Shifting stereotypes with a new approach to recruitment

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By Liz Johnson, former Paralympic gold-medalist for ParalympicsGB and co-founder and managing director of TAP

Throughout my life I have been extremely fortunate; my career encouraged me to embrace my disability while giving me the freedom to learn and grow independently. Nonetheless, I am very aware of the existing prejudice and preconceptions that much of the public have towards the disabled community.

Even in 2018 – a year which saw the first ever Global Disability Summit take place just last month – it is not uncommon for people to view disabilities as something that needs to be ‘fixed’. As a result, the community is often subject to an unconscious bias; in particular, by employers.

The disability employment gap in the UK currently stands at over 30% as employers consistently focus on what candidates can’t do as opposed to what they can. With our abilities being overlooked, it’s hardly surprising that much of the disabled community have come to expect the worst from the job hunt. This is a huge problem.

I believe obstacles create opportunities and as such, wanted to venture into a new career path helping individuals such as myself. After being introduced to recruitment expert Steve Carter, we saw an opportunity both to break down the barriers facing the disabled as well as shaking up the recruitment industry: enter The Ability People (TAP).

TAP breaks down the conventional employment barriers as we’re entirely staffed by consultants living with impairments. From muscular dystrophy to spinal injuries; all disabilities are welcome. With TAP, the aim is twofold:

  1. Challenge preconceptions about the jobs those with disabilities can do and how well they can do it
  2. Show that disability-led projects aren’t only viable when run as charities

We want to focus on what people can do and prove that a disability-led business can not only be a viable venture but can also outperform traditional firms.

The initial team was hand-picked based on the fact they demonstrate the skills and attributes required to excel within this industry. Our talented consultants have been trained by some of the industry’s premier recruitment professionals. Crucially, their experiences of navigating the jobs market as a disabled person will provide them with a unique advantage in the sector. They will approach each role and each candidate with empathy, an open mind and positivity thereby providing an excellent service to both candidates and clients.

Whilst all our consultants live with impairments, we will not be solely recruiting on behalf of disabled candidates. TAP will operate like any other recruitment agency in terms of the client and candidate experience, focused on placing abled-bodied as well as disabled job-seekers. We have already got a number of inaugural clients lined up, including the world’s largest producer of spirits, Diageo.

One questions we often get asked is: “are you a charity?”. The answer is no. We’re proudly for-profit. Why? Well, why shouldn’t we be? There’s a widely held assumption that projects or initiatives staffed by people living with impairments can only be viable when operated as charities. We’re here to prove that not only is this not the case. Not only that but to also show they can be thriving, profitable businesses that can challenge traditional businesses for market share. We’re not looking for the sympathy vote from clients, just a chance to prove what we can do and what our model can achieve.

At TAP, we’re looking forward to revolutionising the recruitment industry while also raising awareness of abilities of the disabled community. We hope to challenge stereotypes about the role those living with disabilities can play in the job market, as well as providing career paths for each member of the team.

Find out more about TAP and meet the team here.