Disability, neurological difference and mental health employment guide
In this employment guide we're highlighting the support available from the Careers and Employment Service, as well as what to consider when making career choices and how to find positive employers. We'll also help you with advice on disclosure, requesting reasonable adjustments and signposting to other support organisations.
The Careers and Employability Service is committed to equal opportunities and all of our services are available to support you. We can make adjustments if you have additional requirements due to a disability or combination of disabilities. Our Careers Centre has full wheelchair access and an induction loop is available if you have a hearing impairment.
We can offer advice and support in the following ways:
- Individual support with career planning
- Advice on disclosure of disabilities to employers and education and training providers
- Advice on requesting reasonable adjustments that you might need in employment and training
- Information on recent career paths of graduates with disabilities
- Access to advice and information about specific organisations and details of employers who can provide work and training opportunities for students and graduates with disabilities
- Links with other University services, for example Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre (ASDAC), Academic Skills (ASK) and the Wellbeing and Counselling service
Our service is confidential and impartial, tailored to your individual needs. We encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can best help.
The following information will provide guidance on getting a diagnosis, disclosure, reasonable adjustments and finding support to ensure that you give yourself the best possible chance of success during and after your course.
Under the 2010 Equality Act, disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term negative effect on your ability to perform daily tasks. Long term is classed as a period of 12 months or longer. The UK government website offers further information on the definition of disability.
It is important to consider whether a condition you have is considered a disability. Some people may have a medical condition which does not cause a significant impact on their daily life. Equally, someone with a neurological difference such as autism may not consider this to be a disability. Many people now prefer the term ‘difference’ over disability.
A benefit of determining whether any physical or neurological difference or condition is classed as a disability is understanding if you are entitled to additional support, or reasonable adjustments, from an employer within a work context.
Getting a diagnosis
If you've not had confirmation of whether you have a particular condition, then it could help to get a formal diagnosis. The first step would be to discuss this with your GP. It might be necessary to see another relevant health care professional but your doctor should be the first person to consult.
Getting a diagnosis would still be important if you have a condition that might not be an issue now but might impact more on daily life as time goes by. Muscular or neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease are typical examples.
Benefits of getting a diagnosis
Some people might simply feel some relief and reassurance in knowing what type of health condition they have. There can also be practical benefits from receiving a formal diagnosis. Once you have a diagnosis, you can seek advice on how to manage your condition and seek specific practical help such as equipment, and prescriptions.
It can also be helpful for close friends and family members to know how they can help. It can, of course, help when applying for study and work opportunities as disability can be discussed openly in detail at the recruitment stage to ensure that you get the support you need.
Effects on work and daily life
If you think, or have received professional advice, that a medical condition might have some impact on your ability to study or work in certain environments, it will be helpful to assess what effects it might have. For example, this might be difficulty in concentrating for long periods of time, or inability to use building features such as stairs. Understanding the impact of how your condition or difference affects your daily life can help you and potential employers to consider what support might be beneficial to you.
Deciding on how to disclose a disability can be a complex issue. It's natural that you may be concerned about telling an employer about a disability when completing applications, writing a CV or going for interviews.
If you require any assistance with this, or other matters related to disability, then please contact staff at the Careers and Employability Service.
When applying for any opportunities, preparation is always extremely important. Remember, the provisions of equality legislation can protect people with disabilities.
Reasons in favour of disclosing a disability:
You might qualify for various forms of help such as financial assistance, practical help like a modified computer or perhaps access to expert support such as occupational therapy.
Many employers have specific equal opportunities policies. These might include commitments to the Disability Confident scheme. Employers who participate in the scheme have signed up to a specific commitment to support disabled job applicants.
Declaring a disability may help you to explain some aspects of your education and work history on your CV.
It can help you to discuss your disability in a clear and positive manner. Building a good working rapport from the outset can help a recruiter to prepare before your interview.
Importantly, employers may require you, possibly by law, to inform them if you have a medical condition. In such cases, it's essential to answer all questions fully and honestly. For example, you may be asked to complete medical screening questionnaires during your interview, providing false information could place you at risk of losing your job or having a job offer withdrawn.
If you have a disability that may have implications for the health and safety of others, it's essential to inform an employer or prospective employer.
Potential reasons against disclosing
You might be concerned about sharing information with somebody you don’t know.
You might worry about how this could affect your prospects.
If you are worried about disclosure we can talk through your concerns as each situation is different.
When to disclose a disability
If you've made a decision to disclose a disability, the next issue to think about is when and how to do so. This depends on your own circumstances and those of the employer. However in most cases, it's probably best to consider disclosing early on in the process, perhaps even before the application process begins.
When sending a CV and a covering letter, you could use the opportunity to clarify any disabilities, explaining any specific issues such as support needs or medical terms. Explanations in a letter should be concise so you could contact the employer directly before applying to discuss your situation further.
If completing application forms, there might be sections asking you to talk about specific skills (or competencies) or asking you to explain your reasons for applying. It's essential to write about your skills and experience in a positive way, stressing your achievements and abilities and how they relate to the job.
Application forms may also have a section which invites to you disclose any disabilities.
At the interview stage, plan ahead by researching the employer and see if there's anything that may affect your support needs. The interview can provide a useful opportunity to clarify your situation, emphasise the positive aspects of your experience and skills and to clarify any specific needs you may have. You may also wish to discuss with the employer if there are any adjustments which could be made to aid you in attending the interview.
Many employers, especially a lot of larger organisations, use assessment centres as a way of helping them to recruit.
If you're invited to attend an assessment centre (or to complete some tests beforehand), ask for information about the process involved and assess whether you may need any additional support to enable you to take part.
If you need to declare any disabilities, it's usually best to disclose very early in the recruitment process.
If you declare your disability you can ask employers or education and training organisations to make reasonable adjustments to enable you to access their jobs, course of study, induction, training programmes and other services.
It's important to seek advice where necessary and there are numerous organisations that can assist job applicants and employers on what adjustments can be made. Please contact us if you require advice on relevant organisations that can help.
What sort of adjustments can you ask for?
The list is potentially very lengthy and it depends on your individual requirements, which may change.
Before submitting applications it's important to think about, and discuss with others, what help you might need and how it might be obtained. An employer is generally better able to help if you can provide clear guidance on the types of support you need.
The following are just a few examples of some of the adjustments that may be provided:
- More time in selection tests
- Access to a note taker
- Adapted office space, such as more width between desks to allow for wheelchair access
- Modified access to buildings – for example doorways, stairways and rooms
- Increased length of job interview
- Materials in different formats (such as different coloured backgrounds, larger print and so on)
- Access to specialised software such as mind mapping or text reading
- Opportunities to participate in internship programmes for students with disabilities
It's important to make early enquiries if this sort of help is needed, especially if any applications for funding are required.
Adjustments are available to support almost any disability and they're generally easy to put in place, so you should feel confident in asking about them if necessary.
Citizens Advice have some guidance on how to request reasonable adjustments, including how to write an informal letter stating your required adjustments. If you would like some further guidance on this, please contact one of our advisers at the Careers and Employability Service.
Having read the above, it might be useful to think about some action points to help you from now on. Some examples could include:
- Try to gain as much work experience as possible during your studies, as this will help you in the future. You could start doing this early in your course. We can provide information on volunteering, part time jobs and work experience opportunities that will enable you to contribute to the local community as well as adding to your confidence, skills and knowledge and providing useful evidence for your CV;
- Keep records of any jobs, work experience or volunteering that you do. These will help you when writing CVs and applications and in preparing for job or course interviews;
- Make sure you know about the various individuals and organisations that can help and consult them immediately if help is needed;
- Start networking. It's easy and the Careers and Employability staff can help you;
- If you need to seek a diagnosis, declare a medical situation or request reasonable adjustments, do these in good time and ask for help if necessary;
- Prepare well in advance – draw up a plan of action for yourself and don’t leave everything to the last minute
It's most important to think about the demands of the job and any assistance you might need. Prepare thoroughly and always be positive in the way you discuss disabilities.
Some useful resources:
- The AGCAS Disability Task Group has also recently developed a blog offering a range of career resources to support disabled students and graduates
- Auticon - roles for autistic job searches interested in roles in IT
- British Dyslexia Association - campaigns for the benefit of dyslexic individuals and offers advice
- Blind in Business - assists visually impaired and partially sighted job seekers to find work
- Business Disability Forum - works with businesses to hire and retain disabled staff members
- Disability Confident Scheme - a list of employers which have signed up to the government disability confident scheme
- Disability Rights UK - an organisation which campaigns for equality for disabled individuals
- Change 100 internships with the Leonard Cheshire Foundation - internship opportunities for students and recent graduates
- Civil Service Diversity Summer Internship - annual internship opportunities for students in their final two years of study (available annually)
- Enna - a jobs board for employers looking to recruit neurodivergent candidates
- Evenbreak - an accessible job site for disabled job seekers
- Mind - offers advice and support to individuals experiencing a mental health problem
- Mencap - offers a range of services to individuals with learning disabilities, including employment support
- MyPlus Students’ Club - supporting students and graduates with disabilities to access their chosen career
- National Autistic Society - provides advice, support and guidance to individuals on the autism spectrum and their families
- Scope - disability charity in England and Wales who offer practical information and emotional support
- Udemy "Employability Skills for Autistic Students and Graduates" - A free short online course made with and for autistic people