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Open to change: how to become a disability confident employer

18 September, 2019

Three quarters of disabled people feel they’ve lost out on a job because of their disability. That’s according to research by disability equality charity Scope.

It was also the topic for our recent Illuminate dinner, where we were joined by Jon Sawford, Director of Services and Operations at Whizz-Kidz, our charity partner.

Our own research echoes this: only 51% of disabled students and graduates feel confident about securing a graduate role after university. And 41% don’t believe they can pursue any career path they wish.

Disabled graduates report a sudden drop-off in support between graduating and entering the workplace. University careers services are often not aligned with disability services and aren’t ready to help with this transition. Employers can also do more – disabled graduates face ‘negative attitudes and inflexible practices’, particularly during the recruitment process.

Jon gave the example of a recent graduate with a disability who was routinely invited for interviews but found that employers became unresponsive once learning she was a wheelchair user. For one interview she was asked more about how she’d get to work than her ability to do the job.

Be disability aware

Jon talked about how employers can be more disability aware, right from the recruitment process. Changing the way roles are advertised is a good first step. Saying you’re ‘disability friendly’ isn’t enough – you need to demonstrate it. Talk about what specifically makes this the case – how accessible the work environment and access to the building is, for instance.

Be sure you’re interviewing based on competency to deliver the role and leave questions about reasonable adjustment questions to the end. A suitable question could be: “is there anything we can do to support you to do this job?” It’s up to the individual to then decide if they’re able to do the job with your support.

Be disability confident

If you’re keen to show your credentials to future talent, sign up to be a disability confident employer. Disabled people recognise and look for this certification when applying for roles.

To help you get there, organisations like Whizz Kidz can provide support and training. You may want to upskill your team to be comfortable dealing with the needs of disabled colleagues, or even to be confident with the language and etiquette they should use.

It’s important to remember you’re not going to get everything right immediately. But if there is an adjustment you can’t make because of budget or other restrictions, be honest about it. And always seek to understand what an individual does need and what they can do, rather than assuming.

Remain flexible: different people will need different things. There isn’t one single fix that will make you disability inclusive. The key is to be open, honest and continue having a dialogue with your team or future talent about their needs.