Which jobs are suitable for disabled people?

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.women with a puzzled expression

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.

21 thoughts on “Which jobs are suitable for disabled people?

  1. I think it’s most unfortunate that we are obliged to lump together everyone who has some sort of disability into one group.

    Within that “disability” remit there are hundreds if not thousands of different manifestations; the truth is the disabled community probably contains as wide and diverse a range of talent as does that of the “able-bodied.”

    The sooner employers realize that the disabled community is a goldmine of people who potentially will contribute more to their businesses than their able-bodied equivalents, the sooner those employers will start to benefit from pro-actively seeking staff from that quarter.

    Suze St Maur
    2 x cancer veteran, various body parts missing, but not technically disabled. Yet.

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    1. Thanks Suze – yes, I completely agree with you. What does an 18 year-old young woman with Downs Syndrome have in common with a 30 year-old male amputee war veteran, and what do either of those have in common with a middle-aged person with MS or Cerebral Palsy, or an older person with schizophrenia?

      As a group, the only thing that disabled people have in common is that people will make (often wrong) assumptions about them. After that, the similarities end and they are as incredibly diverse a bunch of people as any other group you can think of.

      And, as you say, the sooner the emphasis is on what people can do rather than what they can’t, the better.

      Jane

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      1. Oh, wow. This is a talk I needed to have. Thank you for snyiag these things. Some temporarily able bodied people talk about disability like a burden, a curse, a trap, a prison, but, for me, it’s not. Denying disability is the burden, the curse, the trap, the prison. This is how I felt when I finally got my diagnosis. All of a sudden a huge chunk of the horrible burden, the curse, of being a failed normal person went the hell away. Every day I would try to make myself act like a normal person, feel things like a normal person, behave like a normal person. And every day that trap would snap shut on my leg and hold me down.Knowing what I am, instead of being frustrated and miserable about what I am not, has been incredibly freeing. I’m not happy about it, sometimes I am still frustrated and miserable, but that’s because I’m frustrated by my limits, not because I feel ashamed that I have failed. It’s a subtle difference I never appreciated before.

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  4. Hi,

    Strike-Jobs is the first online job board which has a unique blend of non-disabled and disabled recruitment.

    Many of you may be interested in this, please join us on Facebook where we provide a lot of support in helping everyone find a job.

    All the best.

    Strike-Jobs

    Like

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