If you have a disability, should you name it up before a job interview? Should you let people know that you can’t access a venue where an interview is planned to be held? What can and should employers do to make themselves more inclusive?

Alysse Gavlik is passionate about supporting people with a disability get into secure, paid employment. This Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week Alysse answers those questions and more.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:

– 48% of people aged 15-64 with disability are employed – compared with 80% of people without disability

-People aged 15-64 with disability are twice as likely to be unemployed as those without disability

-1 in 10 employed people aged 15-64 with disability are underemployed

Alysse, who has a Spinal Cord Injury, encourages people  with a disability to be confident and put themselves ‘out there’ in the employment market to try to change those stats.

“People can register with a disability employment agency but shouldn’t limit themselves to that.

“Put yourself front and centre and apply for that job.”

Alysse suggests being open with potential employers about disability.

“My biggest piece of advice is to be open about it. It’s only when people start to close up that it becomes a difficult conversation.

“From talking to hiring managers, they would rather you were up front and disclosed your disability. You can also reassure them that it won’t inhibit you from performing the role – and if there are some reasonable adjustments that need to be made, you are able to help them on that pathway.”

Alysse explains while employers are often ignorant about disability, it isn’t intentional.

“Employers would like to be able to help people do their role better.

“When you get that phone call about an interview, tell them, for example that you use a wheelchair and ask if the interview space is going to be accessible. It may be something that hasn’t been thought of, but not deliberately.”

“And employers should be talking to the person about what it is they need – be open, say that you don’t know the answers.”

More broadly Alysse identifies many things happening to try to ‘normalise’ disability in workplaces. From the Federal Government’s new employment strategy to Disability Action Plans being developed by State Government departments.

Alysse would like managers across employment sectors to undertake general education about hiring people with a disability.

“That would be a good first step, and then, going forward, targets could be set for inclusion.

“Once we see more people with a disability around, we can see it’s a more normal thing.

“And getting people into paid, secure employment is so important. It’s about financial security and self-worth. Everyone wants to be valued equally.”


Here are links to some of Alysse’s suggested resources:

IncludeAbility: https://includeability.gov.au/resources-people-disability

Spinal Life Australia – https://www.spinal.com.au/back2work/

Top resources: https://www.backuptrust.org.uk/support-for-you/returning-to-work-after-spinal-cord-injury/the-back-up-employment-toolkit

Job Access – https://www.jobaccess.gov.au/stories

Employment Assistance Fund – https://www.ideas.org.au/uploads/resources/261/Employment%20Assistance%20Fund%20fact%20sheet.pdf

An American site, but some great tips among the US lingo: https://unitedspinal.org/pathways-to-employment/