Finding a suitable placement for a Year in Industry/Placement Year can be daunting for any student. However, this may be even more true for students (such as myself) with a disability. In this blog, I will give you my top tips for finding a placement and negotiating any concerns you may have as a student with a disability.
Tip 1 – Discuss/Identify Your Accessibility Needs
As a disabled student, I was very concerned about how I might manage to work a full-time 9-5 job whilst looking after my health and well-being. To navigate this, I found it useful to identify the ways my disabilities affect my day-to-day life and evaluate what support I might need from my placement providers to enable me to work with them.
A great place to start is your Student Support Plan (SSP), as this gives you a broad idea of the types of accommodations that a company may be able to provide, as well as your individual needs. I also found it useful to discuss my worries with someone I trusted, such as a friend or a supervisor.
Tip 2 – Think: What Working Environment Would Suit Me Best?
Whilst all employers have the responsibility to accommodate your accessibility needs during your Placement Year/Year in Industry, you may already know that certain working environments would be less suitable for you and your interests.
For example, I find sitting or standing for long periods of time difficult due to my disability, so I knew that fieldwork might be more challenging for me to undertake on a day-to-day basis.
Once You Have A Placement…
Tip 3 – Communicate Openly and Honestly with Your Employer
Note: legally, you do not have to disclose your disability when applying for your placement opportunity, this is an individual decision.
Once you have secured a placement, your employer may ask you to fill in details about any ongoing health issues or disabilities as part of your initial paperwork. At this time, I decided to disclose my disabilities to my employer to facilitate further conversation about my needs whilst working during my placement.
If not already prompted by your employer, I would recommend starting to communicate your needs so that your employer has the chance to initiate any accommodations they may need to make prior to your employment.
Discussing accessibility needs can be difficult and worrying, but many employers will value your honesty and openness with them as it will allow them to support you and better enable your enjoyment of your Placement Year/Year in Industry.
Tip 4 – Communicate with Disability Services if Your Needs Change
Although you may be away from the university during your placement, you’re still able to access support from Disability Services and the Department to ensure you have a smooth return to study. If there are any changes in your accessibility needs, meeting with a Disability Advisor from Disability Services to communicate your needs is essential to allowing further accommodations to take place to support you once you have returned to university.