Having a disability should not be a barrier to employment. Most people wrongly assume that having a disability closes the door to certain career choices for them. This is simply untrue, and the Equality Act of 2010 now makes the workplace more accessible to everyone living with a disability. This article will serve to guide you along on finding the perfect career for yourself, understanding your rights under the Equality Act and discuss the employment grants available to assist employers in adapting workplaces for disabled people.
Careers for disabled people?
The heading above is “wrong” because there are no careers for disabled people. Whether you have dreamt of becoming a nurse, a teacher, to work in the media, a veterinary scientist, lawyer or a business person, all avenues are open, despite your disability. There are several people who are successful in their chosen fields in spite of their disabilities and they didn’t start off by searching for “jobs for disabled people”. Have a clear goal in mind of what role you want to work in, and then leverage the support available from government and private sources. Persevere and work hard to obtain the skills and qualifications you require to work in your dream role.
Where to get careers advice
Knowing where to go for help regarding getting into work and following your dreams is often the biggest hurdle for disabled people. Although the workplace is now more open to people with disabilities, discrimination on the basis of disability is still a concern for most people. The Equality Act has done a lot to ensure all people receive equal treatment when applying and subsequently interviewing for jobs. However, for some disabled people, it is acquiring the necessary skills to confidently chase their dreams that is challenging. This part of the article provides some resources to help you prepare for the workplace. Below are place you can go for help:
- Local Job Centre Plus – the job centre service offers help through specially trained Disability Employment Advisors. Speaking to a Work Coach at your local Jobcentre Plus will help get clarity and direction on the type of job you are looking for. They will also assess your skills, identify the skills you need and help you with making applications and preparing for interviews.
- The Shaw Trust – People are often referred to the Shaw Trust via the Jobcentre. The Shaw Trust believe finding the job that is right for you will enhance your commitment and enjoyment. They offer professional advice with choosing the right job as well as other aspects of getting a job as a disabled person. Click here to read more about the Shaw Trust services.
- Further & Higher Education Institutions – if you are an adult in further or higher education and are disabled, your learning institution or college should have careers advisors who will assist with choosing the right path for you.
- National Careers Service – although targeted at the 13-19 year olds, the National Careers Service can also offer face-to-face careers guidance for over 20s. They offer a telephone service, as well as post, email or chat facilities to discuss your careers concerns.
The Equality Act and your rights
The Equality Act 2010 protects your rights as a disabled person when looking for work. Under the Act, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against disabled people in the following two ways:
- Employers must not discriminate against disabled people when hiring.
- Employers are also required by law to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to prevent disabled people being placed at a disadvantage.
It is vital that you are aware of your rights when looking for work, and if you feel you have been discriminated against because of your disability, you have the right to complain.
Grants available to employers to support them to employ disabled people
Once in work, though the employer is legally obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, the Access to Work scheme, run by the Jobcentre, provides financial support to employers to help makes these adjustments. The Access to Work grant can pay towards the following:
- Adaptations to work equipment such as desks and chairs.
- Provide specialised equipment to enable you to do your job.
- A support worker to help you at work.
- Disability awareness training for your employer and colleagues.
- A translator or communicator to help with interviews.
- A communicator at a job interview
Support is also available if you change employers and any of the specialised equipment requires moving. Find out more about the Access to Work Scheme here.
Working with disabled children and young people
If you have life experience and achieved success against the obstacles your disability put in your way, you may just have the right skills to work with disabled children and young people. Often, people believe academic qualifications give you the skills to become employable, but that is not always the case. Life itself provides great opportunities to develop soft skills, and until you sit down to think and write these down, you won’t realise you possess valuable transferable skills.
Identifying disability conscious employers
A wide range of large employers have embraced their duties under the Equality Act and are actively seeking to develop a positive approach to employing people with disabilities. There are a few things you need to look out for to identify these employers, and these include:
- The Disability Symbol – a campaign by the Jobcentre to identify organisation who are taking the leading role in embracing diversity in their workforce. The ‘two ticks’ symbol and the strapline “positive about disability” identifies these organisations either online or in printed job adverts.
EvenBreak is a not-for-profit social enterprise which was formed with three objectives in mind:
- To help inclusive employers attract more talented disabled people;
- To help disabled jobseekers find work with employers who will value their skills;
- To promote the business benefits of employing disabled people.
Other recruitment channels often miss out talented disabled people and so EvenBreak seeks to make this talent available to these organisations. Find out more about Evenbreak
This article has provided real actionable steps to take if you are disabled and looking to get to work. The links provided will give you more information for each step of your journey, whether you know the role you want to fulfil or you are looking for some career guidance. Having a firm understanding of the Equality Act 2010 and your rights will help you gain the confidence you need to put yourself forward for your dream job. Whether it is training or support in work, there are government grants available to help support you in achieving your work goals.