Why employers need to embrace disability

Owen Thomas

Owen volunteers at our Fryers House care home in Romsey. He tells us about his experience of trying to find employment and why he's supporting our employment campaign.

I’m from Romsey on the outskirts of Southampton. Since November ​2019 I’ve been volunteering at Fryers House, a local Leonard Cheshire home.

I started as a befriender; however, I recently started a new role as a Volunteer Community Assistant. This is something I really enjoy, and for the time being, it’s on a voluntary basis. I am currently actively looking for paid employment.

Leonard Cheshire’s employment campaign brought back memories because it highlights some issues I’ve come across while looking for work. I’m not surprised there’s a lingering stigma amongst employers, but prejudice doesn’t have to be direct to be damaging. It can be implied.

Volunteer Owen Thomas wearing a Leonard Cheshire tshirt and smiling

There is a subtlety to the stigma disabled people face in the jobs market. People’s tone changing on the phone when you tell them you’re disabled despite the fact they claim to be disability confident, for example.

My employment experience

I’m a technical person and have a qualification in website design. The prospect of waiting tables using an iPad isn’t beyond me, and this is something I feel I can do even though I’m a wheelchair user. Despite being invited for an interview, I didn’t get the job. I think diversity is important, and big employers in the leisure industry would benefit from employing more disabled people. It’d be easy enough for restaurants to take on wheelchair users to take orders for customers. Anyone can eat in a restaurant, so why can they not have disabled employees? 

I’ve also had rejections via text despite asking for one-to-one feedback. On a basic level, I found that quite rude, but perhaps it also shows a reluctance to talk face to face with a disabled candidate? Maybe employers were uncomfortable? Things will only change and improve if employers took the plunge and embraced the prospect. The concept of disabled people applying for jobs and being retained wouldn’t be as unusual. 

Voice to access

I have started a disability focus group for disabled campaigners and their carers locally with the hope of expanding. It’s called Voice to Access. We believe it’s important for disabled people to have a strong collective voice and employment is just one issue we want to campaign around. We want to change things, and it is about time the issue of disability rights caught up with other campaigns and started having more of an impact.

If you'd like to give support to Voice to Access like us on Facebook @voicetoaccess, join the panel @voicetoaccesspanel or email us at info@voicetoaccess.com.

#UnlockWork for disabled young people

Even before Covid-19, disabled people faced challenges when accessing employment. 84% of disabled young people employed in March told us it had affected their work.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has an opportunity to ensure equal access to good employment. By enabling disabled young people to thrive in the workplace and build their futures.

Please email the Chancellor now, telling him he must ensure his Budget supports disabled young people.

Email Rishi Sunak