust. Recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses outside the lens of disability ensures fair treatment.

Having a disability does not always limit one’s potential. Recognizing this fosters a more inclusive and equitable society. 

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.