GUEST BLOG: Blind in Business is a charity set up to support students and graduates who are blind or have partial sight into employment Jessica Luke is their Graduate Coordinator and has shared her personal insights as a visually impaired job hunter along with practical tips on requesting reasonable adjustments at work. Blind in Business will also be delivering a talk on campus in Semester 2, details will be available on MyFuture nearer the time. For more information about Blind in Business, please visit their website.
As a visually impaired graduate and job-hunter, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from employers during the recruitment process. I’d heard of the term reasonable adjustments, but I didn’t really know what this meant in practice. Google says that reasonable adjustments are changes that employers make to enable disabled workers to work without being at a disadvantage to others. But it’s hard to know which adjustments are reasonable in the eyes of an employer and how willing an employer will be to make changes when they could just employ someone else.
From my experience of the graduate recruitment process, a majority of employers were prepared to allow alterations to the process that enabled me to perform equally with other candidates.
I asked for extra time in psychometric tests and for mobility support at my assessment centre and I was allowed to use my laptop instead of a flipchart during an assessed presentation. As long as I could justify the need for support, graduate employers were willing to help.
Here are a few things that are worth knowing about reasonable adjustments:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for adaptations that allow you be assessed equally with other candidates.
While it’s essential to present a can-do attitude to a potential employer, it is better to be honest about what help you need. Disclosing a disability can be worrying, but I would advise it, if you are applying for graduate schemes.
2. Don’t make out that you cannot do things that you can.
Maybe maths is not your forte and you would prefer to avoid a numerical reasoning test or perhaps the idea public speaking is terrifying and you think that your disability could help you to avoid being asked to present. Employers today, particularly graduate employers, are increasingly aware of disability requirements. They will have an idea of what is and isn’t possible for a disabled applicant and it will reflect badly on you to opt out of tasks that you are capable of doing.
3. You may have to chase employers to put reasonable adjustments in place.
I would normally advise graduates never to hassle HR staff about the progress of an application. This said, when places are given out on a rolling basis, waiting to for adjustments to your psychometric tests can mean that places on your chosen scheme will be taken before you have a chance to get through the process. I work for the charity Blind in Business, which helps sight impaired graduates to get good graduate scheme jobs. We are happy to advocate on a candidates behalf to arrange extra time or a scribe for recruitment tests.
4. Speak up, if you are not given the adaptations that you need.
I sat many psychometric tests when applying to different graduate schemes and on one occasion I felt that I was at a disadvantage because of the test structure. I receive extra time in numerical reasoning tests because my restricted field of vision means that it takes longer to find the relevant information from graphs and charts. I found that with extra time, although I was often timed out before completing the last couple of questions on a test, I was able to answer enough questions correctly to pass. This particular test had a time limit for each question. This meant that I was repeatedly timed out. I wrote an email to HR explaining that I couldn’t read the graphs and charts quickly enough when there was a per-question time limit and the recruiter arranged for me to re-sit the tests with a global time limit instead. This option is now given as standard to visually impaired people who apply to this employer.
The government scheme Access to Work is there to help provide any equipment or support that you need in the workplace. For information on the scheme, visit: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview
Diversity is important to make an organisation thrive and employers are more open to recruiting disabled graduates than in the past.
If I had one piece of advice to give, I would say to remember that employers may not have first-hand experience of working with someone with your disability. So put them at ease. Show them how small adaptations allow you to do a great job. If you present them with access solutions and a can-do approach, you are much more likely to get the job.