Recruiting Disabled People

Posted in : HR Updates on 15 October 2012
Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services

Helen O'Brien writes:

“Disabled” may not always seem an appropriate word to use for the many people who meet the definition set out in the disability legislation, because it implies total inability. “Less able” might be considered more accurate, although anyone who recently watched the Paralympics' competitors perform might be convinced the athletes were more able than most of the working population. But what should employers consider when recruiting disabled people? Helen O’Brien, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner, explains.

Conducting an Interview 

Consider carefully how best to arrange and conduct the interview. Are your premises accessible in light of the candidate’s particular disability? Is an upper-floor interview room appropriate? Indeed, would you be better conducting the interview off-site, e.g. in the person’s home or a location with which he or she is familiar? Will the person need to be accompanied in case there is a speech or confidence problem? It is important that the candidate is relaxed so that they can properly express their abilities.

During the interview, put aside the disability, how it might affect work and what adjustments may need to be made, and instead evaluate the person’s skills, capabilities and ability to learn. This will be treating the disabled person on an equal footing with any other candidates and should influence a purely objective decision on their suitability for the role.

Making Adjustments

Do not get side tracked by concerns about potential difficulties. After all, if one of your best, able-bodied employees were to be injured but could get to work, providing a means of enabling him or her to carry on working efficiently would probably not present itself as a significant challenge.

Necessary physical adjustments may be in the form of building a ramp, relocating the job to a ground floor, increasing the size of font on paper or screen, providing a special chair or a Braille keyboard, or using visual rather than audible signals or vice versa. Specialist agencies or the disability adviser at the Jobcentre will be able to specify and help source what is needed.

Other adjustments may be that additional, shorter breaks are provided. If there are concerns about the effect of the job on the person’s health, obtain his or her permission to write to a doctor setting out the type of work you are offering.

However, the best source of advice is always the disabled employees themselves. The question is simple: “What do you need us to do to enable you to work comfortably and effectively?”


Every new employee needs training. Disabled people may require this to be tailored to their specific needs, especially if specialist equipment is obtained for them. If someone has been recruited with learning difficulties, bear that description in mind — they learn with difficulty, which probably means slowly. However, it does not mean that they work or react slowly. Spend time teaching them steadily over a period of time.

A professional training officer should be able to adapt a standard training programme to meet the needs of all types of employees. Some form of training may also need to be given to those who will be working closely with the disabled recruit. Explain to them the nature of the person’s disability but also what their abilities are. Emphasise that colleagues should be helpful but not condescending.

A very important step to take is to ensure that the disabled person is given appropriate help in case of an emergency, which may mean appointing other members of staff as “guardians”.

Why Recruit?

So why should you make an effort to recruit disabled people? You may do so merely because you feel charitably disposed towards them, and this is commendable. You may also like to consider that if perhaps you are involved in an accident and become disabled yourself, how would you then wish to be treated? But above all, you can simply recognise on a professional level that, however defined, disabled people are a huge source of talent who are not fully utilised and your organisation is in a position make good use of them.

This article is correct at 09/11/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services

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