Hi, I’m Helena, I am a third-year Psychology student and I also work at the Careers Service as your Bristol Mentors Student Associate Intern.
This summer I took part in Change 100, a programme run by disability charity Leonard Cheshire. It supports students and recent graduates with disabilities to complete an internship. Students apply to the programme and, if successful, are paired with a partner organisation to complete a three-month summer internship.
I was paired with IHG Hotels & Resorts in their Corporate Responsibility team.
I was new to the world of Corporate Responsibility and learnt a lot. However, I learnt just as much from taking part in the Change 100 process itself.
My experience of applying to the scheme, and being supported by the team there, was the most accessible I am yet to see in the workplace. They demonstrated how disability inclusivity can – and should – be done:
1. A transparent application process
The application for the scheme was split across two parts: a written section and an assessment day. The team were clear on how they wanted the written answers to be structured. You could submit your answers in an alternative format if required. However, it was when I was invited to an assessment day that the scheme’s inclusive attitude really shone through.
2. Help to identify adjustments needed for the assessment centre
A few weeks before the day itself, I was sent a thorough questionnaire. This detailed the different selection of activities due to take place across the day. I was encouraged to reflect on any difficulties I might face and request accommodations to overcome these.
3. A supportive assessment centre
The team facilitated a variety of adjustments to the activities. For example, they provided closed captions for speech for anyone with oral processing difficulties. They also sent interview questions in advance to people with slow processing speed. The process was as friendly and supportive as possible. In such a positive environment, it was easy to forget the competitive element of the day and put your best self forward. I came out of each task smiling!
4. Help to identify adjustments for the workplace
Following a successful application, the internship matching process began. The matching form provided a second opportunity to consider workplace adjustments needed. The form broke down the different elements of a work placement methodically. This helped you consider any areas that you might find harder because of disability. Sections included:
- getting there
- working hours
- the environment
- the nature of the work;
- communication with my line manager and colleagues.
- potential accommodations were listed alongside these.
As a result, I could request my accommodations easily and without any shame or embarrassment. I also learnt about adjustment possibilities I had never previously known existed. When you are new to the working world, it can be hard to predict the difficulties you might have. It can be nerve-wracking to request any changes to the ‘normal’ working format. Knowing that the scheme understood any difficulties I might have, and were willing to work with me to find ways around them, was empowering. Ultimately it helped ensure that I was producing my best work.
5. Personal development sessions from a network of disabled professionals
Alongside the placement, interns attended a monthly series of ‘Personal Development Sessions’. We learnt about some of the ins and outs of the workplace, with topics including etiquette, communication, and resilience. We got to hear from Change 100 alumni and could book a number of sessions run by disabled employees from different industries. These sessions could be chaotic – engaging a cohort of over 200 interns was no small feat! However, the opportunity to meet and discuss areas that aren’t always explicitly explained – and are often harder for those with disabilities to navigate – was useful and insightful.
My takeaway point: disabled students thrive in the workplace with the right support.
Change 100 demonstrated how with the right support, students with disabilities can thrive in the workplace. In fact, they often bring a unique portfolio of strengths and resilience to their work. I would definitely recommend this scheme to other students, recent graduates and organizations wanting to learn more about inclusive practice.
Are you feeling inspired by Helena’s experience?
Applications for Change 100’s 2023 internship programme are currently open.
12 pm, Thursday 5 January 2023.
Get support with your application:
- Meet Change 100 alumni on Zoom, Wednesday 7 December, 1 pm
- Attend a Change 100 webinar, Monday 12 December, 2 pm
- Read the Change 100 brochure
- Watch an introduction to Change 100 on YouTube.
- Find out more about how the Careers service supports disabled and neurodivergent students on mycareer.
- If you would like support with writing applications, you’ll find some useful resources and events here.
- Need more support? Get in touch via Live Chat on mycareer.