No Image Available

HR Tip – disabled workers


These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Q: A woman with only one arm has applied for our vacancy for a payroll clerk. We are concerned that she will not be able to operate the computer keyboard efficiently or quickly enough and will have difficulty carrying the boxes of files we have to move around each month. Are we safe in refusing her the job?

A: No. The woman is certainly protected by the Disability Discrimination Act which means that you should take all reasonable steps to adjust the working environment to enable her to do the job.

Either get someone else to move the heavy boxes, arrange for hers to be made lighter or provide her with some form of trolley. As to the keyboard, you should discuss your concerns with the woman. She may be able to type just as fast, or even faster, than someone with two arms.

Disabled people often more than compensate for their disability and thus make excellent employees.

(This topic is covered in detail in our Employment Law courses)

View all our HR tips:

5 Responses

  1. Disabled workers – fair chance
    On a personal note regarding this issue. I went to touch typing classes with a girl with only one arm and she could type faster with greater accuracy than most of the class. I would recommend testing her keyboard skills before you make a decision not to employ.

  2. A range of solutions for computer use
    Another option to assist the person with one arm to use a computer is to suggest voice activated software. There are also a number of organisations who can offer advice with regard to assisting employees with disabilities. Firstly the charity Abilitynet; they specialise in giving advice on computer use for people with disabilities. ( The local job centre may be a useful first call as they have access to specialist disability advisors. Specialist occupational health advisors may also be of assistance.

  3. Compensation!
    Quote from the extract above:

    Disabled people often more than compensate for their disability and thus make excellent employees

    Why should disabled people have to compensate for their disability? This sort of comment is patronising to disabled workers. Risk assess, ensure that no discrimination is taking place and that the DDA is fully complied with. Talk to the individual about their needs and do not test differently.

    0870 240 4325

  4. Assessments for the visually impaired
    There is a great organisation called AbilityNet (01932 814558) who will assess people with different computer packages that can aid those who have visual impairments.

    My daughter was recently assessed and was shown the most amazing technology which will help her within any office environmente.g. a package which enable any document to be scanned and then the computer will read back the document through a headset. It will also read her own typing back as she types it.

    As employers, we are not often able to keep up to date with new innovations that can help those who have any sort of physical impairment. Using organisations such as AbilityNet will help ensure we can get the right assessments, the right equipment and a loyal and confident employee.

  5. Be grateful for the opportunity to improve your processes
    As for typing speed: Have previous candidates been given a typing speed test?

    The physically different have presented us with many gifts. Look how many of our improved processes were originally developed only for them — and were then were copied by the able-bodied?

    This situation seems to be telling you that payroll clerks shouldn’t be lugging around heavy boxes, however many arms they have. Moving around data is a proper task for your computers.

No Image Available

Get the latest from HRZone

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.