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Disability & Recruitment

As a graduate, entering the world of work can be a daunting prospect, but what if you’ve also got a disability?

A disability can be anything from dyslexia/dyspraxia, through to sensory impairments such as visual/hearing loss, mobility impairments, mental health issues, Aspergers/Autism and also chronic health conditions, including Crohn’s Disease, Asthma and ME.

A disability is defined as having a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Disclosing Disability

Many students and graduates are understandably apprehensive of revealing their disability during the graduate recruitment process, and again during employment. However, there are many positive reasons for disclosing your disability.

There is legal protection for disabled employees; the Equality Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against workers because of a disability or to fail to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a worker with a disability. Although there is no legal obligation on your part to disclose, it’s highly recommended, so you can receive any support that you’re entitled to.

Support & Reasonable Adjustments

The graduate recruitment process can seem like a minefield when it comes to asking for disability-related support and adjustments, but it’s important to remember that the help is there for the taking. The most common forms of support are:

Reasonable adjustments, so that you can be assessed in an accessible format, e.g. extra time, tests in Braille, accessible assessment centres, or BSL signer accompaniment.

Allowance for extenuating circumstances. If you don’t meet the academic requirements specified by the employer because your disability had a negative impact on your studies, mention this so that it can be taken into consideration when your application is assessed. However, it’s important to bear in mind that although employers will take these into consideration, they may only be able to go so far with this, e.g. they might drop their B grade requirement to a C grade in certain circumstances.

Information, so that the recruiters are aware of your disability and the impact it may have on your performance at the interview/assessment centre stage. This can be helpful for disabilities such as Asperger’s/Autism or a mental health issue.

When & Who to Disclose To

Deciding when and whom to disclose your disability to during the recruitment process can also be a worry, particularly when it comes to requiring specific support, such as extra time and so on. It’s best to contact the recruitment team early in the application process, so that they’re aware of what support you may need and can look at putting this in place.

When it comes to disclosing once you’re in employment, again, it’s better to do it as soon as possible so that you can receive any support you may need. At the very least, it’s good to disclose to HR, just so they’re aware and so you can be protected from a legal perspective. However, to encourage good working relationships it’s good to disclose to your line manager as soon as you feel comfortable with doing so. It may help to enhance and strengthen your working relationship. When it comes to disclosing to the rest of your colleagues, this is entirely up to you and depends on the nature of your disability and your relationship with them. You should only do what you feel comfortable with.


Try to be confident about your disability and your needs; this is help you are entitled to! If you’re not sure about what support you need, be sure to check any disability reports or assessment letters you’ve received and speak to your disability department at university. It’s also good to have your disability documentation to hand, as employers can, and do, ask to see this to back up requests for specific reasonable adjustments.

Shaw Trust works to support students and graduates with disabilities into appropriate employment opportunities, via internships, vacation placements, graduate schemes and other recruitment programmes. We work with employers from a variety of sectors. 

For further information and contact details, please visit the Shaw Trust website.

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