Being diagnosed with a disability can turn your world upside down. If you have had a disability from birth, then you may be used to dealing with it, but if the impairment is something that occurred later in life, then adapting can be more difficult.
There are around 9 million adults in the UK alone that are registered as having a disability, and around half of those adults are in employment. The government would like to see that figure increase and is offering advice, support, and training for disabled adults that need help to get started in the workplace.
Understanding Employment Rights
Employers are not allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities, whether those disabilities are visible (for example, a person that is wheelchair-bound, or blind and uses a cane), or invisible (such as epilepsy, or autism). Employers are expected to take reasonable measures to make their work accessible to disabled people and are also expected to give disabled employees equal pay and treat them equally when it comes to training, promotion, and opportunities.
Breaking into the Workplace
If you are disabled and looking for work, then the first thing you should do is speak to a disability employment adviser. They will help you to figure out your skills and employment options. An employment assessment will help you to figure out what sort of job you can do – a job that involves suitable activities for adults with learning disabilities may be different from one that someone with mobility impairments could do, for example.
Once you have determined what sort of jobs you want to do, and are able to do, you can start looking for an employer. It’s a good idea to look for employers that take pride in their disability policies; while, on paper, all employees should treat all applicants equally, you are more likely to have a positive experience if you look for employers that have a track record for working with people with autism, mobility issues, or other disabilities similar to your own.
Applying for Work
When you apply for a job, your employer is not allowed to treat you differently to how they would treat an able-bodied applicant. They are not allowed to ask you questions about your health, or your disability unless those questions are important so that they can make “reasonable adjustments” to the application process to cater for your disability, or if they feel like your disability would prevent you from carrying out essential parts of the job.
If you feel like you have been treated unfairly, either during an application or in the workplace, then you should consider making a formal complaint. It is a good idea to raise any issues you have with your employer before escalating them, however, as in many cases what seems like discrimination is simply a misunderstanding, or caused by ignorance of the needs and concerns of people with disabilities. When the issues are explained to them, most employers are happy to do what they can to accommodate people with disabilities.