As a recent Masters graduate who’s not long moved into her own flat. The next thing on my “being an adult” list is getting a job. So I thought I’d give you a little insight into some of the things I have to consider most when job hunting as a disabled person.
What I Want or am Qualified to Do
I don’t think this part is much different to job hunting as an able-bodied person. As someone with a First-Class Bachelors degree and a Distinction at Masters level (allow me the single brag, I worked my butt off), the qualification part isn’t often a concern. However, I still need my PhD for some of the research roles I want. My problem is that I’d quite like to be a Support Worker in some capacity, at least through my PhD. And I regularly hold back from applying for roles where more personal or physical caring is required because I wonder how I’d be seen at an interview. I wonder if employers will see past my disability and see how I can provide support to another individual whilst also needing accommodations myself. I understand that it may be a health and safety thing, but I know I’d be capable of providing support as long as I was physically and safely able to in some way.
What I Physically Can Do
Ah yes, while we’re here. We best talk physical limitations. Obviously I couldn’t do anything too strenuous or physical (involving lifting or the suchlike), but not because I couldn’t physically do it. More just because it would take me longer and wouldn’t fit into company ideals of getting as much done as possible. I also can’t do anything involving specific hand eye coordination because mine is SHOCKING.
So I’m most likely to be in some form of office role just because of the lack of strenuous physical demands. However, even there I’d need adaptation: An accessible location (i.e. city) to work in, an accessible building to work in, possibly an electronic desk, possibly certain kinds of accessibility software such as speech to text (depending on the role). These are the kind of adaptations I won’t mention until at least interview (unless I know from the job description they’ll be necessary). This is just so I can fully understand the kind of adaptations I’ll need, to make me as good as possible at the role, before I ask for them.
Whilst we’re discussing what I can’t do in a role, how about we reverse it and think about what I as a disabled person can bring to a role? Adaptability: Lord knows we’re used to adapting to different situations as disabled people facing inaccessibility, and that adaptability comes in handy in an everchanging world. Perseverance: Again, I’m constantly used to working through or around issues as a disabled person, and that resilience and stubbornness to give up on a task will hopefully give me an extra edge when it comes to facing setbacks or difficult tasks in the workplace. But I think the most important thing I can bring is perspective, particularly when it comes to products. Most products are marketed at an able-bodied audience and so the disabled customer doesn’t often come into the conversation. I believe that would change if there was a disabled employee at the table to discuss these kinds of things.
The other aspect that keeps coming up in my job hunt is travel. Thinking about the length of a commute, and how that’s likely to be longer than the same commute for an able-bodied person. Wondering if a commute is even possible and if the train station near my prospective workplace is accessible, alongside wondering if the workplace is accessible. THEN there’s the fact that some roles require a full drivers licence (which I am not LEGALLY ALLOWED to possess) without stating why it’s necessary to have a drivers licence. The number of times I’ve found a role I want with a feasible commute, to discover I’m essentially not allowed to commute because the role requires a full drivers licence without an obvious reason why, is INFURIATING.
One unexpected plus I’ve found is regarding being put forward to the interview stage for a role. On some applications I have seen the option to state that you are a disabled applicant. You then explain a little bit about your disability and adaptations you may need at the interview stage. The application then says that those who meet the main necessary criteria for the role and have identified themselves as disabled will be progressed to an automatic interview under what I believe is called a “Two Ticks” system. I’m not sure how widespread the scheme is as I’ve only seen it on Research Assistant applications at universities I’ve applied to, but I’m certainly intrigued to learn a little more about how the scheme works.
Update: I’ve now learned some more about the Two Ticks scheme. Firstly it’s now called Disability Confident and has 3 tiers. The first two tiers (Committed and Employer) are self assessed as Disability Confident whereas the top tier in the scheme (Leader) has to be assessed as Disability Confident by an external body.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my initial thoughts on job hunting as a disabled person. I hope it shows a need for open mindedness when looking at job applications or designing job descriptions. You may be losing out on the perfect candidate because they’re disabled and you’ve made the role seem inaccessible to them, when in reality it could be accessible with some thought and adaptation. I hope it also shows that disabled people want to do non office-based roles and those roles should be accessible where possible.
No doubt I’ll update this as I continue the job-hunting process.
Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)