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Disabled graduates fear discrimination

More than three-quarters (77%) of disabled graduates fear employers will discriminate against them, a survey by Great With Disability has found.

The online platform surveyed more than 1,000 graduates with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

The resulting report – Openness: understanding why students are reluctant to be open with employers about their disability – revealed 76% of respondents were worried about disclosing their disability or condition. Almost a quarter (72%) said they were concerned about making a nuisance of themselves.

GreatWithDisability.com founder Helen Cooke said the issue of nondisclosure was of “great importance” to both graduates and employers.

“An employer is unable to make the adjustments or provide the support an individual may need to navigate the recruitment process if they are unaware of their disability or health condition,” she said.

“As a result, organisations often miss out on top talent, and individuals miss out on the opportunity to display their skills and achieve their potential.”

The research found role models to be critical, with 71% of graduates saying they would have been encouraged by seeing other disabled employees.

Seven in 10 (70%) said they would be more likely to be open about their condition if there was a dedicated member of staff they could talk to during the recruitment process.

Ama Afrifa-Kyei, diversity and inclusion manager at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which sponsored the research, said openness was “a challenging subject”.

She added: “It [openness] is one that businesses need to understand and overcome if they wish to be successful. At Bank of America Merrill Lynch we have a saying – ‘bring your whole self to work’. This is born from an understanding that our employees are the lifeblood of the company.”

The research also found graduates were being advised not to be open about their disability by friends, family and even careers advisors. Of those who sought advice, 65% were discouraged from disclosing their disability.

Cooke said: “The problem cannot be solved by employers alone. Universities and the support networks of disabled graduates, whether they be friends or family, need to do their part too. Universities and employers need to work together so that students and graduates receive appropriate and helpful advice about the benefits of being open, and the best ways to do so.”