The real barriers to employment faced by disabled people

There is much talk about the disability employment gap and its causes. At Evenbreak, we wanted to find out from the real experts (disabled job seekers themselves) what barriers prevent disabled people from gaining work.  People on the Enactus programme at UCL conducted research on our behalf. They received an overwhelming response from more than 700 disabled participants, giving compelling evidence into the real lived experiences of disabled people.

By far, the most significant issue for disabled candidates is finding employers that they feel confident to apply to. Over 82% of respondents said that their most pressing problem was finding truly disability-friendly employers. Whilst many employers describe themselves as ‘equal opportunities employers’, this was rarely borne out in practice, particularly in relation to disability. And 71% of respondents rated employers poorly when it came to empathy and understanding around disability.

The second biggest barrier identified was a lack of confidence in the recruitment process, including a fear of the process being biased or discriminatory throughout. Candidates felt their opportunities to demonstrate their qualities and skills were limited. This included a lack of offering adjustments (which were rarely mentioned in job adverts), relying on CVs and work experience when their opportunities may have been limited, and the nature of interviews (50% said the face-to-face interview was their biggest barrier, with 75% regularly experiencing an obvious lack of interest from interviewers.

Lack of confidence in their own abilities appeared to be the third biggest barrier, including concerns about how employers might perceive them.

Broadly what this research demonstrates is that there are many ways that employers can remove barriers for disabled people, and some are quite easy. Ensuring that disabled candidates know that employers are serious about their talent is important, and there is a clear need for recruitment processes to be more inclusive and accessible.

One of the enduring mantras in the world of disability is “nothing about us, without us”. This makes perfect sense – why would non-disabled people try to second-guess what works for disabled people? It’s the reason Evenbreak only employs disabled people, and it’s the reason Evenbreak commissioned this research. 

Now the barriers are known, it’s time we all work together to remove them. Are you in?

Email me on janeh@evenbreak.co.uk if you would like a copy of the research findings.

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