Disability - your rights & facts
If you have a disability or impairment, one of the key considerations when looking for work is whether and when to discuss this with an employer. Interviews can be difficult enough, without the added tension of discussing your additional needs.
You can relax though, because the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities (known as SKILL) has a great information sheet on telling people about your disability. This can be downloaded from their website, at www.skill.org.uk and although written for students, much of the information could be useful for any job seeker with a disability, impairment or additional needs. It runs through key points including legal issues relating to the Disability Discrimination Act and the reasons why you might tell a potential employer and why you might not.
If you're currently looking for a new role, you have additional needs of some kind, consider the following tips:
- Target employers keen to employ disabled people. The ‘two ticks’ symbol on job advertisements and on the websites of organisations indicates the employer is positive about disabled people.
- Scrutinise vacancies and company websites for positive statements about diversity and equal opportunities. Check out which organisations are members of the Employers’ Forum on Disability too.
- Be positive about your additional needs. Adapting to them may have enabled you to develop useful skills that could put you at an advantage over other applicants. Make sure you can put this across in applications and at interview.
- Decide whether you are going to raise the issue of your disability or needs, and if you're going to do this, decide which stage of the selection process would be appropriate. The SKILL information sheets offer a useful guide to the pros and cons of whether to discuss and when.
- Practice discussing your disability or impairment. If you are going to talk about your needs, or anticipate that an employer may raise this, establish what you want to say and how you wish to say it.
- Put yourself in the employer’s place. Some employers may not be familiar with your disability, impairment or additional needs. They may appreciate a clear and concise explanation and they may also need to be reassured. Be positive, practical and professional.
- If you have previous work experience, you may have plenty of evidence that you have performed well in past jobs and of how you managed your additional needs. If you know the adjustments that can be made to enable you to undertake the job or a certain element of the job, you might want to discuss them. Do also mention if you are aware of funding available for adjustments.
Interviews - be prepared
Preparation is vital. Try to think ahead and anticipate what the interview will demand of you and plan for this:
- Think about the role and what is required. What kind of questions can you expect? What kinds of skills are sought?
- Prepare your examples, ready for any questions that ask you to talk about specific situations when you have applied a particular skill.
- Practice makes perfect. Practice answers to competency based interview questions. Also, practice discussing your needs and how they can be accommodated.
- Contact the employer to discuss any practical support you may need at the interview or the assessment, such as if you require help getting there or require adjustments to be made. The more notice you can give of this, the more helpful it will be.
Make use of support available
There are plenty of resources about job seeking and negotiating selection processes and it is very helpful to make use of the support out there:
- If you are studying or you are a recent graduate, your institution is likely to have a careers service and specialist advisers supporting those with a disability or with additional needs.
- If you are unemployed, the JobcentrePlus has Disability Employment Advisers.
- There are specialist organisations advising and informing on disability, for example the Shaw Trust and the Association of Disabled Professionals. More organisations are listed on the SKILL information sheet ‘Careers and Work for Disabled People’.
- Organisations representing the interests of individuals with particular disabilities or needs can often also be very useful, for example Scope and Blind in Business.
The current job market may seem like a hostile place to those with additional needs, but smart thinking, preparation and using the resources out there can all make for a productive and fruitful job search.
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