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Last reviewed: August 2022

Further Education (FE)

This includes any study after secondary education that’s not part of higher education (that is, not taken as part of an undergraduate or graduate degree). If you have an Education and Healthcare Plan (EHCP) funding your funding and support can take you up to age 25. Many courses in reading, writing and basic maths are free for all ages. For other courses you may not have to pay for tuition if you’re under 24 and studying for your first qualification equivalent to GCSE or A level.

Gov.UK Further Education – for more information

Disability Rights / Funding Further Education for Disabled Students

Higher Education

You usually have to be 18 years or older to take a higher education course, which can be part-time or full-time – usually taught in universities, colleges or specialist institutions like art schools or agricultural colleges.

Disability Rights UK education guides and factsheets are fully comprehensive and include ‘Into HE’ (Into Higher Education; college or university) guides which are updated each year. They include sections on Fees and funding, Disability support services, Disabled Students’ Allowances, Personal care and support and much more. They also have a

Disabled Students helpline: Phone: 0330 995 0414
Opening hours: 11am-1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Gov.UK / Universities and Higher Education – for more information

Read about Mia’s experience of going to university >

In this video from 2020, Josh, Emma and Becca talk about preparing for university, including: how they picked the right university, accommodation and care, and Disability Students’ Allowance:

Recorded: October 2020

National Careers Advice Services

Colleges and Universities also offer Careers Advice Services.

Many organisations are geared up to help with:

  • How to present your Curriculum Vitae (CV) so that you give a brief but snappy account of your education, qualifications, any previous occupations, voluntary work and other relevant experience). Lots of model templates for CVs are available for free on the internet.
  • SCOPE offer a CV template and advice that might be useful
  • Advice about interviews
  • What support you can expect at work
  • Evenbreak’s Career Hive’s careers professionals have lived experience of disability and offer accessible careers support for disabled candidate.

Advice and tips are pretty standard and include:

  • Applications take time and do need to be individually tailored as prospective employers can usually spot applications that are just churned out. You may want to review your CV and / or any cover letter to make sure you’re highlighting information that’s specifically relevant to the opportunity you’re applying for, though this can mean spending a lot of time.
  • It can be dispiriting to get rejections or not to hear back at all, but it’s fair to say that this happens to the most experienced of people; determination and persistence are pretty vital.
  • If you do get offered a job or training opportunity that isn’t obviously going to lead to your dream career, but it’ll give you good experience and it’s practical for you, talk through the pros and cons with someone you trust to listen carefully and give good advice.

Jobcentre Plus – cover all of the UK. They have Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs) and / or Work Coaches who will be able to tell you about programmes and grants including Access to Work (see the section below).

You can find related information in A-Z Of Useful Work-Related Organisations (see the section below).

Employers’ Responsibilities To Make Reasonable Adjustments

Employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, aren’t substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs. This applies to all workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners.

For more information on the sort of things that are included see Gov.UK / reasonable adjustments

Access To Work

If you are disabled or have a health, or mental health condition, and the help you need at work isn’t covered by your employer making reasonable adjustments, you may be able to get help from Access to Work. Support is based on your needs and may include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace.

You need to have a paid job, or be about to start or return to one; a paid job could include self-employment, an apprenticeship, work trial / experience or internship.

Eligibility criteria apply and how much you get will depend on your circumstances. The money doesn’t have to be paid back and it doesn’t affect your other benefits, (though certain benefits may affect whether you can get an Access to Work grant). Access to Work grants are given for items and services such as:

  • Adaptations to the equipment you use
  • Special equipment or software
  • Taxi fares to work if you can’t use public transport
  • Adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work
  • A support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace
  • Confidential support and advice from a trained healthcare professional from the Mental Health Support Service
  • Disability awareness training for your colleagues
  • The cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job

England, Scotland and Wales all offer the Access to Work scheme. 
For more information speak to the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) or work coach at your local JobCentre Plus, or phone Access to Work on 0345 268 8489.

Employers can also gain guidance about employing disabled people:

Northern Ireland has its own Access to Work (NI) scheme    

Disability Rights UK: Access to Work Factsheet 

Internships can be paid or unpaid, though unpaid internships aren’t considered good practice as they advantage people who can afford to work for no pay. In general, if you’re using your skills and doing a job that benefits the company, you should be paid for it. However, you may want to consider a short-term unpaid internship to gain experience.

Paid or unpaid, an internship should be time limited and offer a structured opportunity to work and develop skills. It’s reasonable to check out beforehand what experience you’ll gain, what skills you’ll develop and what support or mentoring you’ll receive. It needs to feel fair and to work for you and your career.

Check out: Employment rights and pay for interns

Whizz Kidzoffer a range of work placement and internships opportunities, and work skills days designed for young disabled people aged 14-25 years old.

Leonard Cheshire Change 100 – paid summer work placements, development and mentoring, designed to support the career development of talented disabled university students and recent graduates or those with long-term health condition. Eligibility criteria apply and applications are only accepted at certain times of the year.

Some large organisations and companies have schemes aimed to increase the number of disabled people gaining work experience and employment with them. If you’re interested in a particular company or organisation, contact them to see what opportunities they have to offer.

This option has become more and more possible with the devlopment of technology and acceptability of working from home. It may allow you more flexibility with the hours you work. There are rules about things like tax and national insurance contributions so careful research will help you plan.

England, Scotland and WalesGov.UK / Business & Self-employed

  • Jobcentre Plus can provide you with information about setting up your own business.

You might be able to get financial assistance from:

Northern Ireland

This can be a good way to build up work experience and also provides opportunities to meet new people and learn new skills.

Volunteering Matters – information on volunteering and opportunities

Do-It – online database of volunteering opportunities throughout the UK and overseas

How open you are about your SMA is a personal decision. People often worry about discrimination, prejudice or lack of confidentiality. If you do decide to be open, most employers will be unfamiliar with SMA, so they may need you to start at the beginning and explain in detail its impact on you and your work and what this means in terms of your individual needs. You’re the expert on your condition, what you can and can’t do, and what works best for you.

Sharing this information can be helpful. Advantages could include:

  • Some employers are keen to employ disabled people
  • It could provide an opportunity to talk about yourself positively
  • Adjustments can be put into place earlier
  • You might build a better working relationship
  • You can explain any aspects of your CV that might otherwise count against you such as gaps in your education or work history due to periods of ill health

The Equality Act 2010 covers the whole of the UK. It makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against disabled people. It also requires them to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to prevent disabled people being placed at a disadvantage. The costs of this shouldn’t be a problem because of the ‘Access to Work Scheme’ run by JobCentre Plus. This can help pay for:

  • Communication support at interviews
  • Special aids and equipment
  • Personal Assistants at work
  • Travel to work, which can include taxi fares

In practice, it may mean things like making physical changes to an office or allowing flexible working.

For more information see the Disability Rights UK Factsheet F56, ‘Understanding the equality act: information for disabled students:

You don’t have to tell an employer about your SMA unless you’re asked direct questions about your health on a medical questionnaire. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers can’t ask candidates questions about their health that are unrelated to their job role. The main benefit of telling an employer is that it gives you more protection under the Equality Act if you have a dispute at work.

If your employer needs specific medical information to support you at work, your clinical team or SMA UK Support Services may be able to write a letter on your behalf.

Equality Advisory and Support Service – Phone 0808 800 0082  – if you work in England, Scotland or Wales and feel that because of your disability you’ve been discriminated against either in your job, or in getting a job

Acas – Phone 0300 123 1100  – the Government has a pay and work rights helpline

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission – Phone 0289 024 3987

Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) – free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations and employment law.

Association of Disabled Professionals (ADP) – Phone 0120 443 1638 – registered charity working to improve the education, rehabilitation, training and employment opportunities available to disabled people. Provides advice and information and helps disabled professionals and managers find and retain employment.

Capability Scotland – Phone 0131 337 9876 – practical support and advice to disabled people in employment or looking for work in Scotland.

Citizens Advice – useful work-related resources

EmployAbility – Phone 0785 276 4684 – works primarily, but not exclusively with disabled university undergraduates and graduates to ease the transition from education to employment.

Enham Trust – a range of services for disabled people age 16+ including advice and assessment for employment and training

Evenbreak – online jobs board for disabled people

MyPlus Students’ Club – students or graduates looking for work – detailed information on recruitment processes and how to manage at work

Leonard Cheshire – charity offering training and support to help gain employment

Prince’s Trust –  Phone 0800 842 842  – for aged 13-30 – free training courses, experiences, support, mentoring and finance.

Purple Space –  professional development hub for disabled employee network and resource group leaders. Paying members have access to online learning, professional networking and development

Remploy –  Phone 0300 456 8110  – help disabled people find employment.

SCOPE – offers a range of online and offline employment support services for working-age disabled people.

The Shaw Trust – national charity that supports disabled and disadvantaged people to prepare for work, find jobs and live more independently.

YouthAction Northern Ireland run a GET SET for Work programme -a regional youth employability programme for young people aged 16 – 24 years who are outside of training employment and education.