How To Support Disabled Students Entering Employment

Two women sit across table from each other, they are shaking hands across the table as if in an interview setting

Because they can face more barriers to employment, many disabled graduates hold genuine fears about finding work. And the stats suggest fewer disabled graduates are in employment today than non-disabled. 

So it’s incumbent on HE support services to help disabled graduates and students overcome these barriers and reach their potential. 

If you’re working in disability or student support services, as a career advisor, or indeed any faculty member in higher education, this post will help you. Using the information we’ve collected, you can give disabled students the confidence they need to secure the work they deserve and be ready to do so before they come to graduate. 

Offering this knowledge along with your own sense of empathy and compassion will help to build their confidence and increase their chances of reaching their goals.

What Barriers do Disabled Students Face After Graduation?

Disabled students face several barriers to gaining work. 

Entitled What happens next?, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) released a report in 2021 informed by a survey of 265,000 graduates. The report highlighted the stark reality that disabled students are less likely to be in employment than non-disabled students. 

But it also found that autistic graduates were the least likely to be in a job. And certainly, autistic students who decided to disclose their autism to prospective employers. 

Further to this, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed how non-disabled people are 30% more likely to be employed than disabled people

And the same report also suggested disabled people were more likely to highlight their limitations than non-disabled people. For example, they were more forthcoming in telling interviewers about the extra time they needed to get to work, or sourcing the support of certain assistive technology or resources. 

But this isn’t always the best approach. So while many barriers are harder to overcome for disabled students, the most potent advice HE support services can give them is to focus on what they can do and not on what they can’t. 

Key Areas to Focus on When Discussing Career Development with Disabled Students

Many disabled people worry about how their disability will affect their job and whether their employers see it as a disadvantage. 

So when discussing their potential to find and secure work, get students to focus on the positives.

To help with that, here are some of the key areas you can draw their attention to.

Help Them Understand Their Legal Rights

People with a registered disability have certain legal rights that act to protect them against discrimination or unfair treatment. 

So if they don’t already know, help them understand that they do have a legal framework to support them. Some of the help you can give them includes:

  • Check if their disability comes under the Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 exists to protect UK employees from any workplace discrimination. 

So if any employees with a registered disability need extra provisions to support their work, employers must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them. In some cases, this may mean more time off or working different shift patterns. 

  • Disability-Confident employers

Although not legally binding, the Disability Confident Scheme is a voluntary endorsement of employers who commit to encouraging applications from disabled people. 

If they’re featured on the list of registered employers, employers must agree to offer disabled people an interview if they meet the requirements. But there are different levels of commitment in the scheme, so it’s worth encouraging students to read up on this to help them select a possible employer to approach.  

  • Recruitment Law

Knowing whether to disclose or even how to disclose a disability is usually the most worrisome aspect of a job search. So it’s important to highlight what recruiters can and can’t ask about someone’s long-term health issue or disability.

In practice, employers can only ask if: 

  • They need to understand if you can take part in an interview
  • To understand if you can carry out essential tasks of the role
  • To understand if they need to make reasonable adjustments in their selection process
  • To assist with monitoring
  • If they’re looking to increase the number of disabled people in the organisation
  • If it’s needed for national security checks

 Review Available Financial Support

To assist disabled people with the rising cost of living, the government is offering a disability support payment of £150. And this applies to anyone in receipt of Personal Independence Payments (PIP). 

  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Once disabled students graduate, let them know they’re entitled to claim for disability allowance in the form of a PIP. 

A PIP provides funding to help with daily living, but also helps with mobility and getting around. The DWP will make an assessment of their needs and help with deciding the level of financial support. 

Once students secure work, they can also apply for the following benefits: 

  • Access to Work

When disabled students do manage to find work, they’re entitled to claim a grant through the government’s Access to Work scheme. The grant supports employers with making changes to how disabled students work and improves their ability to do the job. It even includes giving disability awareness training at their workplaces. 

And the good news is that Caption.Ed is available via Access to Work funding. So once your students are in employment, they can receive funding from this scheme to keep using Caption.Ed in their workplace. 

Customer Story: "Caption.Ed has completely changed the way I am able to learn"

Boost Their Confidence in Interviews

Once they start securing interviews, your students need to be ready to sell themselves. And how they do this comes down to a fine balance between being open and focussing on the positives.

City Disabilities is a London-based organisation that supports disabled employees to find work. And their experience suggests that while it is a good idea to seek out disability-friendly employers, it’s also important to make a plan for addressing your disability at the interview

Because there’s often a danger that too much time gets spent discussing the limitations of someone’s disability, City Disabilities suggests it’s important to spend more time focused on the impact employees can have. 

When it comes to interviews, many disabled people struggle with deciding how best to manage disclosing their disability. But student support services can help by highlighting the importance of disclosure while not getting worried about the impact on services. 

Students with accessibility needs can also get support from Caption.Ed during interviews. Because Caption.Ed is ideal for live captioning, it will enhance students’ understanding and help those with accessibility needs to respond to interviewers in the most appropriate ways.

Signpost Them to Helpful Organisations

There are many helpful organisations offering help and appropriate guidance on how best to manage the recruitment process.

Help Your Disabled Students to Stay Focussed on the Positives

Disabled students can face more barriers to employment than non-disabled graduates. But, by helping them understand their legal rights and giving them confidence in securing work, HE support services can increase their chances of gaining work they deserve. 

Universities with a disability or student support services team should make a focused effort to encourage disabled students to pursue their goals. One way to do this is by encouraging them to engage with Caption.Ed as a note-taking and productivity tool. Students with autism or ADHD, in particular, find it helps them to improve their focus during studies. Plus, these students can take it with them into their working life too, since Caption.Ed is a lifelong assistive learning tool.

If you’re not yet familiar with Caption.Ed as a captioning and accessibility tool, sign up for a free trial. This way, you can see for yourself how it could help your students be happier and more confident about their futures. 

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