There are a number of reasons why someone may choose to study with the Open University. For me and others, the flexibility offered by the OU enables those with a disability a route to study not possible elsewhere.
With the October modules coming to an end, you may be considering your employment situation, entering a new industry, or starting work for the first time.
However, having a disability may disadvantage you in the recruitment process. Disabled jobseekers are less likely to be in paid employment than non-disabled people, with 53% in work versus 81% respectively during 2021. Further, people with a disability are more likely to be in lower-paid occupations, in part-time roles, on zero-hour contracts, or on sabbatical (1).
Through my work as a mentor, I hear this often. Yet, I know that disabled jobseekers have a lot to offer the workplace, bringing a diverse mix of skills, interests, and capabilities. For example, autistic employees can be up to 140% more productive than a non-autistic employee if in a role which fits their skill set, yet 78% of autistic people are unemployed (2).
For those of you who may be seeking employment in the coming months, I’ve provided a summary of resources to support you with the application process.
Searching For Vacancies
The Disability Confident Scheme allows jobseekers to identify organisations who are committed to supporting disabled workers through the recruitment process and when in role. You can search for employers who participate in the scheme using a government link (3) or look for the logo on the job advert. However, much is still to be done to overcome the biases of individual recruiting managers. I would recommend looking for other evidence, before making an application, that supports the employer’s disability confident claims.
Disability specific schemes such as criteria-matching guaranteed interviews and disabled student internships are options, but places can be limited.
Job adverts which use accessible language, are clear about role expectations, and welcomes diverse applicants, may indicate an inclusive employer. Those who advocate for skills over experience are likely to be more accommodating.
Disclosure of your Disability
Disclosure is a complex topic. It is entirely up to you whether you want to disclose or not. Legally, you are not obligated to disclose your disability, but you cannot get protection in law without doing so.
Disclosure can help you access accommodations in work or at interview to mitigate any disadvantage you may experience due to your disability. While this could give employers an excuse to rule you out, I would argue this as a benefit. Who would want to work for an unsupportive employer? Getting the right fit is vitally important and can be the difference between a long-term placement and the need to go through the whole process again.
I have written more about disclosure in an article for OU Business School (4) for anyone interested further on this debate.
For general career advice as a student or recent alumni, there is an entire section of the OU’s website dedicated to all things careers and employability. You can also book 1:1 appointments with a career advisor for more personalised advice (5).
Remaining in Education?
For those of you who aren’t currently looking for work, or are also continuing study next year, thanks for reading this far! Should you wish to know more about ‘Reasonable Adjustments in Education’, you can read my earlier Hoot article about it here: Student Disabilities: Reasonable Adjustments in Education. – THE HOOT (thehootstudents.com)
Here are five of my go-to links for disabled candidates seeking employment.
- Access to Work is a government programme designed to support people in work with a disability or mental health condition. Grants are available to pay for specialist equipment, transportation costs, or support from an employment mentor, like myself. Access to Work: factsheet for customers – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Disability Rights UK has a wealth of information for a range of work support issues. www.disabilityrightsuk.org
- Mind has resources to support you to be mentally healthy at work. Workplace – Mind
- The National Autistic Society has a free course called ‘Finding Employment’ which may offer some useful guidance and templates to complete when searching for a job. Finding employment (autism.org.uk)
- Scope has a number of supported employment schemes available to disabled people, subject to meeting the funding criteria. They also provide additional information on the recruitment process more generally. Employment support services | Disability charity Scope UK