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.
It's useful to think about what actually constitutes a disability. Some people might have a medical condition, which does'nt really have any great impact on daily life. Equally they might have a characteristic (autism, for example) that might not even be thought of as a disability, they might just think of their situation as ‘this is just how I am’. A lot of people now use the term ‘difference’ rather than disability.
A useful starting point is to consider whether a medical condition (or conditions) is or are sufficiently significant and long standing enough to have a negative impact on work, study or other aspects of daily life. The 2010 Equality Act has some guidance on this.
Effects on work and daily life
If you think, or 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.
Getting a diagnosis
If you've not had confirmation of having, or not having, 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
The first benefit is reassurance, some people might simply feel some relief in knowing what type of health condition they have. They might be equally happy to discover there's nothing wrong.
Once you have a diagnosis, you can seek advice on how to manage your condition and seek specific practical help such as equipment, prescriptions etc.
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 now be discussed openly in detail at the recruitment stage to ensure that you get the support you need.
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.
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.
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 etc.
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
- 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.
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:
- British Dyslexia Association
- Business Disability Forum
- Disability Confident Scheme
- Disability Rights UK
- Change 100 internships with the Leonard Cheshire Foundation
- MyPlus Students’ Club
- National Autistic Society
- The AGCAS Disability Task Group has also recently developed a blog offering a range of career resources to support disabled students and graduates