In 2012, almost 9% of university students in the UK classed themselves as having a disability, but only 2% of graduate job applications came from people with disabilities.
Cooke told HR magazine disabled students lack the confidence to apply for work due to fears they could be perceived as 'a hassle'. There is also a fear that if they reveal their disability it could work against them, particularly due to the stigma attached to conditions such as mental illnesses.
On the employer side, too many firms in the UK have a "fear factor" when looking to employ disabled workers and are scared of "doing or saying the wrong thing".
"Employers need to start putting the message out that they welcome disabled workers not just at entry level, but in senior and board positions," Cooke said. "There needs to be better communication and an open dialogue and close the disconnect that currently exists between disabled workers and employers."
Cooke, a wheelchair user herself as a result of a childhood spinal injury, said "intelligent" companies "get it" and can see the large pool of talent that's available.
"There are companies that clearly display on their website and application forms what they offer disabled graduates," Cooke said. "Those companies that don't display anything are not going to attract the level of diversity they obviously want."