Turning the Tables – Employing Disabled People

This post on the Same Difference blog prompted some thoughts on the subject of employing disabled people.  It can be nerve wracking for anyone going through the whole job hunting process – updating your CV, applying for a job, writing the perfect cover letter and then, if you’re lucky, going to an interview.

For a person with a disability this can be even more worrying.  Not only are you in competition with the other applicants, you must also get past any prejudices and worries and pre-conceived ideas that the potential employer may have.  The employer may believe for example that a disabled person is likely to take lots of time off because of illness or for medical appointments.  If the role applied for is customer facing the employer may worry about what customers will think.

There are many other ideas that may, in the employers mind, put up barriers to employing the disabled person.  It may seem to be the easier option to employ an able-bodied person instead, even if their skills or experience are less than the disabled person.

Preparing for the interview is key to dealing with this.  Of course, it is always important to prepare for an interview.  Research the company or organisation, find out all you can about them, be prepared to answer questions about them – the employer will be looking for someone who has taken an interest.  In addition have some questions ready to fire back.  Has the company recently won a large contract or opened new premises?  Are they doing something new or interesting?  Mention it and probe into the details.  Not only does this show you have done some research and are interested but it also turns the interview into a 2-way conversation rather than a question and answer session.

That is standard interview preparation advice.  For the disabled person you could also prepare some information about your disability.  You don’t need to give your entire medical history but letting the employer know what effects your disability has on your day-to-day life and what adjustments might be needed in order for you to be effective in the role can be useful and gives you the chance to present your disability in a positive way and counter any doubts that the employer might have.

Let’s take a look at one of the most common worries employers have about taking on disabled staff, and some of the positive arguments:

“Disabled people need lots of time off, this costs money”

Sure, disabled people may need time off from time to time.  Sometimes we have  appointments for assessments, treatments and regular check ups.  But this also applies to able-bodied people.
Some people see disabled people as being ill simply because they have a disability.  This is quite common but untrue.  We do get ill, but we are not ill constantly.
Disabled people are more likely to come to work even if they are ill.  There can be a feeling that we have to work harder and better than our able-bodied colleagues in order to prove ourselves.
Following on from the above, disabled people are less likely to take time off for common problems that see able-bodied people staying at home.  Because we’re often used to pain, side effects of medications and struggling with every day tasks we are able to cope with back pain, headaches, feelings of nausea etc.

See how the negative can be turned around?  If nothing else, see the interview as a chance to educate and maybe, just maybe, change someone’s view.

What do you think?

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