What barriers do disabled job seekers face?

The barriers faced by disabled job seekers will vary from individual to individual, of course, depending on a whole range of factors.

The disability itself may prevent some people from doing certain jobs, and in some cases, from any job. But assuming that disabled job seekers, like most other job seekers, only apply for jobs they know they can do, what additional barriers might they face? These can loosely be divided into physical, historical and attitudinal barriers, and these are just a few that might occur.

Physcial barriers can include:

  • Not knowing the job vacancy exists because of where/how it is advertised (for example if the job is only advertised on inaccessible online job boards, many people will not be able to see it)
  • The application process being inaccessible – lack of suitable formats for the application form, for example, or online application being the only option
  • Psychometric tests or work trials being inappropriate or inaccessible
  • Stated requirements for the job which aren’t justifiable (e.g. “driving essential” when travelling on public transport may be perfectly acceptable)
  • The interview venue being inaccessible – you may have the best candidate in the world, but if they can’t get into the interview room, you won’t be employing them

Empty wheelchair at the bottom of a flight of stairs

Historical barriers can include:

  • The candidate may have not had the same opportunities in terms of education, work experience or opportunities for training as other candidates
  • Prejudice by other employers may mean the candidate has not been offered positions as high as they were capable of – their CV may not reflect their true capability

Attitudinal barriers from employers can include:

  • A mis-conceived perception that somehow disabled applicants will not be as good as non-disabled applicants
  • A belief by the employer in the myths that surround disabled people (less productive, more likely to have time off sick, might be a health and safety hazzard, won’t stay in the job for long, etc – all of which are just myths, and far from reality)
  • The fear that employing a disabled person will be very expensive in terms of providing reasonable adjustments (although the reality is that most disabled employees require few if any adjustments, and those that do average around £184 – usually paid for by Access to Work)
  • A lack of understanding of what assistive technology is available
  • Lack of confidence around employing and managing disabled people, and a fear of “getting it wrong”

Attitudinal barriers from disabled applicants can include:

  • A lack of confidence in applying, having been rejected many times before on declaration of a disability
  • A lack of confidence in their own abilities, having been brought up in a society that equates “disabled” with “not as good as others”
  • A fear of not being offered the appropriate support, and being discriminated against
  • Insufficient skills in “selling” themselves on paper or at interview

These are just a snapshot of course – there are many more. They all need addressing if disabled candidates are ever to enjoy the same recruitment experience as non-disabled people. Future blogs will look at all of these issues.

What particular barriers have you observed, for yourself or for others in your own company, and how could they be addressed?

3 thoughts on “What barriers do disabled job seekers face?

  1. Tough call. I find that anything with a learning curve in this industry requires years of patience before it takes off in the recruitment world. I once was quite excited about virtual job fairs. They scale better, provide better access and can answer the demand of job seekers and employers alike much quicker (you don’t need as much prep time and attendees have the luxury of schedule flexibility). Having watched our virtual attempt at uniting alumni with employers evolve into a face-2-face job fair business, I know it’s not easy to get traction. An unexpected surprise, however, was learning just how special bringing employers and job seekers together, in-person, truly is (as long as expectations are aligned and the quality on both sides is strong). So I can’t say with confidence that these events will truly take off. Regardless I’d like to see a resurgence in high quality in-person job fairs and hope the virtual counterpart proves successful enough for all participants that it finds a long term home in the recruiting world.


  2. Thanks, Ed. Even Internet-savvy job seekers often think just using the tool is all they have to do. But as I say in the guest post: Critical to every job search is to create the right first impression. I caution my clients to make sure that physically they are ready to interview at any time. If they hand-deliver a resume in torn jeans, dirty tennis shoes, and looking more like they just got done mowing the lawn, then they will potentially ruin their opportunity to be seen as serious contenders. I work with multiple levels of job seekers from entry level and students to executives and my advice to them is the same. You need to look the part, act the part, and have the sales tools with you to sell yourself every time you are in front of a potential employer.


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