Unemployment in the Disabled Community

8 Jul 2022

As you are aware, here at Enabling Technology, we aim to provide exceptional support for disabled people in the workplace, however, many people with disabilities struggle to get into employment in the first place. According to the Disabled people in Employment House of Commons briefing paper from 2021 47.7% of people who declared themselves to be disabled were unemployed (defined as those who are not working but are looking for work) however, the British Psychological Society estimates that this is more like 1 in 5 adults with disabilities being either unemployed or underemployed. I think the most shocking statistic I have read is that 78% of people with an Autism diagnosis in the UK are unemployed, according to the ONS.

But why is this the case? Especially when people with disabilities have just as many valuable skills as non-disabled people. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly evident to many employers that the way people with Neurodiversity think and process information is far superior than those who would be deemed “neurotypical”. Some employers state their reason to be the financial cost of providing reasonable adjustments needed, however, not only are many of these low cost or even free to implement, there is so much support; financial, technological and personal available for both employers and employees that this really isn’t a valid reason.

In reality, one of the main reasons is Ableism – Many people have never even heard this term or realised that it is “a thing”. Ableism refers to discrimination against people on the basis of a disability and is just as serious as any other type of discrimination. In terms of recruitment, it is a widely held belief that if someone were to tick the box on an application form that asked if you consider yourself to have a disability, that application will be thrown in the bin. I am not sure how true this is, or how widespread, but the fact is many disabled people rarely get through to interviews.

However, as mentioned above, many companies such as Microsoft, J.P Morgan, EY, SAP, Ford Motor Company, DXC Technology, and IBM are now actively seeking to employ people with disabilities, and see people with Neurodiversity in particular as giving them a competitive edge. Indeed, LinkedIn has added “dyslexic thinking” to their list of skills. As for people with autism, they often show high levels of loyalty, excellent attention to detail and memories and innovative problem-solving skills. Add to this high levels of concentration, reliability and detailed factual knowledge in certain areas it is mind baffling why so many with this diagnosis are unemployed. In terms of people with physical disabilities, there have been huge advances in assistive technology which allows anyone to work on computers regardless of their physical abilities, meaning no office work is out of reach, especially with the move toward allowing people to work from home. Working from home allows individuals to work efficiently and effectively even if the office has accessibility issues. However, it is important to note that funding is available to make workplaces more accessible.

So, when looking at recruiting somebody for a position, a basic rule of thumb you can hold in mind is to see the ability first: is the person in front of you able to do the job? Do they have the skills, experience, training and soft skills? If they do, then look at how you can remove the barriers that any disability may cause. This can be done by talking to the individual themselves first and then consulting with specialists like ourselves to see whether we would have any suggestions that may not have already been considered. If you would like to know more about how you can make your recruitment more accessible please contact info@enablingtechnology.com