Disability and employment

When young people with disabilities start work, training, or take part in work experience, their rights are protected
A woman in a wheelchair sits at an office desk

Most people find it difficult to decide what to do when they finish education. Young people with disabilities or learning difficulties are no exception! Often, young people with disabilities and difficulties will work and study alongside other colleagues, sometimes with adjustments to support them to study or work to their best ability.

Some young people need more support, for example those with some kinds of learning difficulties. These young people may benefit from a more supported study scheme or work environment. There are local learning providers which can help, and as you get older schemes like supported internships can help you get ready for work.

Doing work is good for your health and happiness. It helps you to:

  • Keep up a healthy routine
  • Be more sociable
  • Feel helpful

Voluntary work and going to college or university are also good for your health, independence and future.

Crucial: Your rights are protected by law as a disabled student or employee. This included being treated with respect and protected from discrimination, but also things like the right to extra help under some circumstances. Talking about your disability with your employer or learning provider gives you the opportunity to get the best support.

Get advice

If you have a difficulty or disability and you are looking for a job, explain the situation to an advisor at your local job club or drop-in or at the Job Centre. If you are still at school or college ask the IAG worker, careers advisor or Independent Supporters Service based there. They can help you decide what to say to a potential employer, and make sure you know your legal rights.

Take action: If you need help to get ready for work after school or college, local organisations like Oxforward and Yellow Submarine can give support to build skills and confidence before you enter the workplace.

Oxfordshire Employment

Oxfordshire Employment helps to support people with long term health issues or a disability to find and keep paid employment. They can help you develop your work skills, look for employment, get over problems along the way and get a job and keep it.

The law

By law, employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities when recruiting for jobs. In fact, under most circumstances, employers have a legal obligation to make jobs available to people with disabilities.

There are some exceptions, though, so get advice and know your rights. Remploy can offer advice on any jobs that are allowed to exclude people with disabilities.

Making an application

For most jobs, your disability should not be a deciding factor for a potential employer. However, you should be well prepared when getting your application ready. This will help you provide them with all the relevant information. It will also help you know whether the job would suit you and be appropriate for your needs.


  • Ask for a full job description and ask questions if you have any uncertainties
  • Be honest about any special requirements you have if you are invited for an interview
  • At interviews, tell the interviewer about any assistance or adaptations you require to do the job
  • Be positive and make suggestions about how they can adapt.


  • Apologise for your disability
  • Discuss your disability except in relation to the job, unless you think it will help you in the interview
  • Expect your potential employers to know everything about how to support you
  • Blame your disability if you are unsuccessful – job applicants are turned down for lots of different reasons.

Most young people apply to lots of jobs before they find the right one for them. For someone with a disability, getting the study or work environment that works best for you is really important. It's fine to take some time and get it right.  

Crucial: If you are unsuccessful, take the opportunity to learn from the experience. Phone the employer and ask for feedback on how the interview went and get advice on how to improve for the next application. 

Access to Work - practical help at work

Access to Work gives you and your employer advice and support with extra costs which may arise because of your needs.

You can check if you qualify for Access to Work on the GOV.UK website. It is not just those with physical disabilities, people with a mental health disability under the Equality Act 2010 are eligible for Access to Work support when they start work and/or to help them stay in work when they become unwell. They can also receive support to attend interviews if they struggle with communication.  What's more, they don’t need to disclose their mental illness to their employer to receive support.

My Experience: I found it helped with job applications

I work in outdoor education now, but whenever I've applied for a job I always make sure I declare my learning difficulty (I'm dyslexic) on my application form. It doesn't stop me getting shortlisted. If I say how I meet the job criteria on my application, I should always get an interview - whether or not I'm disabled. I don't go into how I manage being dyslexic on my application forms, but do talk about it at interview, where I'm positive about how it gives me an insight into the needs of the people I'm working with, how I manage it in day-to-day life, and what adjustments I'll need. I've just got a new job managing an outdoor centre, and I can't wait to get started. J, 27

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