Applying with a disability
A person’s experience of disability and how it may influence their career is unique to them.
Whatever your situation may be, we can help you with identifying and applying for suitable career options, finding work experience as well as other career-related questions you may have.
Reframe negatives into positives. You have a lot to offer. You can think outside the box and that’s a great thing! Ask yourself “How can I add value?”. Be solution-focused.
What do I need to think about when making job applications?
Should I tell my potential employer?
It is entirely up to you if you want to tell an employer about a disability(s) and if so, how much information you want to share.
- Any information you share with the employer will only be shared with people directly involved in the recruitment process and not wider in the organisation.
- Generally, it is illegal for employers at this stage to ask you direct questions about health and disability, although there are some exceptions.
- Sometimes at the end of an application employers will ask if you have a disability as part of their equality and disability information gathering. They do this as part of their efforts to ensure their recruitment processes are inclusive to all. This information is usually anonymised and kept separate to the rest of your application and will not influence the recruitment process.
Tips from a specialist recruiter
You can disclose on your CV, in your job application, in an interview, or once you start (to your manager). However, if you can, try and use the application form especially if it includes an equal opportunities form. HR will then contact you to ask how they can best support you.
What about adjustments during the recruitment process?
You can ask for adjustments at every stage of the recruitment process so that you are not at a disadvantage. Examples of these include:
- At an assessment centre some individuals who experience mental health challenges find it helpful if someone (a member of the HR team or a recent graduate trainee) takes on a pastoral role checking in with you about how you are doing.
- If you are taking medication that makes you may feel sluggish in the morning, you may wish to request an interview later in the day.
- If you have a disability that affects you in social situations, you can ask for interview questions to be worded in a particular way or to ask for extra time to prepare your answers.
It may also help to contact specialist organisations who support people with a particular disability for ideas of other adjustments that can be made. You do not have to have the same adjustments as you have at university, for example if you receive 25% extra time for exams, having 25% extra time for a 15 minute assessment may not be as helpful as asking for the assessment to be modified.
While it is up to you if you ask for adjustments or not, you may want to consider the benefits of doing so at each stage of the recruitment process. Sometimes people worry about asking for adjustments, and it may be helpful to think of the situation from an employer’s point of view – they want to find the best person for the job, and so by asking for adjustments that enable you to show your best self, you are helping them with this process.
How should I ask for adjustments during the recruitment process?
When asking for adjustments, you do not have to give any specific details of your disability(s) if you do not want to. Instead, you can simply state something such as ‘I have a condition that requires an adjustment of….’. Employers cannot ask for evidence of your disability.
If you do decide to share information about the nature of your disability, it may help to:
- Don’t assume the employer will understand your condition, without further information from you: Be prepared to describe your condition simply and briefly, and how it affects you.
- Share what’s relevant: It is important to avoid jargon and to share information about your situation that is relevant. You may find it helpful to practise saying what you are going to share so that you feel confident discussing it.
- Focus on your strengths: Don’t assume that an employer will view you in a negative way. As a result of your disability you have probably developed resilience, greater empathy, and the ability to meet challenges and cope with change. These are invaluable skills in the workplace. Focus on what you can do rather than what you struggle with and provide examples of how your condition has not limited your achievements, academic or work performance.
- Assert your needs: Be open and tell potential employers what adjustments you may need in order to fulfil the role requirements.
There are several ways you can ask for adjustments depending on the nature of the application process and at what stage you are at. This includes:
- Contacting the employer directly on the contact details given in the application pack
- Completing a ‘Any additional information’ section of an application form
- In a covering letter or supporting statement that is part of the application process
You can speak to a member of our team if you would like help with this.
Applying for communication support at a job interview if you have a disability or health condition - Access to Work
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What do I need to do when starting a new job?
Before you start employment, an employer will often ask you to complete a health questionnaire. The employer cannot withdraw or change the job offer based on this information, although there are some exceptions. The purpose of this questionnaire is to enable you to get any support you need to do well in the workplace.
Under the Equality Act 2010 employers have a duty to make adjustments to enable you to do your job well.
Examples of this can include:
- Physical adaptations, such as adapted equipment (chairs, keyboards, voice recognition software) and changes to work environment, such as lowering desks, adjusting lighting, modifying entrances.
- If a disability impacts your social interaction and communication, asking for an office mentor – maybe line manager, colleague, buddy arrangement. Someone who can help you build awareness of how you communicate and any other issues with social cues.
- Flexible working hours to accommodate regular medical appointments.
Any information you share will not be shared with others unless you want it to be. Depending on your answers, you may be invited to have a conversation with an occupational health specialist. The purpose of this meeting is again to identify what support would be most suitable for you. In some circumstances they may ask for a copy of your doctor’s records, but cannot request them without your consent.
Employers should cover the costs of any adjustments. The Access to Work grant is a source of funding to help with this. Please note it may take several weeks for an application to be processed, so you may want to talk about it as early as possible after receiving a job offer. Access to Work is available for any paid work, including fixed-term work such as internships and placements, although doesn’t apply for voluntary non-paid work.
Find out more about Access to Work
What is the Equality Act and how might it impact me?
The Equality Act 2010 protects people from being discriminated due to their disability(s) when both applying for opportunities and in the workplace in England, Scotland and Wales. The act applies to both physical disabilities and mental health challenges, and the focus is on the effect of your disability(s) rather than the diagnosis. The criteria are:
- It has more than a small effect on your everyday life and makes normal, daily activities more difficult for you
- Has lasted at least 12 months, is likely to last 12 months or is likely to recur (for example, for a mental health challenge that has improved recently)
For example, under this definition, long Covid can be seen as a disability if it has impacted your life for more than 12 months.
While it is up to you if you tell an employer about being disabled, generally to be covered by the act you need to let an employer know that you have a disability(s). More details on when and how to do this are covered later on this page.
The act covers both applying for a job and areas of working life include adjustments to enable you to do your best, pay and terms of employment, training and promotion, sickness absence and dismissal (including redundancy).
It applies if you are an employee, apprentice or contract worker. Please note, it may not apply in the workplace if you are an unpaid volunteer or self-employed.
Some employers are registered with the government’s Disability Confident scheme. This is a voluntary scheme developed by employers and representatives of disabled people with a view to increasing opportunities and support for disabled people at work. Employers who have signed up for this scheme will have this information visible somewhere in their application process, and you can also search for organisations on the GOV.UK website.
Equality Act 2010 guidance
Overview: Discrimination and the law
Where can I find information for specific disabilities?
Where can I find additional support?
I was ill (due to my disability) during my second year and have bad exam results or a gap on my CV. Will employers reject my application because of this?
Without explanation an employer may well see this as an indication of your level of ability. If you have mitigating circumstances, a simple explanation may help to clarify any discrepancies in performance and the employer will be happy to focus on your abilities and skills demonstrated in other areas of your CV.
Can I use examples to do with my disability to demonstrate skills and competencies on an application form?
If you have a good example that demonstrates key competencies employers are looking for, use it!
Do not, however, answer all (or a lot) of the questions with examples from your disability experience - employers wish to see well-rounded individuals with examples from various aspects of their life and experiences.
Ensure that you are answering the question and that your example describes challenges that require the skills they are asking about, not just what you want them to know.