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Opinion: Government needs to give people of all abilities a chance on the job market

Advocate Craig Kelly writes about how Covid-19 will make a hard situation worse for people with disabilities trying to find a job.

Craig Kelly

THE PANDEMIC WILL make it hard for everyone who is trying to find a job, but especially for people with different abilities because, as usual, we will be the ones that will be forgotten about.

Some businesses will not reopen, others won’t be as busy and because of social distancing some will also reduce staff numbers. 

I feel that because more people will be looking for jobs, there will be too much competition. I’m afraid I’ll get lost in all of this.

I have an invisible disability but I am always honest with employers. I don’t want to hide who I am!! But once they hear the truth I think they won’t want me to work for them. This is only going to get worse after Covid-19.

  • Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project into the impact that the pandemic will have on jobs for people with disabilities.

Not even given a chance

Latest figures show that 71% of adults of working age with a disability are not in work in Ireland so clearly more needs to be done about this. 

Even before the pandemic, I found the job application process difficult and needed the support of my job coach for online applications. Together we applied for loads of jobs online but I only ever heard back from one of those places.

Craig article 2 Craig Kelly promoting inclusion at a conference

When I finally got an interview I was very excited and prepared for days. I felt confident before I went in and it was going great until I mentioned the fact that I had a job coach.

When my potential employers asked what a job coach was, I told them they help people with disabilities to find employment.

Their faces fell and I could tell by their body language that they did not want me to work there or even hire me to give me a chance.

I was really upset because of this. I felt like a fool. I was worried that I would not have the confidence or heart to do another interview and felt no one would ever want me.

Policy and funding support is needed 

Ability@Work helped me through this. I’m still very nervous of interviews especially if there is more than one person there. That experience still affects me to this day.

One simple change that would make a big difference is if companies added this line into their adverts: ‘People with different abilities are welcome to work here too’. Then it would make myself and others feel less nervous about applying. 

It would also help if the word ‘ability’ instead of ‘disability’ was used as it would change how people think.

Funding for people with disabilities trying to get into the workplace is also under threat. For instance, the Ability@Work programme, which helped me, has funding for just one more year. 

I am angry that all their good work might finish because of lack of money, leading to even less opportunities for people like me, on top of the impact of the pandemic. 

We deserve equal opportunities 

I hope the new Government will give us a chance and show us a change in policy. However, I am worried that it will concentrate on other employment-related issues and we won’t be important to them.

The Government should make employers everywhere take on a certain amount of people with different abilities and this should be the law.

I want to meet the new Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, about these issues as we deserve equal opportunities. With Ireland having the lowest rate of employment for people with disabilities in the EU, this is clearly not the case at the moment. 


Craig Kelly is the first president of the Ability Board which was established in March 2020 by Ability@Work which is run by the Cope Foundation. The board is made up entirely of people with disabilities and its aim is to fight for their rights, with particular emphasis on employment rights.

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SHUTTING THE DOOR Investigation 

Do you want to know if the pandemic will make it even harder for people with disabilities to get jobs in Ireland?

The Noteworthy team want to do an in-depth investigation into whether recommendations made by joint Oireachtas committees two years ago have been implemented, how Ireland differs from our European neighbours in terms of supports and the impacts the ‘new normal’ will have on vulnerable groups.

Here’s how to help support this proposal>

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Craig Kelly

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