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How to navigate graduate recruitment with a disability

Team Prosple

As businesses aim for diversity in their recruitment practices, they’re becoming more accessible for everybody.

Across New Zealand, people with a disability are employed in all industries and at all levels. In 2013, the Ministry of Health estimated that approximately 1.1 million people across New Zealand with disability. Sadly, disability continues to exhibit a strong correlation with unemployment and lower take-home salaries. For example, in August 2019, the New Zealand government reported that the employment rate for people with disability was 23.4 per cent, compared with 69.9 per cent for people without disability. Similarly, people with a disability earned a median income of $900 per week, while people without disability earnt $1,016.

However, it’s not all bad news. Many employers have embraced accessibility initiatives designed to give all candidates a fair opportunity to apply for graduate positions. So, if you’re a graduate with a disability and wish to maximise your chances of securing meaningful graduate employment, consider the following tips. 

Advice for students with disability

Know yourself 

Your disability doesn’t have to define your career options. Career planning is all about choosing a pathway that matches your interests, strengths, skills, and capabilities. It also entails consideration of the resources, such as individualised support and training, that will be available to you if you pursue a specific career path. In some cases, your disability may act as a positive influence on your planning. For example, you could consider what lessons, skills, or insights your disability has provided and whether or not they could help you flourish in a specific career. 

Back yourself

Like all grads, people with disability are recruited for their knowledge, technical and soft skills, cultural fit, and professional potential. They’re also highly valued for their unique perspectives, life experience and aptitude. 

Organisations recognise that the more diverse a team is, the more innovative and creative that team’s ideas will be. Consequently, as workplaces become more representative of society, the products and services they generate will become more appealing to wider populations. With this in mind, there’s no need to focus on limitations. Your disability could equip you with an important perspective that makes you a credit to your employer.    

Sharing information

It’s worth noting that when you apply for jobs, you’re never obligated to share information about your disability, unless that disability will impact your performance or require special accommodations on the part of the employer (such as the installation of access ramps or modified equipment).  

If you do disclose information, employers should only ask questions about how you’ll perform the role and what adjustments you might need. It’s never appropriate for them to ask for specific details of your disability. 

Most employers prefer applicants to share their disability, and there are a number of reasons why this can be beneficial. It allows you to:

  • set reasonable expectations about how you’ll carry out a role;
  • ask for adjustments that will boost your workplace productivity and satisfaction;  
  • request solutions, such as technology that improves accessibility and  
  • demonstrate that you’re self-aware, proactive and resourceful.

Workplace advice

Workplace adjustments 

Workplace adjustments are modifications to equipment, processes, or environments that allow you to do your job in a way that minimises the impact of a disability. Examples include changing the height of a desk to accommodate a wheelchair or providing voice-activated software. Employers have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments, and failure to do so may be tantamount to discrimination. 

A lot of people who experience a disability require workplace adjustments, and it’s appropriate to suggest these in your application or during an interview. If you feel uncomfortable about this, remember that most employees require accommodations of some kind, such as flexibility to collect children from school or extra training in computer systems.

Employment support 

There are many services available to assist you in finding and maintaining employment. These include:

  • New Zealand Disability Support Network – a network of not-for-profit organisations and some for-profit NGOs that provide support services to people with disability;
  • Workbridge – an employment service that connects job seekers with disabilities or health conditions to employers and workplaces across New Zealand;
  • Workwise Employment Agency – an employment service that focuses on assisting people with mental health conditions who wish to enter the workforce and 
  • Employment New Zealand - a government agency which maintains an up-to-date list of resources for people with disabilities who wish to enter the workforce 

Inclusive organisations

The greatest indicator of an organisation’s capacity and willingness to make a role accessible will come during your interview. However, if you’re trying to spot an inclusive organisation, look for: 

  • an Accessibility Action Plan – a plan that businesses develop voluntarily to describe how they’re making their workplace, services, and products inclusive and accessible;
  • mention of considerations or adjustments on job postings or applications;  
  • diversity and inclusion priorities – or relevant values – listed on websites and
  • membership of advocacy groups such as the New Zealand Disability Support Network

Inclusive Top 100 employers include Accenture, Deloitte, EY, Xero, and most government agencies.