Job hunting can be one of the most daunting and frustrating things for anyone to do. When you have a disability, it can be even more difficult with extra challenges and barriers. Thankfully there are schemes in places to help as well as specialist equipment, legislation and improved employer attitudes and awareness. These can help when finding a job with a disability.
However, there are still many who believe the outdated stereotype that disabled people are incapable of working.
When in fact, there are one million disabled people in the UK who are able and want to work. Despite their ability and willingness to work, disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people according to research carried out by the disability equality charity, Scope.
My Pre-Employment Experience
I left High School with great grades and although I knew I wanted to go into further education, I struggled to know what path to go down. I enjoyed art and Graphic Communication at school, but I couldn’t see myself doing that as a job.
Low self-confidence was possibly the biggest factor in this as well as a lack of confidence in my physical ability at the time.
Having already experienced leaving school and at the time being a disabled college student herself, my older sister was the best person to help guide and advise. Often spending hours going through the college prospectus with me.
Eventually, I settled on doing a Business Studies course at my local college. Two years later I graduated, but again I was back to square one. What will I do now? Will I look for a job or continue with my studies? My college professor was very adamant that I went onto university. She gave me the reassurance that I could absolutely do it.
There was still that nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I couldn’t do it.
I went straight into the third year at university, which was challenging both physically and mentally. I had to travel almost an hour there and back which meant long tiring days. My younger sister was my PA at University which helped massively.
I’m so glad I pushed through and ignored that nagging inner voice of self-doubt.
Struggles and Success Looking For a Job with a Disability
When I graduated from University, I knew it was going to be hard to find a job, but I don’t think I was prepared for how hard it would be.
Everyone will have a slightly different experience, but whether you have recently been diagnosed with a disability or have been disabled all your life, there will be similar questions surrounding disability and employment.
• When should I disclose my disability?
• Will the application form be accessible?
• What do I do if I’m unable to fill it in?
• Will the employer see past my disability?
• What are reasonable adjustments?
• What support will I need?
These are just a few of the many questions you may have. It is completely understandable and natural.
It took two years for me to find a job. During those two years, I applied for countless jobs and attended multiple job interviews. It was hard work and took a lot of determination. It’s almost a full-time job looking for a job.
At times a real struggle to stay focused and motivated to keep going despite the rejection. In the moment it is so difficult to do, but it’s important to try and use the rejections as motivation to keep pushing through and get to where you want to be.
For many, myself included, rejection can be perceived as the employer not offering an interview purely because we disclosed our disability. Are they only seeing my wheelchair and not my strengths or qualifications?
Again these are all natural thoughts. Not all employers will focus on the disability. Most will see past that and want to employ you because you are the right person for the job.
Employment Services and Support as a Disabled Employee
I’m grateful to be employed in a job I’ve now held for eleven years. However, it is important to remember that even though you have been offered a job there are still things to consider and implement such as reasonable adjustments or funding to apply for e.g. Access To Work.
Reasonable adjustments are changes that an employer must make which will prevent a disabled employee from being disadvantaged in the workplace.
If like me, you have a progressive condition, you will most likely need adaptations and input from Occupational Health to carry out regular work assessments. This will ensure your working environment is suitable for your changing needs and abilities as well as identifying new equipment that will help you undertake your job.
Over the years as I’ve gotten weaker, a specialist workstation and equipment, as well as changes to my work pattern, has helped me continue working while maintaining my health and quality of life.
Don’t be ashamed of needing these adaptations. It doesn’t make you any less of being a great employee. Don’t see it as a hindrance. Instead, consider it an asset. It’s so important not to suffer and struggle in silence at work as it will only affect your health.
Due to having Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy my muscles are extremely weak, which makes the simplest of tasks difficult for me to do. Despite this, I am still able to work, but with support. I need assistance entering and leaving the building and help to my desk. I need support warming up my lunch in the microwave. I’m unable to lift heavy paperwork and need help with photocopying and filing. I am driven to and picked up from work. These are just a few things I need help with throughout my workday.
Tips and Advice For Finding A Job With A Disability
Take advantage of specialist Employment Services, schemes and resources for disabled people. I also recommend identifying disability-friendly employers by looking for the ‘Disability Confident’ symbol when looking at job vacancies. Concentrate on what you can do and not what you can’t do because of your disability. Stay focused, motivated and put in the hard work. It will be worth it in the end.
I hope you have found this post helpful. I also hope it has given you an insight into my own personal experience of finding a job with a disability as well as the struggles and successes while looking for and maintaining employment.
Wishing you all the best and good luck! You can do it!
Please feel free to share your own personal experiences and tips for finding a job with a disability. I’d love to read them.
This post is in conjunction with the disability equality charity Scope but all thoughts are my own
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