PwD or People with Disabilities still face discrimination in the workplace, and when job seeking. Around one in five people has, or will acquire a disability. This means that if we do not have a disability, that we probably know someone who does. What counts as a disability varies from country to country, and changes from generation to generation. For example, where I live in Australia, even conditions like alcoholism can count as a disability, as addiction may be regarded as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act.
I used to work for a disability employment provider, which is still going, in the country where I live. JobAccess is the national hub for workplace and employment information for people with disability, employers and service providers. It was created by the Australian Government, to brings information and resources to people with disabilities (PwD) that can ‘drive disability employment’.
Because, let’s face it – finding a job can be difficult for anyone, especially people who have certain needs. Remember that not all disabilities are visible; some people have ‘invisible’ disabilities and even mental health issues can come into play. There is significant documented discrimination that PwD face in the workplace – and it’s totally not fair and needs to change.
The good news is that there are specialised agencies that can help jobseekers who have a disability. They can help to negotiate your rights, put you forward as a candidate and assist your employer to overcome any accessibility issues you may have There are plenty of recruiters out there who are happy to invite PwD into their company. You just need to know where to look for them. That’s not the only way you can find a job regardless of your disabilities.
Look into disability employment organisations in your area
There are a lot of organisations that have been set up to facilitate people with a disability who are looking for jobs. These disability employment services can provide you with lots of resources to aid your job hunt, and can also offer you training in a few different subjects and topics.
Some of them will even provide one-to-one mentoring, so you will be paired with a mentor who you can reach out to if you ever have any questions or need some advice. Plus, the support doesn’t just stop once you find a job. Lots of these services also continue to offer on-the-job support for anyone they place in work.
Research disability-friendly workplaces
It’s a sad fact of life that accessibility is still a huge issue for people with disabilities. For example, where I live (in one of the biggest cities in the southern hemisphere) less than half of the train stations have disability access. Depending on the type of disability you have, you will have different needs.
For example, someone who is vision impaired may need specialised computer programs. Someone who uses a wheelchair will need wheelchair access. Someone with autism and/or anxiety may need frequent breaks. The good news is that the PwD community is vocal, and with a bit of research, you can find information on how disability-friendly a workplace might be.
So, research companies thoroughly and find out their reputation for hiring. There will be some disability advocacy groups who you will be able to contact to find out this information for a range of companies. It’s also worth looking online for reviews and to see if you can find out what other people’s experiences have been while applying for jobs at certain companies.
Do you always have to disclose your disability?
Did you know that you aren’t legally obliged to tell the recruiter that you have a disability right from the beginning of the application process? Ideally, you should only ever discuss what is necessary with the recruiter. After all, your disability isn’t really any of their business as long as it would affect how you would carry out your daily work tasks.
However, remember there are laws in place to protect you from discrimination, so if you do have particular needs, or even frequent medical or other appointments that might clash with work hours, be open from the start with your employer – but remember only disclose what you are comfortable disclosing.
Prepare thoroughly for an interview
No matter what sort of job you’re going for, it is always important that you try to remain confident. Even if you feel very nervous inside, you should still try and put on a confident exterior. This should help win over the recruiter and help them focus on your skills rather than talking all about your disability.
It’s a good idea to preplan some of your answers, and even ‘role play’ your interview with a friend or mentor in advance. If you get stuck with a question you don’t feel comfortable answering, you can divert the question with “my personal life won’t stop me from doing a good job in this position”, then move the conversation back to your skills and attributes.
There is room for improvement for PwD and employment
Remember that 50.7 % of Australians aged 65 and over have disability, compared to 1 in 8 (12.5 %) aged under 65 (source). Australia’s employment rate for people with disability (46.6% in 2015) is on par with developed countries. In developing countries, 80% to 90% of people with disability of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialised countries the figure is between 50% and 70%.
It’s an uncomfortable fact that people with disability aged 15-24 years are 10 times more likely to experience discrimination than those aged 65 years and over. Hopefully this will change and shift as attitudes slowly improve and people educate themselves.