by DAVID ECKSTEIN
There’s nothing inevitable about exclusion, but students with disability (SwD) still experience exclusion from the labour market when they leave university. Compared to their mainstream counterparts, they are more likely to be unemployed or in jobs that don’t use their university education (QILT, 2020).
Universities don’t control the labour market, but my research for the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education as a 2020 Equity Fellow indicates we could help SwD better prepare for the labour market if we understood more about how they relate to their careers. In some cases, the careers thinking of SwD and staff perceptions of it are diametrically opposed. For example, many staff do not understand students’ need to protect disability information instead of sharing it with employers. Even SwD’s sense of career direction itself is not well understood.
My study suggests such discrepancies prevent universities from engaging with SwD on careers issues that matter to them. They also mean aspiration-limiting mindsets, that cast disabilities as career disablers, remain unchallenged.
Consequently, when SwD think about their careers, many do not give sufficient attention to their abilities as emerging professionals. Providing students with opportunities to do so can help them redefine their experience of disability as variously:
* a source of careers strength
* an issue of individual work style
* or a completely irrelevant factor in their developing employability.
A new university disability careers community of practice is considering such matters and will provide resources to help participants progress disability-inclusive careers support at their own universities.
You can be part of the change, and that’s what it means to say there’s nothing inevitable about exclusion.
David Eckstein, AccessAbility Careers Hub Coordinator, Swinburne University
2020 Equity Fellow, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education
Check the following for developing examples of good practice: