Life after School...
One of the major concerns of parents of disabled children is what happens when they leave school or college. To some extent, life at school cushions children and young people from the reality of the world of work, and even more so if they have attended special educational provision.
The concern is well-founded. The world of work can be harsh and competitive, and some employers are woefully ignorant when it comes to appreciating the huge benefits that employing disabled people can bring. They feel it is an act of ‘charity’, and perceive it to be an expensive risk.
However, those benefits are being realised by increasing numbers of employers, and the tone is changing from the patronising, “What a shame, we should give disabled candidates a chance”, to the more realistic, “We really need to tap into this remarkable pool of talent!” There is now a much better understanding of the business benefits of employing disabled people. On average, we are just as productive as non-disabled people, have significantly less time off sick, have fewer workplace accidents and stay in our jobs longer.
In addition, as we know, disabled people can bring additional skills with us. Having to cope with obstacles and barriers that most people don’t even think about, means that we often develop creative problem-solving skills, innovation and resilience. At the risk of sounding stereotypical, some conditions may carry particular strengths with them. Young people with Down’s Syndrome are often great at roles involving customer service, such as in retail or hospitality. Young autistic people can be good at jobs requiring great attention to detail, or repetitive work. Young people with some mental health conditions can be incredibly good creative thinkers, finding solutions to problems that might not occur to others.
Another benefit is that disabled people and their families spend up to £249 billion a year in the UK. Employing disabled people gives organisations much better insight into how to attract that market.
The challenge for young disabled people transitioning into the world of employment, whether from school, college or university, is how to identify those employers who recognize disabled people as a great source of talent, rather than a set of problems to be dealt with.
There are a number of indicators which help to identify disability-friendly organisations. The government has a scheme called ‘Disability Confident’ which employers can join at three levels. Level 1 means they have made a commitment to becoming more inclusive, Level 2 means they are implementing more inclusive practices and Level 3 means they have been externally assessed as being leaders in this field.
Another indication is to find employers who advertise their vacancies in ways to specifically attract disabled applicants. This may include adverts in disability journals (such as PosAbility), or on specialist job boards (such as Evenbreak).
When applying for jobs, it is important that disabled young people are specifically clear about what positive qualities they bring with them, and also what kind of support they might need.
This article was written by Jane Hatton, Director, Evenbreak. Jane has a degenerative spinal condition which means her ability to sit, walk and stand are very limited. She runs Evenbreak lying down with a lap top suspended above her.