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Careers and work for disabled people

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Disability Rights UK Factsheet F24

  1. Careers advice
  2. Your rights: The Equality Act
  3. Finding disability-friendly employers
  4. Looking for job vacancies
  5. Applications and interviews
  6. Apprenticeships
  7. Alternative ways of working
  8. Self-employment
  9. Disability organisations that help jobseekers
  10. Disability Rights UK publications and helpline
  11. Other useful contacts

1. Careers advice

If you’re in any doubt about the sort of work you’re looking for, or need more information about the routes into certain careers, you should speak to a careers adviser.

Never assume disabled people can’t enter a particular career. Nursing, teaching, sport, business, law, media, IT, veterinary science – you name it – there are disabled people working in every imaginable field.

Many successful people have, at some stage, been told their career ideas were unsuitable. It’s important to persevere, take advantage of any available support and try to get the skills and knowledge you need for whatever job appeals to you.

The Equality Act 2010 means that employers have to remove barriers in the workplace for disabled people and financial support is available to help them do this. Always start exploring your options based on what you want to do. Then you can think about any advice and support you might need.

Wherever you live you should be able to access careers guidance as an adult. For contact details of the various services across the UK see section 10 Other useful contacts.

In England, schools have a duty to provide access to independent and impartial careers advice for 13-18 year olds. Face-to-face guidance is generally quite limited, with schools only providing online, email and phone support.

However the Statutory Guidance for Schools makes clear that they must provide face-to-face careers guidance for all young people with a learning difficulty and/or disability, regardless of whether they have a Statement of Educational Needs (SEN) or not.

Local authorities should provide careers advice up until the age of 25 if you have a Section 139A Learning Difficulty Assessment.

Alternatively you can use the new National Careers Service. If you’re aged 13-19 you can call for advice or email through their website. Adults aged 20 and over can also get face-to-face guidance. Call 0800 100 900 to make an appointment with an adviser at your nearest National Careers Service Centre. If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition, you should be able to get at least three sessions of face-to-face advice.

Careers advice is also available from Skills Development Scotland and Careers Wales.

Further and higher education careers services
If you’re in further or higher education, your college or university should have careers advisers. They should be able to help you decide what to do when you finish college.

Despite progress in society, disabled people are underrepresented in the workplace. However, research from Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) shows you'll have better job prospects if you continue with your education. The study found that disabled graduates achieve similar levels of success as non-disabled graduates.

A careers adviser can take you through all the options that your degree has opened up and help you decide which direction you want to go. There may be a charge for careers interviews and some London universities also charge for the use of their careers resources.

Prospects has an extensive graduate careers website at www.prospects.ac.uk. They also offer a free email careers advice service for up to five years after graduation.

The University of London Careers Group also has a useful website at www.thecareersgroup.co.uk

2. Your rights: The Equality Act

When looking for work as a disabled person, it’s important to be aware of your legal rights. The Equality Act 2010 builds on the previous Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against disabled people in two ways. Firstly, employers must not discriminate against disabled people. Employers are also required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to prevent disabled people being placed at a disadvantage. For more information on the Act see the Disability Rights UK Factsheet F56 - understanding the equality act: information for disabled students.

3. Finding disability-friendly employers

You should find that many of the large employers are aware of their duties under the Act. However, sometimes you may wish to look out for signs that an organisation has a particularly positive approach towards recruiting people with disabilities.

Disability symbol
The disability symbol is awarded by Jobcentre Plus to companies or organisations that have made positive commitments towards employing disabled people. Jobcentre Plus publishes leaflets about the symbol and the commitments that employers need to make in order to display it. You’ll see the symbol (two ticks and the wording ‘positive about disabled people’) displayed on job adverts and application forms.

Business Disability Forum

Business Disability Forum (formerly the Employers’ Forum on Disability) is a not-for-profit member organisation which aims to makes it easier and more rewarding to do business with and employ disabled people. The Forum has  over 300 corporate members. Companies that are members are likely to have a positive attitude towards employing disabled people. You can contact the EFD to obtain a list of members. For contact details see section 10 Other useful contacts.

Culture of an organisation
It may be possible to identify what sort of attitude an employer has towards employing disabled people by looking at the general culture of the organisation. You can sometimes find this information from looking at brochures, equal opportunity policies and annual reports.

4. Looking for job vacancies

Once you’ve identified the sort of job you’re looking for, there are many sources of information on vacancies. These include internet jobsites, newspaper adverts, contacting employers directly, attending careers fairs and using recruitment agencies. You might be able to get some assistance with this from disability organisations. See section 9 Disability organisations that help jobseekers.

5. Applications and interviews

When requesting further information about a job, it’s worth noting that you can ask for this in an alternative format, such as large print, Braille or electronically. You can also ask to submit your application in an alternative format. Under the Equality Act 2010, providing application materials in an alternative format is likely to be considered a reasonable adjustment that an employer should make. Some organisations can provide advice and assistance with writing CVs and filling in application forms. See section 9 Disability organisations that help jobseekers.

Under the Equality Act 2010 the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to the arrangements for interview. If you need any adjustments, it’s best to tell the employer in advance. If you’re unable to attend an interview at a specific time for disability-related reasons, it’s likely under the Act that the employer would have to rearrange.

Access to Work
It's important to remember that all employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments. However, you can help persuade them that costs won't be a problem by telling them about the Access to Work scheme.

Access to Work is run by Jobcentre Plus and has been described by the British Chamber of Commerce as 'one of the best kept secrets in Government.' It can help in a number of ways, for example by paying towards:

  • Communication support at interviews
  • Special aids and equipment
  • Support workers
  • Travel to work, which can include taxi fares

The scheme pays 100% of the approved costs for anyone starting a new job. If you’re self-employed, Access to Work will meet 100% of approved costs for support workers, help towards travel costs and contribute towards all other help. However, you may have to contribute a ‘business benefit’ towards any specialist equipment.

Access to Work pays a proportion of the costs of support if all of the following apply to you:

  • you're working for an employer
  • you've been in the job for six weeks or more
  • you need special equipment

Telling people about your impairment
You don't have to tell an employer about your disability unless you’re asked direct questions about your health on a medical questionnaire. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers cannot ask candidates questions about their health that are unrelated to the job role.

Being open about your impairment is a personal decision and people often worry about discrimination, prejudice or lack of confidentiality. The main benefit of telling an employer is that it gives you more protection under the Equality Act if you have a dispute at work. If an employer can show they didn't know you were disabled, you might have less of a case for discrimination. Other advantages could include:

  • Some employers are keen to employ disabled people
  • It could provide an opportunity to talk about yourself positively
  • Adjustments can be put in place earlier
  • You might build a better working relationship
  • You can explain aspects of your CV that might otherwise count against you, such as gaps in your education or work history

Information about your impairment is protected by the Equality Act and the Data Protection Act. It is sensitive personal information and cannot be passed on to other people without your permission.

Recruitment agencies
Recruitment agencies can be a good way to get a job. They are paid by employers to find suitable people for vacancies, so they have an interest in getting you into appropriate work. They also have access to some vacancies that are not advertised, and are free for jobseekers.

For temp positions, the agency is usually the official employer They make an agreement to supply you as a worker to somebody else, but are directly responsible for paying you. The host company, where you actually do your work, is called a ‘principal’. Under the Equality Act, both the agency and the principal have duties not to discriminate against you and they have to make reasonable adjustments to overcome any employment arrangements or physical features of the workplace that put you at a substantial disadvantage.

When deciding whether an adjustment is reasonable, employment agencies and principals will take into account how long you will be working.

Permanent agencies usually work by receiving a fee from an employer for introducing you to them or for recruiting you. Your employer is covered by the Equality Act in the usual way.

6. Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship is an opportunity to learn on the job while studying for a qualification. Apprentices do real jobs in a real workplace and gain a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). All employed apprentices must receive a wage of least £2.68 per hour. After the first year those aged 18 to 20 earn £5.03 per hour and those aged 21 and over earn £6.31. These are the minimum wages and some apprentices earn significantly more than this.The average wage per week for an apprentice is around £200 per week.

Whether you want to work on a farm, as a travel agent, a painter and decorator or as a trainee accountant there are opportunities out there. Whatever you decide to do, your college or employer should give you the help and support you need. There are lots of different apprenticeships in:

  • Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Care
  • Arts, Media and Publishing
  • Business, Administration and Law  
  • Construction, Planning and the Built Environment   
  • Education and Training
  • Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies
  • Health, Public Services and Care
  • Information and Communication Technology
  • Leisure, Travel and Tourism Retail and Commercial Enterprise

There are various levels of apprenticeships. You can either start from the beginning and work your way up, or start on the level that best suits the qualifications you already have. You can even progress your studies to higher education, including a degree, once you have completed your apprenticeship.

For further information on starting an apprenticeship, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk/Be-An-Apprentice.aspx.

7. Alternative ways of working

These days many people choose to do work which does not follow the traditional 9am to 5pm pattern. Some people need to work flexibly because of caring responsibilities or other personal commitments. People with certain kinds of impairments can also benefit from more flexible work patterns. It’s possible to find work on a part-time or job share basis, and a number of organisations now offer a flexi-time system, giving you more control over your working hours. The Disability Rights UK publication Doing Careers Differently has more detail on alternative ways of working

8. Self-employment

There may be a number of reasons for choosing to become self-employed. You may have an idea for your own business, you may want to work in an environment which you can adjust to suit your needs or self-employment may be the best way of arranging a job around your skills. Setting up your own business can seem daunting and it is hard work but it can also be very rewarding and there are organisations that can offer help, guidance and financial support in the form of grants or loans.

One useful point of contact if you’re considering self-employment is the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at your local Jobcentre Plus office. They can help you decide whether self-employment is a viable option and help you find sources of funding and support.

New Enterprise Allowance
The New Enterprise Allowance will give people getting Jobseeker’s Allowance access to business mentoring and a financial package. This includes a weekly allowance payable over 26 weeks’ worth up to £1,274, allowing you to establish your business and cash flow. You can also get a low cost loan to help with start up costs.

You might be able to take part in the New Enterprise Allowance if:

  • you’re aged 18 and over and have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for three months or more
  • you have a viable business idea

Disabled Entrepreneurs Network
The Association of Disabled Professionals runs a website at www.disabled-entrepreneurs.net. It aims to provide networking opportunities and share good practice for self-employed disabled people and those setting up their own businesses.

Prince’s Trust

If you’re aged between 18-30 with a viable idea for your own business, then you may be able to get the following help from the Prince’s Trust’s Enterprise Programme.

  • Advice on employment options
  • Business skills training
  • Business planning support
  • Start-up loan funding
  • Ongoing support from a volunteer business mentor
  • Access to specialist support, including a free legal helpline
  • And, if you start a business, access to a wide range of free and discounted products and services.

Further information is available from www.princes-trust.org.uk. Alternatively, call freephone 0800 842 842 and you will be put through to the Prince’s Trust office in your area.

9. Disability organisations that help jobseekers

There are many organisations that help disabled jobseekers. Some can help people with any kind of impairment and others will help people with specific impairments. This is just a selection, but it is worth asking other disability organisations about any schemes they offer for jobseekers.

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID)
19-23 Featherstone Street, London EC1Y 8SL

Tel: 0808 808 0123  Textphone: 0808 808 9000
SMS: 0780 0000 360
Email: informationline@hearingloss.org.uk
Website: www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk

Action on Hearing Loss can provide specific information and advice to deaf or hearing impaired jobseekers.

Blind in Business (BIB)
4th Floor, 1 London Wall Buildings, London EC2M 5PG

Tel: 020 7588 1885  Fax: 020 7588 1886
Email: info@blindinbusiness.org.uk
Website: www.blindinbusiness.co.uk

Blind in Business provides a range of services to both undergraduates/graduates and employers to ease the transition between education and employment for visually impaired individuals. BIB works through the whole application process, from supplying recruitment materials and vacancy information in a range of formats, to providing specialist seminars and advice. All the services are free and available to any visually-impaired young person looking for work.

Disability Action (Northern Ireland)
Head Office, Portside Business Park, 189 Airport Road West, Belfast BT3 9ED

Tel: 028 9029 7880  Textphone: 028 9029 7882
Email: hq@disabilityaction.org
Website: www.disabilityaction.org

Disability Action's Employment and Training Service offers information and support for people with disabilities, to help them find and stay in work or vocational training. They also provide disability and diversity awareness training to employers, organisations, businesses and other interested agencies.

Leonard Cheshire
66 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL

Tel: 020 3242 0200  Fax: 020 3242 0250
Email: info@LCDisability.org
Website: www.lcdisability.org

Range of services to help disabled people into work and business including skills training in computers, accessible media and supporting disabled to run their own businesses.

Papworth Employment Programmes
Bernard Sunley Centre, Papworth Everard
Cambridge CB23 3RG

Tel: 0800 952 5000
Email: info@papworth.org.uk
Website: www.papworth.org.uk/employment

Various programmes supporting disabled people who are long-term unemployed, as well as those who have acquired a disability as a result of a workplace injury, serious illness or a road traffic accident. Workplace evaluation, job searching, job analysis and matching and access to Jobcentre Plus programmes where relevant. Papworth delivers most of its services in the East of England; Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Suffolk.

393 City Road, London EC1V 1NG

Tel: 020 7704 7450

Email: employment.training@nas.org.uk
Website: www.autism.org.uk

Only specialised employment service for people with Asperger syndrome and autism in the UK. Helps with work preparation and also provides support in the workplace.

18c Meridian East, Meridian Business Park, Leicester LE19 1WZ

Tel: 0845 155 2700  Textphone: 0845 155 0532
Fax: 0845 155 2701
Email: info@remploy.co.uk
Web: www.remploy.co.uk

Remploy offers a number of programmes for students and graduates with disabilities.

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
105 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NE

Helpline: 0303 123 9999
Email: helpline@rnib.org.uk
Website: www.rnib.org.uk/employment

The RNIB provides information and advice to blind and partially sighted jobseekers. It also runs the Trainee Grade Scheme (TGS) offering paid work experience. You should contact your local RNIB Employment and Student Support Network for further information.

6 Market Road, London N7 9PW

Tel: 0808 800 3333
Email: response@scope.org.uk
Web: www.scope.org.uk/work/employment

Scope's employment services support disabled people in gaining employment in large corporations, public sector bodies and local employers. They run employment programmes in several regions including East London, Cumbria, North Wales, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Shaw Trust
Shaw House, Epsom Square, White Horse Business Park,
Wiltshire BA14 0XJ
Tel: 01225 716 300
Website: www.shaw-trust.org.uk

Provides training and work opportunities for people who are disadvantaged in the labour market due to disability, health or other social circumstances. Many of their services are tailored to the requirements of people who have experienced a mental health condition or who have a learning disability.


61a Great Suffolk Street, London SE1 0BU

Tel       020 7803 4846
Fax     020 7401 3495
Email  trailblazers@muscular-dystrophy.org
Web    www.mdctrailblazers.org

Trailblazers is a national network of more than 400 young disabled people. They aim to fight the social injustices experienced by young disabled people and to ensure they can gain access to education and employment. They are part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

10. Disability Rights UK publications and helpline

Disability Rights UK Student Helpline

For further information on the above and the support that is available for disabled students, please contact the Disabled Students Helpline:

Tel: 0330 995 0414

Tues & Thurs 11.00am-1.00pm

Email: students@disabilityrightsuk.org

The helpline provides free information and advice to disabled students in England, their parents, carers and key advisers about opportunities in post-16 education and training. This includes further and higher education and apprenticeships. We also provide general information on the Equality Act as it applies to education and give advice on UK students' entitlement to welfare benefits.

We produce a range of factsheets covering these subjects and frequently asked questions which you can access through the education and skills section of our website at disabilityrightsuk.org. All our factsheets are free to download on our website at disabilityrightsuk.org.

Doing Careers Differently

Doing Careers Differently, the latest publication in the Doing Life Differently series, vividly demonstrates that disability does not mean a career dead end. Inspiring personal stories from disabled models and actors, media professionals, senior managers and entrepreneurs show that it is possible to make work meaningful and at the same time, earn a decent wage.

With sections covering education and training, mentoring, personal development, internships, interviews, networking (including online networking do’s and don’ts) and what to do about disclosing a disability to an employer. With a host of useful websites and information on practical support such as the Access to Work scheme, this comprehensive guide will be enormously helpful. Not only for people who are just starting out but also for those rethinking their career or who want some inspiration and ideas to  make the most of their working lives. The guide outlines equality legislation around employment but also explains how to deal with difficult situations and difficult people day to day, without having to resort to the law.

Doing Careers Differently however shows it is not impossible even in a difficult economic climate – and also that, in the long term, a satisfying career is about a lot more than just a big pay cheque. You can download this from our website

11. Other useful contacts

Disability Wales / Anabledd Cymru
Bridge House, Caerphilly Business Park, Caerphilly CF83 3GW

Tel: 029 2088 7325 Fax: 029 2088 8702
Email: info@disabilitywales.org
Website: www.disabilitywales.org

Provides a range of services to disabled people living in Wales.

Equality and Human Rights Commission
Website: www.equalityhumanrights.com

The EHRC website has lots of information and guidance on equality issues and disabled people’s rights in employment

Business Disability Forum

Nutmeg House, 60 Gainsford Street, London SE1 2NY

Tel 020 7403 3020   Textphone: 020 7403 0040

Fax: 020 7403 0404

Email: enquiries@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

Website: http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/

For information about Business Disability Forum see section 3 Finding disability-friendly employers.

Website: www.icould.com

The icould video library is a collection of films featuring young people sharing their career stories. It showcases the huge range of creative possibilities at work.

Guardian Jobs
Website: http://jobs.guardian.co.uk

Job advertisements and other resources for job seekers.

Jobcentre Plus
For details of your local Jobcentre Plus office you can look in your local phonebook.

Website: www.monster.co.uk

Careers information, interview tips, CV building and job vacancies

Prince’s Trust
Head Office, The Prince's Trust
18 Park Square East, London NW1 4LH

Tel: 0800 842 842    Textphone: 020 7543 1374
Fax: 020 7543 1200
Email: webinfops@princes-trust.org.uk
Website: www.princes-trust.org.uk

Website: www.prospects.ac.uk

Comprehensive guide to graduate jobs, careers and post graduate study. Contains a database of employers, job vacancies and useful information about a variety of careers.

Loud Minority
The Loud Minority website www.loudminority.co.uk has lots of video case studies of disabled people in employment, including three videos of disabled teachers from the Skill Into Teaching project.


Internet discussion group for blind and partially sighted people involved with setting-up or running a small business.

Career Services
National Careers Service

Telephone: 0800 100 900

Careers Service Northern Ireland
Telephone: 0300 200 7820    

Careers Wales
Telephone: 0800 100 900

Skills Development Scotland
Telephone: 0141 285 6000

Tony Stevens
9 April 2015