This seems, at least to me, an odd question to ask. And yet it is often the subject of some discussion with employers.
Evenbreak, as you know, is a job board which helps employers attract more disabled applicants. Thankfully, most employers I speak to (admittedly I tend only to talk to employers who are known to be inclusive) understand the benefits of attracting a wider range of candidates when advertising vacancies. And sometimes the discussion is around which of their current vacancies they will put on Evenbreak – in other words, which jobs are “more suitable” for disabled people.
All of them! As a group, disabled people have just as diverse a range of skills, talent and experience as any other group. There is no job which would not be accessible to people with some disabilities, just as there is no job which would accessible for everyone (disabled or otherwise). Disabled people, like the rest of the population, tend to apply for jobs they think they can do. So, let’s say the vacancy is for a fork lift truck driver. Clearly, some disabilities would exclude the person from this role. From a health and safety perspective, someone with very poor or no vision would probably not be suitable (and therefore would be unlikely to apply). But the job holder could be bi-polar, or dyslexic, or have diabetes.
Rather than going through a list of all the disabilities we can think of (and there will be plenty we will forget) to see if a job is “suitable” for a disabled person, why not open them all up, and let the applicants self-select? Saves a lot of time and hassle, and takes the burden from you to decide which jobs are available to which people.
Two recent conversations sparked this blog. Both were with financial institutions (who shall remain nameless). The first, a high street bank, said they thought Evenbreak would be ideal to fill their “entry level” jobs. And, indeed, it might. But what about the other jobs? I was told that other jobs would require qualifications and experience – the unspoken part of the sentence implying it was unlikely that any disabled people would have those. What would happen if the Governor of the Bank of England were to have a car accident this evening, and ended up using a wheelchair? Would he really only be suitable for an entry-level job from then on? 75% of disabled people acquired their disabilities as adults.
The second was with a different type of company, although still in the finance sector. This person thought hard about which jobs would be suitable to pro-actively seek applications from disabled people for, and decided the hard-to-fill jobs, such as Finance Director – the exact opposite from the first conversation. But why not encourage disabled people to apply for the call centre jobs as well (other employers have told me that traditionally people who accept jobs in call centres tend to leave quite quickly – there is a high turnover of staff – apart from disabled call centre operators who tend to stay in the role much longer).
A separate example to illustrate what I mean was a discussion with a supermarket chain who were proud of the percentage of staff who were disabled, and rightfully so. But on further examination, nearly all the disabled staff were in jobs such as unpacking boxes, or stacking shelves. When I enquired how many disabled people worked in accounts, or IT, or admin roles or in the buying department, or were supervisors or managers, the story was very different.
In order to decide which jobs are suitable or otherwise for disabled people we have to make many assumptions about this incredibly diverse group – and as we know, assumptions can lead us into all sorts of trouble. The safest bet is to open up all jobs to all groups, making a particular effort to attract those groups who traditionally might not apply, or who we have struggled to attract in the past, and then select the best person for the job, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.