One in five employers are less likely to hire a disabled person according to UK-wide findings from disability charity, Leonard Cheshire. Strathclyde are one of only two universities in Scotland signed up to the government’s Disability Confident initiative.
Despite government funding being available, around 60% of managers say costs of workplace adjustments are a barrier to employing disabled people. Hannah, 26, has cerebral palsy and a Digital Media degree. Since graduating, employers have often been inconsiderate of her disability: “There’s a different reason every time I’ve been unsuccessful, but I do feel disability discrimination has been a factor.”
“Employers need to recognise that every disabled person has different needs and that they would be effective employees if the right equipment and support is in place from the start,” she said.
Compared to their non-disabled peers, it was found that disabled people are four times more likely to be unemployed or not in education by age 26. This follows Chancellor Philip Hammond’s recent comments claiming disabled people are partly to blame for Britain’s sluggish economy.
SNP MP Lisa Cameron also addressed the issue of disabled graduate unemployment: “I have been meeting with employers to discuss the challenges in this area. The Chancellor’s recent comments do not help in this realm. We need really positive role modelling from larger companies.”
She urged disabled students “not to lose hope, as they [students] have fantastic skills and talents that we need for our economy.” However, the issue extends beyond students; if the employment rate for disabled people matched the rest of the UK, an extra two million people would be working.
Leonard Cheshire’s Public Affairs Officer, Andrew Ewen, states that both people with mental and physical disabilities face these challenges on the job market.
“We need young people to have the confidence to declare their disability on application forms. See it as an ability and be confident of your talents. Employers need to know how hiring disabled people enriches the workforce as they are able to better understand how to market products,” said Ewen.
In a bid to boost employment among young disabled people, Change100 was launched in 2014 to offer three months of paid work experience. Since its launch, Change100 has partnered with over 90 employers across the UK including Barclays, the BBC, Skanska, Lloyds and Taylor Wimpey.
Applications for Change100’s internship scheme are open now.
By Iqra Farooq