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What barriers do disabled job seekers face?

The barriers faced by disabled job seekers will vary from individual to individual, of course, depending on a whole range of factors.

The disability itself may prevent some people from doing certain jobs, and in some cases, from any job. But assuming that disabled job seekers, like most other job seekers, only apply for jobs they know they can do, what additional barriers might they face? These can loosely be divided into physical, historical and attitudinal barriers, and these are just a few that might occur.

Physcial barriers can include:

  • Not knowing the job vacancy exists because of where/how it is advertised (for example if the job is only advertised on inaccessible online job boards, many people will not be able to see it)
  • The application process being inaccessible – lack of suitable formats for the application form, for example, or online application being the only option
  • Psychometric tests or work trials being inappropriate or inaccessible
  • Stated requirements for the job which aren’t justifiable (e.g. “driving essential” when travelling on public transport may be perfectly acceptable)
  • The interview venue being inaccessible – you may have the best candidate in the world, but if they can’t get into the interview room, you won’t be employing them
An empty wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs

Physical barriers

Historical barriers can include:

  • The candidate may have not had the same opportunities in terms of education, work experience or opportunities for training as other candidates
  • Prejudice by other employers may mean the candidate has not been offered positions as high as they were capable of – their CV may not reflect their true capability

Attitudinal barriers from employers can include:

  • A mis-conceived perception that somehow disabled applicants will not be as good as non-disabled applicants
  • A belief by the employer in the myths that surround disabled people (less productive, more likely to have time off sick, might be a health and safety hazzard, won’t stay in the job for long, etc – all of which are just myths, and far from reality)
  • The fear that employing a disabled person will be very expensive in terms of providing reasonable adjustments (although the reality is that most disabled employees require few if any adjustments, and those that do average around £184 – usually paid for by Access to Work)
  • A lack of understanding of what assistive technology is available
  • Lack of confidence around employing and managing disabled people, and a fear of “getting it wrong”

Attitudinal barriers from disabled applicants can include:

  • A lack of confidence in applying, having been rejected many times before on declaration of a disability
  • A lack of confidence in their own abilities, having been brought up in a society that equates “disabled” with “not as good as others”
  • A fear of not being offered the appropriate support, and being discriminated against
  • Insufficient skills in “selling” themselves on paper or at interview

These are just a snapshot of course – there are many more. They all need addressing if disabled candidates are ever to enjoy the same recruitment experience as non-disabled people. Future blogs will look at all of these issues.

What particular barriers have you observed, for yourself or for others in your own company, and how could they be addressed?


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