Navigating The Workforce As A Disabled Young Person

Navigating The Workforce As A Disabled Young Person

It can be overwhelming to think about employment or a career as a young person, and even more overwhelming when you have a disability. Haley shares her helpful hints—from the application process, through interview rounds and beyond.

Regardless of the type of disability you have, there are two truths about work you should know:

  1. It is possible to find fulfilling employment opportunities that will suit your needs.

  2. You deserve respect and accessibility (in the application process and in the job itself).

Sometimes it may not feel like it’s possible to find employment opportunities. It might be a challenge to figure out what kind of job you’d enjoy and be able to do. It’s also possible you may struggle with employers who aren’t willing to work with you. And you may even feel like you don’t deserve opportunities (even though you do).

So what should you do when you’re considering employment but you’re overwhelmed about how your disability might play a role? You might want to think about the following.

The application process

Not all application processes are accessible for everyone. Some people just don’t do well with writing cover letters or resumes, and some people might struggle with traditional panel-style interviews. 

There are employers out there who are flexible with their application process and provide different options, like submitting a video application or providing candidates with interview questions ahead of time. 

It’s okay to ask about different options and advocate for what works best for you. But unfortunately, you might not always get a ‘yes’ when you ask. Regardless, that doesn’t make it weird or wrong to ask. We all communicate and learn in different ways, but some employers don’t quite understand that.

What to look for in an employer

Not all employers are going to be great. It’s an unfortunate truth that a lot of disabled young people end up in situations where their rights aren’t respected, they aren’t provided with reasonable adjustments, or they face harassment in the workplace. 

These things aren’t okay and it’s good to speak up if you experience any of these issues, but it’s also important to know what you should look for in an employer. A good employer should:

• Treat you fairly
• Take your access requirements into consideration
• Provide you with reasonable adjustments

Some things you might expect a good employer to do includes:

• Considering flexible working arrangements (e.g. later start times or working from home some days).
• Making materials and communications accessible for you (e.g. providing an Auslan interpreter or providing printed materials in large font).
• Providing you with software or technology that might need (e.g. screen reading software).|

What type of employment options you have

If you’re a young person with a disability, you might be wondering what options you have when it comes to finding employment. Really, it boils down to what you’re interested in and what you can do well.

If you’re the type of person who knows they do their best work from home, there are heaps of jobs where you mostly (or completely) work from home, and these types of remote jobs are becoming more popular.

If you know you have sensory processing issues, you can look for jobs where you’d do well, like a trade or some sort of programming role.

Disabilities vary widely, so one job that might suit someone who is Deaf could be entirely different from a job that would suits someone with chronic health issues.

How to navigate disclosing your disability 

Access can be an issue before you even step foot in the place you’re interviewing at. 

Not everyone discloses that they have a disability on a job application. This might be because they don’t believe their disability will impact their ability to do a job or because they are worried about bias or discrimination. Even with the best of intentions, people have internal biases that they might not be aware of, so disclosing can be scary.

Legally, you only have to disclose your disability on a job application if:

  1. It makes you unable to do your job
  2. It impacts workplace safety for yourself
  3. It impacts work safety for co-workers

But at some point, you might want to disclose your disability. There is no right or wrong time to do so, it all depends on what you feel is best for you. If you do decide to disclose and you’re met with any kind of discrimination or discomfort from your employer, that’s not something that’s okay or acceptable. You should always feel like your workplace is a safe and accessible environment.

So what do you really need to know?

What it all really boils down to is this: you’re deserving of opportunities, there are jobs that will suit your interests and your needs, and there are employers who will recognise your value and the unique and wonderful contributions you can make to their workplace.

There are advocates out there who can help if you do face issues and discrimination along the way.

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