106 Communications

6th Sense

“I don’t want to be a nuisance.” Notes from the Disability Cafe.

March 2016 | Diversity, Student engagement

Like all of us, I sometimes ask people to make small adjustments for me.

‘Can you say that again?’ when I don’t hear something properly.

‘Sorry, would you mind moving down the train?’ when I am squeezing into the carriage.

I might be a nuisance at times. But I am rarely sorry for being so.

I see it that I’m just asking for people to do reasonable things for me to help me get on with my life.

So it was both humbling and enlightening to hear about being a disabled student applying for a job.

Imagine you’re blind and you couldn’t do some of the online tests that employers say you have to.

Imagine you’re in a wheelchair and you couldn’t get to certain places easily. Or sometimes at all.

Or imagine you’ve got ADH and you just can’t face an hour-long interview.

In all these cases, you’d hope that employers would make adjustments.

So it is hard to hear that such students worry about being a nuisance.

But they do.

They worry that their disability will create a hassle for employers and go against them.

They worry that once they disclose that they need an adjustment, a statement will turn into a stigma.

They worry that employers are more likely to take the easy option.

So what are employers doing about this?

At a recent Disablity Café, hosted by the wonderful Helen Cooke of My Plus Consulting, we heard from employers and disabled students about what is – and should be – done to make the right adjustments for everyone.

Up on the 32nd floor of Broadgate Tower, home to Reed Smith, it was fascinating to hear about the issues and opportunities to help more disabled students be hired. Here are some of our take-aways:

Confidence – give all students confidence by openly talking about disability at fairs, talks, your website and through your ambassadors. Remember, students don’t expect you to be perfect, but they respect you trying to do the right thing.

Difference – too many organisations simply default to talking about diversity being a good thing. So it feels like a programme or an initiative. But if we want to students with disabilities to apply, shouldn’t we embrace difference as a business imperative?

Language – in the recruitment process, talk adjustments rather than disabilities.

Openness – it may take longer to make adjustments, so be clear about why the process might be longer. But don’t make it feel like it’s a nuisance!

Of course there were many other things discussed, and it was great that so many of the employers were open about the challenges, mistakes and opportunities.

But, best of all, it was inspiring to hear from students themselves. Just sad that they sometimes feel like they are a nuisance…

To find out more about the Disability Café, get in touch with Helen at My Plus Consulting.

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