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For anyone, finding and obtaining a job which suits their skills, abilities and career objectives is not always an easy task, and unfortunately disabled people sometimes find it harder than most, often due to ignorance or lack of disability-awareness on the part of employers. However, the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act should start to bring about some improvement in this area and full use of the support available, if required, should also help.

Your Rights

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 defines discrimination against disabled people in employment in the following terms: "... an employer discriminates against a disabled person if for a reason which relates to the disabled person’s disability he treats him less favourably than he treats or would treat others to whom that reason does not or would not apply; and he cannot show that the treatment is justified."

All aspects of the employment relationship are covered by the Act, including:

  • Recruitment (the job specification and application process, advertising and interviewing);

  • Terms and conditions (induction, promotion, training and perks and benefits of employment);
    redundancy, redeployment and dismissal.

Employers have a duty to make "reasonable adjustment" to the workplace or to the way in which work is done, if a disabled employee or applicant is placed at a substantial disadvantage when compared with a person who is not disabled.

Reasonable adjustments can include carrying out physical alterations to premises to make them accessible to disabled people; reallocating any non-essential tasks of a job to another employee if the disabled person finds them difficult; redeployment to a suitable alternative post; adjusting the working hours; acquiring or modifying equipment; providing a reader or interpreter. This is not a definitive list: adjustments will depend upon the job, the individual and their impairment.

The Act does not apply to police officers, armed services personnel, prison officers, fire fighters, or people who work on board ships, aircraft or hovercraft. Neither does it apply to organisations which have fewer than 15 employees.

The Act provides for employees to resolve disputes through ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) and the industrial tribunal scheme. Where a tribunal upholds a complaint of discrimination on the grounds of disability it has a number of remedies at its disposal - it may, for example, order an employer to pay compensation to the disabled person, or instruct the employer to reinstate the disabled person or to make a reasonable adjustment to the workplace or working conditions.

Employment Service

The Employment Service operates the Jobcentres, which provide many forms of support for people seeking work. Disabled people are entitled to attend a job club as soon as they register as unemployed, instead of having to wait for six months as able-bodied people do.

Job clubs give unemployed people the opportunity to look for job vacancies in the local and national newspapers as well as from the vacancies advertised in the jobcentre and provide resources such as word processors, paper, envelopes and stamps. They also provide advice and guidance in letter writing, CV preparation and filling in application forms, if anyone requires this. Specialist support is available through the jobcentre in the form of Disability Employment Advisers.

Disability Employment Advisers

Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) provide specialist support and advice for disabled people concerning all aspects of employment. They also have links with local employers and can help you produce a Back to Work plan. They are the gateway to other sources of help and support and it is worth making contact with the DEA to ensure you make the most of the support on offer. DEAs are part of the Employment Service’s Disabled Services Team.

Disabled Service Teams

Disabled Service Teams (DST) aim to provide a coherent advice and assessment service for employers and disabled people. DST can advise on:

  • Developing good employment practices;

  • Recruiting disabled people;

  • Retaining employees who become disabled;

  • Financial help to employ disabled people;

  • Using the disability symbol;

  • Individual assessment for existing or potential employees;

  • Job assessment and restructuring;

  • Work preparation and employment rehabilitation;

  • Equipment and ergonomics in the workplace;

  • Accessibility of premises;

  • Providing training or work experience;

  • Communicators for deaf people attending a job interview;

  • Help to develop disability awareness;

  • Legal obligations;

  • Networking with other employers or organisations.

The most significant form of support they offer for disabled people is via the Access To Work programme.

Access to Work

Access to Work (ATW) can pay for many aspects of support ranging from Fares To Work to assistance to enable employers to pay for any necessary aids and equipment needed for a disabled person to do their work. ATW provides support for disabled people to ensure they can compete on equal terms in the workplace and is tailor-made to meet individual need. It does not matter if you are employed, unemployed, changing jobs or self-employed, ATW can still support your additional needs. The sort of support ATW can help pay for includes:

  • A communicator at a job interview or at work if you are deaf or have a hearing impairment;

  • A reader or assistant at work if you are blind or have a visual impairment;

  • A support worker if you need practical help either at work or getting to work;

  • A communicator or interpreter to attend meetings, training courses or conferences;

  • A job coach to support you in familiarisation with the tasks of a new job;

  • A personal assistant to help with routine tasks and personal needs in the workplace;

  • An escort to travel to and from work if you can only use public transport when accompanied;

  • Temporary support in employment for familiarisation, or until the provision of special equipment or other ATW support;

  • Adaptations to a vehicle or help towards taxi fares or other transport costs if you can’t use public transport to get to work, or while at work;

  • Equipment, computer hardware and software (where this would not normally be provided by the employer), telephone aids, specialist furniture;

  • Alterations to premises or working environment.

Training and Enterprise Councils

There are other types of support available and these are sometimes provided by Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs). TECs provide training programmes for people to improve their prospects in the job market and act as the gateway to Government training schemes such as Training for Work, which offers vocational training and work experience to increase people’s chances of gaining suitable employment.

Although some of the mainstream courses provided by TECs will be unable to accommodate some disabled people’s needs, many TECs provide specialist courses for disabled people to ensure that any additional training needs are met. The DEA will be able to advise you as to what options are available locally.

Alternative Work Options

There are many other forms of work which are often overlooked. These include:

  • Self employment;

  • Working for a co-operative;

  • Part time work;

  • Working from home;

  • Teleworking;

  • Job sharing;

  • Supported employment;

  • Voluntary work.

Self employment may seem daunting, but it does not have to be that way. It can offer the flexibility and control over daily activity which many disabled people require and which can help them thrive in employment.

Working for a co-operative is similar to being self employed, but the responsibility is shared. Co-operatives provide the opportunity to work for yourself but have the back-up and support of others. Everyone who works for the organisation owns an equal share and receives a similar wage.

Part time work is also a viable option for disabled people because its impact on benefit entitlement is small and it is attractive for people whose disability is fatiguing.

Working from home and teleworking are increasingly possible, particularly with the widespread use of e-mail and faxes to keep in touch with head office.

Job sharing is also becoming more popular. Many organisations offer this as an alternative to full time employment, but require you to apply for a position with a job sharing partner. Other organisations maintain a list of people who are willing to become job sharers and it is worth considering this option if you feel that full time work is not appropriate.

Supported employment may be appropriate if your disability makes it difficult to maintain employment in the open market. Supported employment provides an opportunity to earn a full wage in an environment where your additional needs can be met more readily. It is usually provided in two different ways: a workshop or factory, or a placement scheme. Remploy is the country’s largest provider of workshop and factory work, and many local authorities run placement schemes where a high level of support is provided. Voluntary work can put you in touch with the world of work and may help assess your strengths. Check with your local social security office to make sure no benefit would be affected by starting voluntary work.

Further Information

RADAR produces "Into Work - a guide for disabled people" which you may find useful. You may also find it useful to contact Opportunities for People with Disabilities and Outset, organisations which provide employment opportunities and advice. Cando helps disabled graduates find employment and the Shaw Trust provides a range of employment related services. The Association of Disabled Professionals, Workable (which arranges work experience for undergraduates with disabilities) and the National Association of Supported Employment may also be useful.

Carers association

We are indebted to RADAR for providing the information for this section.