She worked as a deputy Ambassador to Poland, where she gave every effort into establishing a good political and economic relationship between the country and the United Kingdom. Her passion for her work has allowed her to become an inspiration to many of the policy makers of the country, and has earned her numerous awards for her service.
A Deaf Musician
Aside from her political prowess, Jane is also very skilled in other professions. Throughout the early to middle years of her life, she has worked as a musician, editor, coach, teacher, and social entrepreneur. Prior to her becoming deaf, she was a gifted musician, and performed in different musical concerts as well as various events. She was also an efficient coach and teacher, and was highly regarded by her students for her method of mentoring.
A Deaf Philanthropist
But amidst all her career success, Jane is most active in her philanthropic work. She is one of the leading voices and professional experts on disability issues in the workplace, and is currently serving on the Board of Disability Rights UK. She is also a trustee of the Manchester Deaf Centre and since 2012, has been the chairperson of the Da Da Fest, the United Kingdom’s largest international disability arts festival.
Jane is also a very powerful and compelling speaker, bringing inspiration and encouragement to her audiences. Her speaking reveals an insight that brings a new perspective to people. A lot of those who have listened to her speak often describes her as someone “gloriously inspirational,” “particularly gifted at inspiring others,” and someone who has “infectious optimism.”
Jane Cordell’s Early Life
Jane Cordell was born in 1965 in England to a well to do family. As a young child, she was a quick learner. She exhibited a liking for music when she was around three. Upon seeing this, her parents decided to nurture her interest, enrolling Jane in a musical school.
Her love for music was further developed, and she quickly learned the viola, impressing her instructors. Her parents’ loving nature made a mark on the young Jane. They dearly loved her and cared for her so passionately that it would later on inspire Jane to help others.
Aside from being a prodigy in the area of music, Jane also excelled in academics. She was among the top students of her class and was often commended by her teachers for her amazing ability to quickly learn her lessons. She was also a gifted speaker, and her charming and friendly personality caused her to have a lot of friends at school. She graduated from high school with high remarks and at the top of her class.
A Promising Musician
After high school, Jane entered St. John’s College at Cambridge to study education. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she went to Open University to further her studies. While she was in the university, Jane was a favorite of her professors and fellow classmates for having a broad sense of thinking.
She was often invited to speak in various programs, and through her words she was able to draw the audience’s attention and invoke their interest with her witty sense of humor. She also played the viola in school concerts, and performed soloes on occasion.
By the time she graduated and received her Master’s degree in education, she was among the best students in her school. She became fluent in Polish, French, and English.
Jane made her passion for music a professional career. During her early adulthood, she became part of the National Youth Orchestra and played in the group during occasions. She was also invited to play at the World Orchestra, a well-known international youth orchestra in many nations. Aside from this, she also worked as a professor, and was highly regarded by her students for her way of teaching, which was not only informative but fun as well.
Jane Becomes Deaf
In spite of all Jane has achieved in her early twenties, her life took a surprising turn. One time, while she was practicing her viola with a friend for an event that they would play in a few days from that time, Jane started to have some trouble with her hearing. Because of this, she decided to have her ear checked to see what the problem was. After a series of tests, the doctors told Jane that she was showing signs of ear infection and that there was a huge possibility that she would eventually lose her hearing altogether.
The news stunned Jane. Up until then, she was enjoying her life to the full as an accomplished musician and teacher. But that diagnosis brought tremendous discouragement to her and as soon as she left the clinic she went home and cried heavily. Fortunately, as soon as her family heard about her condition they came to Jane to comfort and encourage her.
Through their emotional support, Jane was able to get through the discouraging news and start to accept her fate. Eventually, Jane did lose her hearing, but through the help of her family she was able to look at the brighter perspective and see her disability as a challenge rather than as a stumbling block.
Jane Teaches Poor Children
Jane’s loss of hearing did not deter her passion for music, but it brought a new calling into her life: teaching underprivileged children. She started working as a teacher for the Open University, then after a few months went around Europe with other teachers to join a charitable organization that provided education for the less fortunate children.
She has taught children in countries such as Finland, the Netherlands, and Poland, where she established her own school. After staying for a few years, and ensuring that the school was able to sustain itself, Jane went back to London and worked as a professor at Further Education College.
She also applied at Cambridge University press and was accepted as its editor. She also handled the External degree programme of the University of London, which she was credited for assisting in the improvement.
Working in the British Embassy at Warsaw and Poland
In 2001, Jane made a bold move by entering politics. She applied to the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office along with more than a thousand others hoping to get a position in the office. Of the 1,101 applicants, only one percent (eleven people) passed, which included Jane.
After a series of interviews, Jane successfully got a mid-level management position, making her the very first person with a disability to do so. To cope with her disability, Jane studied and mastered the British Sign Language, which enabled her to successfully communicate with other people.
During her time in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Jane worked on European Policy and did communication work. She held this position for five years, until in 2006, when she was transferred to the British Embassy at Warsaw.
In the middle of 2006, Jane led a political and military team and worked on the British Embassy at Poland. She held a high position, dealing with very sensitive European security issues and constantly working with the Polish government to promote disability awareness across the country.
She often made appearances in television shows and radio programs, and spoke to large audiences in various events and conferences. Because of her excellent work with the Polish government, Jane was given several awards, such as the Friends of Integration Medal. She was even nominated for a Presidential Order of Merit, but due to her diplomatic protocol, she had to refuse it.
Denied of the Ambassador to Kazakhstan Post
In 2009, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office offered Jane an opportunity to handle a new post, as a deputy ambassador to Kazakhstan. This door of opportunity meant much to Jane, as through this new position she would have more influence and responsibilities, as well as a broader sense of the work being done by the FCO.
But right before Jane was supposed to leave for Kazakhstan, the FCO withdrew Jane’s offer and gave it to the person who was next in line, reasoning that supporting Jane’s work would be too much work. The FCO also never offered any adjustments to balance their decision, and simply advised Jane to look for other work, and once she was accepted into another company, the FCO would assess her reasonable adjustments and with it rescind the job offer given to Jane.
Founding Getting Equal
This disappointing decision did not break Jane’s resolve to continue serving. She sought assistance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to challenge the decision that FCO made regarding her job. They brought a case against the FCO to the Employment Tribunal, followed by an Employment Appeal Tribunal. And though neither both cases achieved the end that Jane hoped for, it did help raise important questions regarding the fate of those with disabilities who were hoping to work for the government.
After a long and drawn out discussion, Jane finally decided to leave the governmental service and start a new career for herself. In 2012, she formally announced her resignation from the FCO and established Getting Equal, a charitable organization that seeks to promote the welfare and equality of people with disabilities.
She has also appeared in numerous television broadcasts, encouraging the people suffering from any kind of disability to never let their disability keep them from becoming a significant part of society.
Currently, Jane is actively engaged in working with various charitable organizations for the benefit of people with disabilities. She is also pursuing a career as a coach, helping people just like her to live their lives to the fullest and not let their disabilities become a hindering factor to success.
Jane Cordell’s unparalleled optimism and persistence, shown through her inspiring life story, are proofs that we can overcome our challenges and thrive in the midst of overwhelming situations. She also exemplifies that we don’t have to be held back by our own disabilities; in fact, we can use our own disabilities to inspire and help others reach their goals and become the person that they want to be.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Getting Equal
- Manchester Deaf Centre
- Disability Rights UK
- Da Da Fest
Awards and Achievements
- 2008: Awarded the Friends of Integration Medal by the Polish Embassy
- 2010: Received the PFRON Disability Oscar
- 2010: Named as a Person without Barrier by the Polish Embassy