Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Five hidden barriers every disabled job candidate has to overcome

The theme of this year’s National Inclusion Week is Take Action Make Impact. This is a call for everyone within an organisation to think about what actions they can take that make a positive and lasting impact to help build an inclusive culture and break down barriers.

Although, each and every disability is different and comes with a range of challenges, disabled job candidates often face similar issues and pressures when seeking employment.

In this article, the team from Evenbreak, the world’s first global disability job board run by and for disabled people, discuss the hidden barriers that disabled job candidates have to overcome.

1. To disclose or not to disclose

This conundrum comes up consistently. There is a general acknowledgement that candidates feel the recruiter would be put off from putting them forward if they knew they were disabled. So, at what point in the job application or once started (if ever) should it be disclosed?

From our recent YouGov poll with 3,000 candidates, we found that 23% felt that mentioning their disability would put them at a disadvantage, 24% said a lack of self-confidence was a barrier, and 18% said they did not face any barriers to work at all.

2. Presumptions and preconceptions

Often people living with a disability are not spoken to as individuals about their needs and any challenges. Also, a lot of things are presumed or preconceived. This may come from a place of fear from the employer for asking the wrong question, but it can do real harm to the candidate. These presumptions about what a disabled candidate is capable of, plus the unhelpful questions that come out of that can be extremely damaging to a person’s professional confidence. There are far more benefits to employing somebody living with a disability and employers need to understand this. Problem solving, creativity and exceptional project management skills to name just three.

The government this week (26th September 2023) has launched a campaign that should help such candidates. Titled “Ask, Don’t Assume” which aims to raise awareness of the everyday assumptions faced by disabled people and offers practical guidance for allies who are keen to do the right thing.

3. Each stage of the process has issues for different people

Clearly every disability is unique, so each stage of the traditional recruitment process can be hugely challenging for individuals. Candidates with hearing problems will naturally struggle with telephone interviews for example, so employers need to be flexible about their processes so they don’t cause unnecessary anxiety for disabled candidates.

4. The added time and energy

Able-bodied candidates don’t ever have to think about the added time and energy that not only goes into an interview, but also the role itself. Navigating the world of work with all of its complexities as a disabled person can be hugely daunting and there are so many obstacles and potential barriers, it can be difficult to overcome.

5. One size does not fit all

The lack of awareness of a condition or disability and then making assumptions that are most often incorrect. Employers can be naïve and lack the understanding that people can have varying levels of disability and therefore need in a workplace and one size does not fit all.

If you’re a disabled candidate looking for work or you are an employer that needs educating on the best ways to attract and retain disabled candidates, visit the Evenbreak website for more advice.

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