This page provides initial advice on researching employers and being open with them about your disability. It also gives details of how you can access one-to-one support from the Careers Service.
We understand that students with health issues or a disability may need support with career planning at various stages of their studies. If you have a disability, a long term health condition, a specific learning difficulty (eg dyslexia) or a mental health condition, the Careers Service can support you.
Some University of Sheffield students and graduates shared with us their experiences of disability when looking for jobs and placements, and getting the right adjustments in their workplace.
Top tips: disability
Declaring a disability
Disability Confident Scheme
Some employers use the UK Government's 'Disability Confident' Scheme. Under the scheme, these employers operate a policy of positive action in the recruitment and retention of disabled employees, and those with a specific learning difficulty, eg dyslexia. You can see a list of employers who have signed up to the scheme on the UK Government website. Where possible, all candidates who have declared a disability and meet the basic selection criteria, will automatically be offered an interview.
Other ways to research employers
Where an employer is not a 'Disability Confident' scheme member, there are ways you can check their disability record, before deciding whether to make an application.
- Check if their website includes a policy statement on equal opportunities and/or profiles of disabled employees.
- Do their job adverts use the words ‘positive about disabled people’?
- Is the organisation a member of the Business Disability Forum?
- Is it a supporter of the Mindful Employers Charter for employers who are positive about mental health?
- Look out for opportunities to talk to representatives of the company at careers events to get a first-hand impression.
- Check if there are any support networks in the company for disabled employees.
- Make contact with University of Sheffield alumni who are now working in the organisation.
- Does the employer indicate that ‘alternative formats’ for application forms etc. are available?
- Does their website refer to any ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the selection process?
Do I have to tell them?
There are no legal requirements for you to tell a prospective employer about your disability, either at the application stage or at interview. However, in some instances this might be of benefit to you as a candidate.
If due to your disability the academic results you have achieved are not a true reflection of your ability you may wish to explain this. If the additional time which you have had to devote to keeping on top of your academic study has been detrimental to your participation in extracurricular activities, this could be worth mentioning.
When should I tell them?
How and when to tell an employer about a disability is a fairly complex topic. You may find it useful to discuss this with a careers adviser, who can help you highlight the positive aspects of your situation for example your determination and persistence.
Details of how to book a careers advice appointment can be found in the ‘how we can support you’ section of this webpage.
How can I explain my lack of relevant experience?
If you have faced additional obstacles in relation to gaining relevant work experience because of your disability, this is something which you might wish to address in your applications and at interview. It’s important to remember that you can also use examples of your achievements from your academic study, leisure activities, student societies and any voluntary work you’ve undertaken.
What is positive self-marketing?
If you choose to be open about your disability at the application stage or at an interview, it is important to highlight the positive aspects of your situation. Think about your personal qualities. Progressing through university despite any obstacles you might have faced is strong evidence of your determination, resilience and commitment. You might like to refer to some of the coping strategies which you have developed and alternative ways of working which you have perfected. Depending upon the area of work which you aspire to, your ability to empathise with other people facing challenges in their day-to-day life could also be worth highlighting.
If you are dyslexic it is likely that you will have benefited from the use of a range of specialist software programmes, which you may well have had to teach yourself to use. One of your strengths may also be your ability to see the ‘the bigger picture’ and to think laterally. Dyslexic individuals are often found to excel in the fields of art, design, engineering and architecture, and to demonstrate intuitive problem solving skills.
What are reasonable adjustments to the application process?
In many countries, employers have a duty to ensure that you can apply for jobs in the same way as someone who’s not disabled. ‘Reasonable adjustments’ to the selection process might include:
- the provision of materials in an alternative format;
- extra time when completing psychometric tests or written exercises;
- ensuring that the appropriate IT equipment or software is available;
- the services of an interpreter.
Depending upon your personal circumstances, it may well be possible to negotiate with a prospective employer for suitable adjustments to be made. This is however at the discretion of each employer, within the requirements of the law.
What are reasonable adjustments within the workplace?
Current UK legislation requires employers to make appropriate changes to enable disabled people to work. These are known as ‘reasonable adjustments’ and can include:
- making changes to the building or premises where the person works;
- changing the way in which the work is done;
- providing equipment to help the person do their job.
If you need any special arrangements in order to participate fully, make sure that you have discussed this with the employer well in advance. If you have been in receipt of Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) it is likely that you will have a Learning Support Plan (LSP), which makes recommendations about appropriate support within your academic studies. This can provide a useful starting point when considering the type of support which you may benefit from within the workplace.
Most adjustments don’t cost anything - just a change in attitude. For others that do involve a cost, the UK Government ‘Access to Work’ scheme can help you.
Current students and graduates can book appointments with the Careers Service through Career Connect (via MUSE for current students). In an individual discussion with a careers adviser you might find it useful to explore:
- when and how to disclose a disability to potential employers to help ensure that reasonable adjustments are made during the application process and in the workplace;
- finding placements and graduate jobs exclusive to disabled students and graduates;
- career choice and making the most of the opportunities open to you;
- how to demonstrate your skills and qualities in applications and interviews.
If you have a Learning Support Plan or Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), ask the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service (DDSS) to refer you directly into one of our longer careers appointments.
We recognise that not all students who have a disability access DDSS, or have a Learning Support Plan/DSA. If you feel you require additional support, please contact us through Career Connect (via MUSE) to arrange a longer appointment.
If you think you need adjustments to any part of a recruitment process, or that your disability could impact on your ability to perform a job role, you may want to arrange an assessment through the University’s Disability and Dyslexia Support Service.
- EmployAbility - Register with EmployAbility for advice and support with applications and to receive individualised adjustments advice.
- Youreable - An online forum and community where disabled people share experiences and support each other.
- Evenbreak - Employers who are advocating for diversity and ready to look past disabilities and at candidates skills are advertising vacancies on this platform.
- City Disabilities - Offer a free mentoring scheme putting people with experience dealing with disabilities and health conditions in the workplace in touch with those who can benefit from it.
- My Students Club - By becoming a member students get access to recruiter contacts and job opportunities. There is also expert employability advice in their Disability Career Guides.