Disability and Employment: Is change on the horizon?

Posted by Chloe Nicholson on 23/10/19 10:35
Chloe Nicholson

“I wouldn’t tell your employer about your disability, if I were you.”

I was 13 years old when I told my teacher I wanted to find a job. Their response shocked me.

I am autistic and have expressive-receptive language disorder, disabilities that can make everyday life at least a tiny bit challenging, but to everyone else remain ‘hidden’. Invisible.

“You’d be discriminated against,” my teacher had further clarified to me. “If they knew, they’d probably not give you an interview.”

They were saying this out of kindness and concern for me, but their words highlighted something ugly about the workforce that most people ignore.

Disability and Employment_2400x1800

Whilst there are anti-discrimination laws in place, people with disabilities remain discriminated against in the job search and in the workplace. According to Andrew Powell, in 2019, out of 36.3 million working-age people (16-64 years old), 7.6 million are disabled and only 3.9 million are in employment.[1] Powell states that ‘People with disabilities have an employment rate that is 29.9 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities.’[2]

Over the years, I kept mostly quiet about being disabled, despite my parents’ encouraging me to disclose it to my employers.  By my fourth job, where I worked as a seasonal cashier at a service station, I spoke a little more freely about it. However, I had trouble asking for help whenever I found myself overwhelmed, preferring to wait for my break to stop myself from spiralling into a meltdown.

When I went to university, the amount of help I received regarding my employability surprised and pleased me and my parents. In February 2019, I entered the Achieve through Work Experience programme (GoWales) that specialised in helping disadvantaged students (those who are disabled, BAME or are from lower-income backgrounds) find work placements. I discovered that it was possible to be open about your disability, get the help you need, and work.

After I graduated and began applying for jobs, I discovered that there were more initiatives to lower the employment gap. 

Initiatives for people with disabilities

It is important to note that universities also offer help for students with disabilities in finding work experience or a job.

 

The workplace is changing for people with disabilities, enough that I felt comfortable writing this article and posting it. During my interview for my internship at Indigo Careers, I disclosed my disability. Later, after it was confirmed I had been offered the internship, I asked if I could visit the office beforehand so I could get used to the environment on account of my autism, which was quickly agreed to. In the building, there is even a quiet place where I can go to work if I become too overwhelmed.

There is still a long way to go for disability rights in the workplace. Yet, slowly but surely, the workplace is becoming more inclusive and understanding about those who need help to cope in a world that has, for a long time, ignored their needs.

We can only hope that this progress will continue.

 

 

[1] Powell, Andrew, People with disabilities in employment, Number 7540 (May 2019) p.3. <http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7540/CBP-7540.pdf> [Accessed 2nd of September 2019]

[2] Ibid, p.4.

Topics: student advice, employability

Indigo-Digest-Blog-Trotam-Logo-1

Our dedicated blog for careers education professionals

All the latest news, information and curated articles from our growing community of industry contributors. A great way to keep your finger on the pulse of all things #careerseducation related.

Be sure to subscribe below to have a monthly roundup of top Indigo Digest content delivered straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to our newsletter for careers leaders

Recent Posts