If you’re disabled, finding a job can be a difficult and disappointing experience – help us change that

Josh is 32 and lives in London. He is supporting Scope and Virgin Media‘s new campaign Work With Me, which aims to bring about real change, to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work, are given the same opportunities as everyone else. 

I graduated with a degree in Politics and International Relations in 2011, then I moved back to London and primarily looked for jobs in public administration. I’ve had a lot of voluntary opportunities but only two paid jobs.

I suppose, like many disabled people, I’ve found it difficult to go through the traditional channels. I’ve done countless interviews and applications but only had probably one or two interview opportunities from that. I think a lot of my work experience has been down to sheer perseverance.

I feel like the whole process of finding work and applying for jobs is so stressful for disabled people. There were days when it was terrible. You’re just sending loads and loads of messages but getting no response other than the standard email just sent by the system.

Scope’s new research found that when applying for jobs only 51% of disabled applications result in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. Also on average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people when searching for a job. For me, it’s been a really difficult and disappointing experience.

Barriers to work

Behind any possible opportunity that I might get, there are always considerations that non-disabled people don’t have to concern themselves with. I’m always looking for opportunities but those opportunities need to physically work for me and there don’t seem to be many of them. I felt really supported in my last job but one of the reasons I left was that the travel was just impossible.

Support from the Jobcentre doesn’t really work for disabled people because it’s a very standard process, they’re not offering bespoke support. Sometimes you go to these places and their advice is just to do things that you’re already doing. Most of the time I made my way there for a face-to-face appointment and they would just ask, “How is your job search going?”  – just the basic questions.

The disability advisor in one Jobcentre was so good but that support wasn’t available in every Jobcentre. It just seems to be luck whether you get one. Having someone who could look at things from my point of view really helped. Sometimes, it was just having somebody to actually talk to who understood.

Attitudes can be a barrier too. Scope’s new research found that over a third (37%) of respondents who don’t feel confident in getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition.

Personally, I’ve felt quite intimidated bringing up my adjustment needs with potential employers because you just think “Well, if they find somebody who can do the typical 9-5, they’ll go for them.”

Work With Me

The latest Government figures show there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to work but are currently unemployed. I think that’s a real scandal and a real loss of potential.

That’s why I’m supporting Work With Me – a three-year initiative by Scope and Virgin Media which aims to understand and tackle the barriers disabled people face getting into and staying in work.

The campaign is inviting members of the public, employers and Government to work together to address these issues more quickly. So join me in supporting this campaign to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work aren’t denied the opportunity any longer.

Be part of making change happen, find out more on our website and share #WorkWithMe on your social media networks.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people. 

“You’re not what we’re looking for. Someone else was a better fit.”

Right now there are over one million disabled people who can and want to work but are being shut out of the workplace.

We know that disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people.

And our new research, released today, demonstrates that many disabled people are being consistently overlooked in the jobs market.

When applying for jobs only half of applications from disabled applicants result in an interview, compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants.

Graphic text which says: "On average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people in their job search"
On average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people

Our research found that more than a third (37%) of disabled people who don’t feel confident about getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition.

Doors shut. Barriers Up. No way forward.

This has resulted in disabled people being more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. And, it’s no surprise the disability employment gap has remained stubbornly stuck for a decade.

It’s time for this to change.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Virgin Media to launch a new campaign to raise awareness of these issues and to call on businesses and government to take action on disability employment urgently.

Work With Me aims to support disabled people to get into and stay in work and raise awareness that nobody should be overlooked because of their impairment or condition.

Graphic text that says "Two in five disabled people don't feel confident they will get a job in the next six months"
Two in five disabled people don’t feel confident they will get a job in the next six months

It’s time for action now

We’ve kicked off the campaign with a giant installation spelling out ‘Work With Me’ on London’s Southbank to make the issue clear.

We were joined by some of our amazing disabled Storytellers who’ve told us about the barriers that the face every day as they try to get the job that they want.

And we need your help too.

Be part of making change happen, find out more on our website and share #WorkWithMe on your social media networks.

We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people. 

“They told me Evie may never sleep”

Meet Sarah, whose daughter, Evie, suffered from severe sleep issues for the first six years of her life. The lack of sleep affected every aspect of Evie’s life, including her health and her ability to get on at school. 

Have you ever gone without sleep? If you have, maybe you’ll understand when I say I don’t know how we survived. My six year old daughter, Evie, slept for as little as two hours a night, and it affected my whole family.

Living a nightmare

It was a nightmare – that’s the best way I can describe it. Except a nightmare ends when you wake up. This didn’t. There was no escape.

We felt terrible through the day and the night. As many as 80 percent of disabled children have sleep problems, and Evie, who has autism and hydrocephalus, was severely affected. Any loud noises frightened her. Bright lights hurt her eyes. She was very tearful, and emotional. She was often ill. She began to hate school because she struggled to make friends and spent a lot of time alone.

I knew how she felt, because I was tired, drained and often ill myself. I felt isolated too. I felt like no one understood. When I asked for help, I got nowhere. I was told that disabled people just don’t sleep, and that we just need to learn to live with it. But we couldn’t.

Finding a solution

I find it unbearable knowing that there are disabled children and families still trapped in that nightmare, thinking that there’s no way out. Because there is – there’s Scope.

I can’t tell you what it felt like to finally find help. Scope understands how severe sleep problems are, and how profoundly they affect a disabled child and their family. Most important of all, they have solutions – tried and tested techniques that can be used to get a disabled child to sleep. Their Sleep Solutions service runs training workshops and clinics for parents like me.

The training came at just the right time – I was at a really low point and was losing hope that things would ever get better.

Techniques that work

With Scope’s help, I looked at everything we did again – from what time Evie and her little brother, Isaac, got into their pyjamas to what we did before bedtime. I learned that even though watching television seemed to calm them down, the light from the screen tells their brains to stay awake.

The training even taught me what kind of food we should eat to induce melatonin – the hormone that makes us go to sleep.

We put together a new routine for bedtime, and I stuck to it even though the first ten nights were exhausting. There were times when I felt like giving up again, but Scope was there for me.

Now our nightmare is over

As the weeks went by, Evie woke up fewer and fewer times during the night. Her behaviour during the day improved too – she became much calmer. Isaac asked me if I had a magic wand that had made Evie nicer. But it was sleep – just sleep.

Except it isn’t ‘just’ sleep. You only realise how important it is when you don’t have it.

Thank you for your support

Your donations help Scope run this vital service which made such a difference to my family.

Sleep is so important to a child’s development. It helps them grow, learn and become more independent – it’s a key part of ensuring disabled children get the best start in life. And that means it’s vital to Scope’s work to make sure disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.

I’ve seen the difference Sleep Solutions has made to Evie. She’s now doing well at school. She’s gone up five reading levels in six months and it means so much to me to see she has two new friends. She doesn’t just sit in a corner with ear defenders on any more. She can finally play, like any child should have the opportunity to.

Now I work for Scope Sleep Solutions myself and help other families who have gone years without support. Thank you for making my work possible.

We plan to expand Sleep Solutions so Sarah and the team can provide vital support to more families. Sign up to enter the Spring Jackpot Draw today and you will be helping to make sure disabled children get the best start in life.

“It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are”

John Willis is the founder and Chief Executive of Power to Inspire, a charity all about inclusion through sport, based in Cambridge. He was born without fully formed arms and legs, and last year he took on a challenge to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

In this blog he talks about changing attitudes and why sport for all is so important.

I was interested in sport from a very young age. Unfortunately, there weren’t many opportunities to get involved in sport at school.

A few years ago I was nagged by a friend into doing a Triathlon relay – I did the swim. We had a great time and it showed that disabled people and non-disabled people can do sport together, you just have to design it and think about it and adapt it.

John Willis, a disabled man with foreshortened arms and legs, waits on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool, in front of an audience of adults and children
John waiting on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool.

I did another challenge the following year – 50 1000 meter swims in 116 days – which was quite something and it took me all around the country. I spoke to well over 3000 children and adults about sport. I set up Power to Inspire to take this even further.

Changing attitudes at an early age

Through Power to Inspire, we go into schools and clubs and talk to kids about inclusive sport and we got our games going in schools last year. Everybody seems to have great fun – from mainstream kids learning about inclusive sport to running mixed games where we take mainstream kids into SEN schools.

At one session, we turned to the P.E. teachers and said “Everyone seems to be having a fantastic time, you must always be in and out of each other’s schools with being just down the road from each other” and they said “We’ve never been in each other’s schools before”. So we’re breaking down barriers.

Children trying out new sports like archery and goalball.
Children trying out new sports like VI football and floor lacrosse

It’s fantastic to see kids learning together. It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are. There’s a real demand for our games in schools. We want to keep doing more of it and spread the word. We’re also talking to various clubs about doing big accessible events.

2012 created a huge change in this country. There wasn’t acknowledgment of disability discrimination a few years ago, it was just the norm. Now people are aware it exists. There’s been a massive change. Seeing more disability sport, people on the telly, it’s becoming more accepted in mainstream culture now. People look at Jonny Peacock as a fabulous athlete first, and disabled second.

Outside of the Paralympics, things do get better but it’s like a tide. The water reaches further up the beach each time, but it does go back. What we need to do is create some blockages so the water doesn’t go back so far and we can push it further.

John, a disabled man with foreshortened arms paddles his kayak on the River Cam
John Willis practicing kayaking on the River Cam

Sport is for everyone, full stop

The camaraderie of sport is amazing, with fans of all sports all over the world. That common enthusiasm, I don’t think you quite get that anywhere else.

I set myself a goal last year to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports. I had an absolute blast. I fell in love with far too many of them. There is a sport for everyone and Sport for All emphasises that for me. The work I do with children, once they’ve worked out a way to do something, they just think let’s get on with it and the see the person, not the disability. I want everybody to be able to play and to be able to compete. If you can create that exhilaration of pushing yourself, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at.

Sport is available to everyone full stop. It’s just a question of finding out what you like and finding out where you can do it. And find friends, not just disabled people, but friends who are passionate about that particular sport. Last year I ended up playing tennis which I never thought I’d do. The equipment is available and can be adapted, it just takes a bit of imagination. There’s no such thing as “can’t” – all there is, is working out how to do it. Just take a small step. It all starts with a small step.

Making sport more inclusive

This summer, the World ParaAthletics Championships and the five year anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games gave us an opportunity to champion inclusive sport.

As part of our mission for Everyday equality, we ran a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport. Over the past few weeks we:

  • shared blogs from storytellers,
  • celebrated the incredible athletes involved in the ParaAthletics on social media,
  • showcased accessible challenge events,
  • did a Facebook Live with Richard Whitehead,
  • and shared some new research which showed that a quarter (28%) of disabled people did not feel the Paralympics delivered a positive legacy for disabled people.

Please help us continue the conversation by championing inclusive sport and challenging negative attitudes. Read more Sport For All blogs and catch up with all of our activity using #SportForAll on our Twitter.