Disability Confident's second anniversary

27 July 2015

Natasha Valladares

by Natasha Valladares

This week is the second anniversary of Disability Confident, a government initiative to get employers comfortable recruiting and retaining disabled employees.

Having recently become disabled — or as I tell people, the reluctant hostess to a variety of rare and unpronounceable conditions — I know I’m often perceived differently than I was before. 

I also know my competency and skills have not diminished in the slightest. As far as I’m concerned, considering and supporting disabled applicants equal to their non-disabled counterparts isn’t just the law — it’s common sense.

In January this year I was among those disabled and looking for work, and I wasn’t alone. One in six of us will be affected by disability at some point in our lives, and disabled unemployment rates are twice that of non-disabled people.

Thanks to the Change100 scheme, I’m now a third of the way through an internship at Leonard Cheshire Disability in the policy and campaigns team, and I love it.

I have found my internship a safe and nurturing space in which to develop my skills and expand my horizons. It has been a boost to get a job in the first place. It's been wonderful to be open about my disability and above all, be surrounded by people who not only supportive of me, but support each other regardless of whether or not they are disabled.

To be honest, I was terrified to apply for an internship, convinced my crutch would be all the interviewer would really see. Unfortunately, many disabled people have similar (warranted) concerns because many companies don’t know how to support disabled people in the work place.

The good news is more firms are recognising a supported workforce is a productive and loyal workforce. Over sixty organisations are part of the Disability Confident initiative. Even smaller schemes such as Change100 find disabled undergraduates paid placements in major companies. These schemes are helping companies recruit previously untapped talent.

The real achievement will be when all employers start forgetting labels, and diversity becomes more than a box to tick.

Natasha Valladares is a policy and campaigns assistant at Leonard Cheshire Disability, through our Change100 scheme.

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