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Careers and Employability Service

 

CAREERS HELP FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

Careers Support for Students with Disabilities at Kent

Careers and Employability Service (CES) staff at Canterbury and Medway offer a wide range of support services to students with physical and sensory disabilities, mental health problems and other disabilities and health issues.
While we hope that all students with disabilities will find at least some of the information on these pages useful, it is only a starting point and may not answer your specific questions and concerns. We do our best to respond to individual needs so please ask for further help and advice: click here for our locations and contact details.

The Careers Resources Room is wheelchair accessible. There is always someone at the Helpdesk who can answer your questions or refer you to an adviser.

Click here to see the University of Kent Careers & Employability Service Statement of Service for Students with Disabilities

Remember to use this web page in conjunction with the rest of the Careers Service web pages, where you will find much valuable general information on career opportunities, employers, postgraduate study and many other issues.

Careers Service Facilities to help students with disabilities include:

  • We have a photocopier in the Careers Service which can enlarge text. Ask at the Helpdesk if you wish to have materials copied. 
  • We have sub-titled DVDs on applications and interview skills and selection centres. Ask at the Careers helpdesk to view these.
  • Drop-in advice: an adviser is available for CV checks or short career-related queries without an appointment. See www.kent.ac.uk/ces/advice.html for times and further details
  • Careers interviews: These give more time to discuss your career questions and concerns. They normally last about 45 minutes, but please let us know if you think you will require extra time because of your disability and we will accommodate this. If you use a wheelchair, or have problems with stairs, please notify us of this when you book your appointment so that an accessible room can be reserved for your interview. If you require an auxiliary aid (e.g. sign language interpreter), do please let us know well in advance, so that this can be arranged.
  • The Disability & Dyslexia Support Service www.kent.ac.uk/ddss can provide further help and information
  • Our Code of Practice is available here

Developing Your Employability Skills

These are essential for all graduates: see our Employability Skills pages for more information and the University’s Employability page for ways in which you can develop these skills and build up your CV while at Kent.

When choosing a career, don't start by focusing on your disability. Look at your interests, skills, values and personality, and work out what you would really like to do first. Only then should you consider the difficulties that your disability may cause and work out how you will overcome these. To do it the other way round is to put the cart before the horse!

You could also ask yourself:

  • What are my strengths and weaknesses? (try our “strengths test” at
    www.kent.ac.uk/careers/Choosing/strengths.htm)
  • What have I learnt from my disability?
  • What difficulties have I overcome?
  • What strategies have I used to overcome my disability?
  • What transferable skills such as problem solving and flexibility have I developed through managing my disability?
  • What beneficial effects has it had on my life?

Always use positive words and images - focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN'T.

Some organisations offer skills development programmes

  • Use My Ability www.usemyability.org.uk helps students with disabilities to develop their employability skills. Excellent.
  • Elevation Networks www.elevationnetworks.org Activities include networking events, mentoring, internships, skills development and volunteer opportunities for students and graduates including those affected by disability

Getting Work Experience

All students, including students with disabilities, have the same problem. You can’t get a job without experience or experience without a job. So how do you overcome this? You will be pleased to hear that there are a number of internship and work experience schemes specifically aimed at students with disabilities: some involving very high-profile employers.

  • EmployAbility www.employ-ability.org.uk not-for-profit organisation that provides support and advice for students and graduates with disabilities. Employ-Ability also runs a wide range of internships and graduate recruitment programmes on behalf of many of the most prestigious and progressive blue-chip and public sector organisations.
  • Diversity Milkround www.diversitymilkround.com  lists over 300 top UK based companies wishing to promote diversity within the workplace and offering internships, industrial placements and graduate positions.
  • Disability Toolkits www.disabilitytoolkits.ac.uk a national resource that aims to help disabled students access and manage valuable off-campus learning activities, such as work placements and field trips. Provides information, advice and sources of support for disabled students; for academics involved in organising work placements, and for prospective employers.

For further information on work experience and internships, see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/vacwork.htm

Access to Work scheme now supports disabled students on work experience placements

The Access to Work scheme provides financial support towards the extra costs faced by disabled people at work such as support workers, specialist aids and equipment, and travel to work. From December 2013, the scheme now covers work experience placements arranged by disabled people with employers. Previously it only covered placements arranged through Jobcentre Plus. See here for details. 

Graduate Job Sites

The main graduate job sites are linked from www.kent.ac.uk/careers/graddirectories.htm However, if you have difficulty using normal websites, the following sites are recommended for their high standards of web content accessibility:

Employers - general information

  • Business Disability Forum http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk employers' organisation with over 400 members, working closely with government and other stakeholders, sharing best practice to make it easier to employ disabled people. EFD member organisations that employ around 20 per cent of the UK workforce.
  • Evenbreak www.evenbreak.co.uk social enterprise run by and for people with disabilities. Vacancies and advice.
  • Disabled Workers Cooperative www.disabledworkers.org.uk registered charity. Includes on-line database of the skills, services and products disabled people have to offer. Disabled individuals and organisations employing disabled people can register their details for FREE.
  • Disability Jobsite www.disabilityjobsite.co.uk The Disability Jobsite is developing a variety of resources and networks to enhance opportunities for employment in the UK's disabled community
  • Leonard Cheshire Disability www.lcdisability.org provides skills training and supports disabled people in finding work or starting their own businesses
  • The Shaw Trust www.shaw-trust.org.uk provides training and support to help people with all kinds of disabilities find employment
  • Scope Leadership Recruitmentworks with graduate recruiters to help students and  graduates with disabilities to find placements or places on graduate schemes
  • Disability Rights UKwww.disabilityrightsuk.org Provide advice on a range of disability issues, including careers. Offer internships and voluntary work
  • www.myplusstudentsclub.com provides students with a disability or long-term health condition with all the information they need as they apply for graduate jobs and prepare to go through the recruitment process e.g. disclosing a disability, requesting adjustments, requiring support, gaps in the CV, lack of work experience, etc. In addition to marketing their opportunities, employers include specific information about disability and the support they offer. Has index of disability friendly employers
  • Vercida www.vercida.com/uk helps students and people with learning difficulties and disabilities find the right career path suited to them. Access to thousands of careers and vacancies from some of the UK’s largest employers including the BBC, Barclays, E.On, J.P. Morgan, The UK Government, Bank of England and EDF Energy.
  • Young Disabled People's Employment Portal Government site which signposts young people and professionals who support them to advice and ideas to help young disabled people successfully navigate the transition to work. Will feature downloadable information packs and a page for impairment specific guides
  • Legal firms that welcome applications from graduates with disabilities see the Lawyers with Disabilities section of the Law Society http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/lawyers-with-disabilities
  • Incluzy https://incluzy.com disability jobs board. Visit today to find a job or become an inclusive employer!

     

Working from home

About 650,000 people with a disability work from home. More than half of home workers are managers or professionals with those least likely to work from home being secretarial and administrative staff. Home-working increases productivity, improves retention of staff and carers of the elderly or young children, access to the job market. See our Alternative Careers page for more about working from home

Applying for Jobs

Employers must make their application forms available in an accessible format (such as in large print, electronically or as an audio file) on request.

Many graduate recruiters use psychometric tests, either online or carried out at an assessment centre. Again, candidates with disabilities are entitled to any reasonable adjustments that may be necessary for them to take the test without suffering any disadvantage from this process: this can include extra time.

Large recruitment will usually use an assessment centre as the final stage of their selection process: these include a number of exercises, including group tasks, that assess the skills required for the job. You may require adjustments to be made to enable you to perform to the best of your ability: don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for these. It is a good idea to speak to a member of the graduate recruitment team in person to discuss your needs as soon as you receive an invitation to an assessment centre.

To Declare Or Not To Declare - Disclosing your Disability to Employers

Many students are concerned about disclosing a disability at any stage of the application procedure. There are many individual reasons for this: you may fear, for example, that:

  • employers will look no further than your disability and fail to see your other abilities;
  • employers will reject your application because of fixed or prejudiced ideas on the effects of disability;
  • you want to be assessed on your own merits and not given any special treatment as a “disabled” applicant;
  • you do not want to talk about your disability with a stranger;
  • your disability is irrelevant as it does not affect your ability to do the job;
  • employers may see you as a problem and extra expense - someone who will need special facilities or preferential treatment.

 

It is not compulsory for job applicants to disclose a disability: under the Equality Act 2010 it is, in most situations, illegal for employers to ask about health and disability issues when recruiting until a job offer has actually been made. Whether you choose to declare a disability before this point is therefore entirely up to you. However, there are some good reasons for telling a potential employer about a disability and you might want to consider the following before you decide:

A 14 year old girl who decided to learn karate despite the fact that she had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident. The girl was doing well, so she couldn’t understand why, after six months of training the karate teacher had taught her only a single move.

“Teacher” the girl finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?”

“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” her teacher replied.

Not quite understanding, but believing in her teacher, the girl kept training.

Several months later, the teacher took the girl to her first tournament. Surprising herself, the girl easily won her first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, her opponent became impatient and charged; the girl deftly used her one move to win the match. Amazed by her success, the girl was now in the finals.

This time, her opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the girl appeared to be over matched. Concerned that she might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when her teacher intervened.

“No,” her teacher insisted, “Please let her continue.”

Soon after the match resumed, her opponent made a critical mistake: she dropped her guard. Instantly, the girl used her move to pin her opponent. The girl had won the tournament.

On the way home, the girl and her teacher reviewed each move in every match. Then the girl summoned the courage to ask what was really on her mind.

“Teacher, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” her teacher answered. “First, you’ve mastered one of the most difficult throws in karate. And second, the only known defence for that move is for your opponent to grasp your left arm.”

The girl’s weakness had become her biggest strength.

  • Adjustments may need to be made to ensure that your disability does not place you at any disadvantage when taking psychometric tests, at interview or during an assessment centre;
  • The interviewer will be better prepared for your interview. If they only find out about your disability when you arrive for interview they may be taken by surprise and start to ask irrelevant questions;
  • Many employers have a proactive equal opportunities policy and are committed to increasing opportunities for people with disabilities. Look for the “two ticks” symbol on job adverts;
  • At any stage of the application procedure, it is important that there is mutual trust between you and the employer. In other words, you both need to present a clear picture to each other of what is on offer;
  • By taking the initiative in raising the issue of your disability, you can describe it in a positive way (see below). If they know about your disability, employers must make any “reasonable adjustments” that might be necessary to enable you to take up a position with them;
  • If you do not declare a disability before starting work and later encounter problems at work related to your disability an employment tribunal might rule that your employer was not at fault in failing to make these adjustments for you;

While it is unlawful for an employer to ask any job applicant about their health or disability unless and until the applicant has been offered a job, you may be asked about these on an equal opportunities monitoring form. These forms are separated from the main application and used by the personnel department to see if they are attracting a representative mix of candidates.
If you are rejected for jobs after declaring your disability, you may blame this rejection on discrimination. This may or may not be the case but, in a highly competitive graduate job market, such discrimination is usually difficult to prove.

When should you declare?

You can make your declaration at the application stage, when you are invited to an interview, on the day or after a job offer has been made. This is your choice but is also likely to depend on your disability.

On your application form/CV

Disclosing at the application stage can often guarantee an interview if you satisfy the minimum criteria for the job. You can then discuss at interview how your disability either doesn't affect your ability to do the job, has developed skills that are relevant to it (e.g. overcoming challenges, creative solutions to problems) or how some reasonable adjustments can enable them to do it effectively.

When invited to interview/assessment centre

If you have to make special arrangements to attend an interview (for example, physical access to the building, extra time on tests), you can raise matters in your acceptance letter, stating clearly and concisely if you require any equipment or facilities on the day. This will save embarrassment for both the employer and applicant.
If your disability is immediately apparent, or physically or sensorily restrictive, it is usually agreed that to declare before the interview is better. It then allows the interviewer to prepare for the interview, rather than presenting them with an unexpected situation that could create difficulties for both interviewer and interviewee. However, if you prefer to explain things face to face than by phone or in writing, then you could try waiting until the interview itself.

At the interview

According to research by Jones and Gordon of Duke University, candidates appeared more likeable if potential difficulties were disclosed early in the interview rather than waiting until the end. Candidates who disclosed potential problems early on were thought by interviewers to have more integrity and strength of character and thus were not not attempting to mislead them. For more details on this research see the excellent "59 Seconds" by Prof. Richard Wiseman

When a job offer has been made

My disability has not been a serious handicap in my scientific work. In fact, in some ways I guess it has been an asset: I haven’t had to lecture or teach undergraduates, and I haven’t had to sit on tedious and time-consuming committees. So I have been able to devote myself completely to research.

Stephen Hawking

The employer may make a job offer that is conditional on meeting the health requirements for the job. At this stage, the employer is permitted to ask questions about disability and health. However, they cannot reject someone simply because they have a disability; the job offer can only be withdrawn if the disability means that the candidate would not be able to do the job properly.

An employer can ask about absences due to sickness once a job offer has been made (but not before) and can also ask for more information about any such absences, including medical evidence. Depending on the answers and the nature of the job, the employer may be able to withdraw the job offer.

It is important to answer any questions related to disability and health issues honestly: if you do not do so, you may jeopardise your career prospects and unfair dismissal rights at a later stage. If you can present the employer with a clear and positive outline of how your disability may (or may not) affect the way that you work, any “reasonable adjustments” or equipment that may be needed and any support that may be available under schemes such as Access to Work, this will minimise any concerns that they may have.

Making Your Declaration a Positive One


At whatever stage you choose to declare your disability, it is important that you are able to do so in a positive way. Your disability is one of many facts about you. Keep it in perspective; it helps employers to do the same.

Making a positive declaration can be difficult. It requires in-depth thinking and self-assessment. You may not feel ready to do this and there may well be issues that you wish to discuss with your Careers Advisor or a member of the Disability & Dyslexia Support Service.

Profile on a CV
I have a visual impairment (full details are available on request), but this has not in any way prevented me from successfully completing a demanding degree course and further education qualifications. Far from being a disadvantage, this has increased my awareness of the needs of others and has increased my determination to succeed and to persevere when obstacles are placed in my path.

 

This focuses on the applicant's disability, but rather than deterring the selector, it sells the skills the applicant has gained from overcoming their disability ; awareness of the needs of others, determination and perseverance. It is short, to the point and effective.

 

Although employers cannot ask outright about health and disability issues on an application form or at interview, you are likely to come across general questions such as:

  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • Give an example of a significant challenge or difficulty that you have overcome
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

 

These can be an excellent opportunity to declare your disability positively:

"Because of my visual impairment, I have had to develop excellent listening skills. It has also allowed me to improve both my memory and my concentration, which has borne fruit in my academic results at Kent where I have consistently achieved good grades. As I need to use computer aids, I have a strong interest in this area and I have developed a good knowledge of databases and spreadsheets. Finally, having a disability makes you more understanding of the weaknesses of others and I feel that this has improved my ability to relate to people of all types in a positive way."

Employers are often interested in hearing how dealing with your disability may have increased your strength of character and determination - important qualities in any job.

Jackie Stewart, three times World Champion Formula One racing driver had undiagnosed dyslexia and was unable to complete his school education. He said: “When you’ve got dyslexia and you find something you’re good at, you put more into it than anyone else; you can’t think the way of the clever folk, so you’re always thinking out of the box."



See our web pages on applications and interview skills for further help with this
and an excellent blog on whether or not to disclose a disability to a future employer: http://citydisabilities.org.uk/weekly-round-disclose-disability

Funding sources for study for students with a disability

Specific disabilities:

The absence of one ability can lead dyslexics to develop other abilities in areas such as creative problem solving, listening, art, sport and acting.

One piece of research found that 35% of highly successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Dyslexics tend to excel in oral communication, problem solving, delegation, and spatial awareness.

Here is a list of famous dyslexics

Dyslexia and Dyspraxia

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Asperger’s Syndrome and autistic spectrum disorders

Epilepsy

Hearing impairment

Mental health problems

Under the 2010 Equality Act it is illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their mental health history prior to interview or to discriminate against candidates with mental health issues that do not affect their ability to do the job in question. There are certain exceptions to the Act, such as the armed forces and the national intelligence and security services.

Speech impairment

  • The British Stammering Association www.stammering.org   can offer advice and support on interviews, etc, and provide information for employers
  • Stammering Law www.stammeringlaw.org.uk/index.htm looks at stammering and UK disability discrimination law, inclusing a section on employment

Visual impairment

  • Action for Blind People www.actionforblindpeople.org.uk/our-services/work/ provides specialist support and careers advice to help blind and partially sighted people find employment, start their own business or stay in their jobs if they are losing their sight;
  • Blind in Business www.blindinbusiness.org.uk founded by three blind graduates, BinB is a registered charity which helps blind and partially sighted students into work through training and employment services.
  • Colour Blind Awareness www.colourblindawareness.org includes advice for people with colour vision deficiency (CVD) and employers on the effects of this condition in the workplace
  • The Institution of Engineering and Technology has produced a downloadable factfile answering some of the common questions asked by people who think they may have some form of colour vision defect, as well as those asked by employers in this sector www.theiet.org/factfiles/health/colourdefects-page.cfm

Colour Vision Deficiency (previously called colour blindness)

Degrees of colour vision deficiency vary greatly. There are definite ly some jobs where it is an obstacle and an applicant would require non-defective vision. In practical roles such as electrician or railway signals/power engineer where you may be doing hands-on work with cabling, or supervising it, then it would be an obstacle. However where the roles are more about design and project management and supervision of work is delegated, it's less of an issue and employer attitudes may vary. It's now less of a problem in electronic design or where a large part of the job is software-based design, as technology can be used to help (e.g. differing contrasts).

In some of our work we do red and green drawings: in truth it could red/yellow/green - BUT 2 different colours as they mean different things. If you can't distinguish the difference you have a problem. Also on site there could be a safety issue as some cables/signs are different colours and mean different things, however not all electrical engineers do this type of work so it does not necessarily exclude people with colour blindness. (Engineering consultancy)

The only time I have heard of this being a problem was back in the days when you had to be able to interpret the value of a component by reading the colour bands on the outside of the component. We rarely use these components and we certainly don't have critical situations where an incorrectly read code could cause equipment failure. As for the EDA tools, most tools have options to change the colours .... a sufferer would adjust the colours to match with their particular condition and remove any ambiguity. So, in general I wouldn't expect it to be an issue but you would want to assess on a cases by case basis (Electronics firm)

Graduates would not be tested for colour blindness because they would be working in a strategic capacity. Those on the engineering programme, however, would be tested at the assessment centre as the work involved would be more hands-on. (Power company)

Disability Discrimination legislation means an employer would now be required to make 'reasonable adjustments', as long as Health and Safety were not compromised and provided they had disclosed their condition. There may be some roles, particularly within Engineering, where an employer might successfully be able to argue it wasn't possible for them to make adjustments, either on health and safety grounds or due to the nature of the role.

People typically need normal colour vision for these jobs:
  • commercial airline pilots (under review), air traffic controllers, airport technical and maintenance staff
  • aircraft pilots, engineers and signal engineers in the armed services
  • train drivers, railway engineers, maintenance staff and trackside workers
  • hospital Lab technicians and pharmacists
  • fire service officers (mild deuteranomalous is allowed)
  • armed forces (some branches) naval officers, merchant navy officers and all ranks engaged in watchkeeping duties, and all submarine personnel
  • customs and excise officers
  • some engineers
  • workers in industrial colour quality control and colour matching
  • photography and fine art reproduction work

Also see the IET fact-file on colour deficiency www.theiet.org/factfiles/health/colourdefects-page.cfm

There is a colour blindness test (Ishihara test) which prospective electrical engineers may be asked to sit:www.aop.org.uk/practitioner-advice/vision-standards/electrical-engineering

Other disabilities and conditions

Government and legislation

  • DirectGov www.disability.gov.uk  Government information site with links to the Equality Act 2010
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission www.equalityhumanrights.com
  • JobCentrePlus http://jobseekers.direct.gov.uk/ can supply the names of "double tick" employers who guarantee an interview to applicants who meet the basic criteria for the post and declare a disability. They can also put you in touch with a Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) who can provide specialist support, including a job matching and referral service, and can help an employer to make adjustments to working practices when you get a job. www.direct.gov.uk/en/DisabledPeople/Employmentsupport/LookingForWork/DG_4000324
    A DEA is available at Canterbury Jobcentre, Northgate House, 115-120 Northgate, Canterbury, CT1 1EZ. Telephone 01227 594000
    • The Access to Work programme run by Job Centre Plus helps disabled people and their employers to overcome work related obstacles resulting from a disability. You may be eligible to claim any costs you incur for specialist support, e.g. sign language interpreters, during job interviews.
    • It is a good idea to make contact with the Access to Work team and the Job Centre as soon as possible and register before you start applying for jobs.
  • Business Link: information on grants and funding.
    http://online.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/sitemap?topicId=1073858790

Further information and resources:

 

The University of Kent Careers and Employability Service (CES) is committed to the ideals and practice of Equality and Diversity in all aspects of its work. It aims to provide an impartial service that is free from unlawful and unfair discrimination. Our work is carried out in accordance with the Equality & Diversity policy of the University of Kent www.kent.ac.uk/hr-equalityanddiversity/pol-pro-guides/equality-div-policy.html and the Equal Opportunities Policy of the Association of Graduate Careers and Employability Services (AGCAS) www.agcas.org.uk/assets/28-Equal-Opportunities-Policy.

Last fully updated 2013

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