I’ve written about this before, but every now and then I have an epiphany, and I have to write about it again.

 Look, there’s just no ‘diversity’ without people with a disability being included in the mix.

Every company, every organisation, and every c... Read more >

I’ve written about this before, but every now and then I have an epiphany, and I have to write about it again.

 Look, there’s just no ‘diversity’ without people with a disability being included in the mix.

Every company, every organisation, and every corporate image has some sort of diversity and inclusion policy and practice these days, but people with a disability come under the ‘corporate social responsibility’ label.

Or, in other words, the ‘too hard’ basket.

Diversity and inclusion officers and representatives themselves fail to include people with a disability in their employment initiatives. I once went to a meeting where a person with a disability was espousing the virtues of a particular inclusion program as a ‘diversity and inclusion’ representative, and she opened with the remark…”There’s no disability, just a bad attitude’ – a quote from Scott Hamilton.

So what’s wrong with that statement?

What it does is tell people with a disability who are out of work that it’s their own fault they’re unemployed, and that their attitude towards work is the reason they are unemployed.

It’s my experience as the CEO of a recruitment company for people with a disability representing thousands of candidates, that it is not the attitude of people with a disability that is responsible for the appalling unemployment rates of that cohort – it is the attitude of prospective employers, and people without a disability who are responsible for providing employment opportunities for them.

Partly to blame is our definition of diversity. We include women, people who identify as LGBTI, Indigenous Australian or culturally diverse people for equal opportunity in our employment policies and statistics. But there is very rarely a mention of people with a disability in diversity policies or practice.

Stop demonising people with a disability

Let’s go back to the example of the person with a disability who used the definition ‘There is no disability except a bad attitude’ for a minute.

If people with a disability themselves are espousing this philosophy, then it gives permission to the rest of the working world to blame us as well for being unemployed. It demonises people who are unable to access work due to their disability.

And I’m done with demonising people with a disability, who are being blamed as well for an annual $800 million Disability Employment Services bill to the Australian Government. Let’s be clear, people with a disability aren’t pocketing large amounts of cash to sit around and refuse to work with a bad attitude – the money goes to Disability Employment Service providers under the government’s Disability Employment Framework.

But, sadly, a lack of corporate governance means that in some providers, there is an emphasis on spending as little as possible assisting a person with a disability into work, and maximising the profit taking from the government funding. In the Department of Social Services recent discussion paper on the Disability Employment Framework, openly acknowledged that people with a disability were being ‘parked’ – signed on to an employment services provider – and no action at all being taken to assist them back to work in order to maximise profits.

And that’s not the worst of it. For an $800 million bill, the Australian Government, spending taxpayer dollars, has absolutely no record of where the money has gone, and openly acknowledges in the Discussion Paper that there is no accountability for the considerable sum of money, and that the performance overall of the DES system is declining – meaning even less people with a disability are assisted into work.

In any other industry, this would warrant at least a Senate Inquiry, if not a Royal Commission.

But people with a disability – who cannot at this point, even change their DES provider - are being told it’s their own fault they can’t find a job and that they’re the ones who are expensive!

Clearly, if these practices continue, the unemployment rate will continue to rise, and there will be even less assistance to people genuinely in need, or employer education about disability.

It’s a matter of choice

Enabled Employment has made a submission to the Department of Social Services as part of the current discussions around Disability Employment. We are advocating for freedom of choice in providers for people who need to use them. What the public doesn’t know is that once signed on, even if you receive no service at all from your provider, you cannot change your provider.

The current discussions also canvass how to ensure each person with a disability receives the correct funding support. However, the government is considering a system which perpetuates the provider’s control over funding, as some people involved in the discussions consider that people with a disability are unable to make their own choices due to some lack of either insight or intellectual ability.

There are some people with a disability that do need assistance to make decisions about their support choices; however the vast majority do not. If we were not able to make our own choices, then surely the entire NDIS system would fail, because it is based on the knowledge that people with a disability in fact are able to make their own choices about the support they receive.

And if you are unable to make your own choices about how and where your monetary support from the Australian Government is spent in supporting you to find work, how then would you cope with actually working, and why are you being forced to look for work?

It’s time we had choice and control over where funding is spent. We don’t need parenting by people with a pecuniary interest in perpetuating the current dysfunctional system.

We don’t accept government funds

I looked carefully at the DES system when forming the company, and decided to take an ethical stance not to accept government funding for employing people with a disability.

Employing a person with a disability should be as routine for employers as anyone else. Making reasonable adjustments in the workplace happens every day for workers who are injured on the job as part of a rehabilitation and return to work program, and accessibility isn’t the nightmare employers might think it is.

Generally in Australia, it costs an average of $600 to make reasonable adjustments - for which there are Australian Government grants available to employers.

So I decided to go ahead and demonstrate a business model which provides choice and control to people with a disability, without the demonisation which goes with taxpayer funded support. Since we launched Enabled Employment, we’ve found that the demand for self determination and choice in employment options for people with a disability is outstripping the jobs available.

Perhaps part of the problem is that employers receive a subsidy for employing a person with a disability from the Australian Government, a kind of ‘compensation’ for having a ‘broken’ employee. As long as our government keeps paying people to ‘take on’ a person with a disability, the expectation of underperformance will continue.

Frankly, it’s time to stop taking the money away from people with a disability and giving it to people who just bank it, and start encouraging employers to make the reasonable adjustments which allow people to thrive in their jobs.

There’s no real diversity, no hope of reflecting the structure of our society, without the inclusion – the real and genuine inclusion – of people with a disability in the workforce.

You can read our submission at https://engage.dss.gov.au/des_reform_nov16-submissions/1482128213/

Image of Stella Young and quote saying That quote, 'the only disability in life is a bad attitude', the reason that's bullshit is ... No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille.

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

 If 4.2 million Australians have a disability, as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics[1] in 2015, why is our image and definition of a person with a disability still centred around what they can’t do, rather than what we can... Read more >

 If 4.2 million Australians have a disability, as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics[1] in 2015, why is our image and definition of a person with a disability still centred around what they can’t do, rather than what we can do?  Why do we think of disability in a narrow, deficit focussed way?

 Australians think of disability as the ‘medical model’, as a ‘deficit’, a person can’t walk, or can’t hear, or see, can’t think the ‘normal’ way.

 “Neurology’s favourite word is ‘deficit’, denoting an impairment or incapacity of neurological function: loss of speech, loss of language, loss of memory, loss of vision, loss of dexterity, loss of identity and myriad other lacks and losses of specific functions (or faculties).”[2]

― Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

 Oliver Sacks made a good point. We do think about what a person can’t do, rather than can.

Under the medical model, a disability of any kind is likely to be interpreted as unable to function at all, rather than being an extraordinary human being who has adapted to an illness, genetic disorder, or acquired injury.

But people with a disability and their closest advocates, often their family members, may have a different view. The social model of disability sees the environment in which people live, and its rigid demand for ‘normal’, as responsible for the inequalities people with a disability face, and changing that physical, attitudinal, communication and social environments as the answer.

For example, making a reasonable adjustment in a workplace for a person with a disability enables both social and economic participation. Access doesn’t just mean a wheelchair ramp, in fact, in the majority of cases this won’t be necessary, but can mean a range of things; adaptive technology, quiet working environments, a desk situated close to the lift, screen readers, hearing loops, but most importantly, the attitude of the people around that person.

We currently define disability in the workplace via a medical model, for the most part. This suggests that the person with a disability make the adaptation to the workplace, rather than the workplace making adaptations for the person with the disability. The medical model suggests that a disability is in need of a ‘cure’, or ‘treatment’, and where successful, it is then the person with the disability who must ‘normalise’, where the social model suggests modifications to attitudes and provision of equipment, or access, as the answer, so that people with a disability can participate in work.

The responsibility of adapting lies with the workplace, and different ways of undertaking work are used to ensure a person with a disability is not further burdened by trying to adapt to a ‘normal’ way of working, when that may not be possible.

Attitudinal Change

We can’t undertake the task of implementing reasonable adjustment without the attitude change that must go with it towards people with a disability in general, in our society.

Without attitude change, any physical modifications or adaptive technology will continue to make difficult the prospect of working and staying in a job.

How do we change attitudes? There are many attempting to change the narrative around disability, to change our thinking from medical to social model.

‘Inspiration porn’

This wouldn’t be food for thought without contemplating the politics of disability. The late Stella Young pointed out why we object to being called an ‘inspiration’ in her TedTalk[3]. Using the medical model of disability, the not-for-profit sector has been very successful in raising funding from using stories of ‘inspirational’ people with a disability, and studies on the marketing of not-for-profits show that some advertisements raise a lot more money than others. That’s why around Christmas time you’ll find a lot of advertising for charities featuring seriously ill children, children at risk in foreign countries, or children who have no presents or Christmas dinner. They are aimed at maximising an emotional response, persuading donors to act.[4]

The longer we keep using media which shows ‘inspirational’ stories, such as that of a child who has a physical disability completing a 50 metre race at school and subsequently being an ‘inspiration’, the longer we perpetuate the medical model thinking of a child adapting to try to ‘adapt’ to a ‘normal’ activity.

What’s the answer then?

To battle the medical model used routinely to fundraise, we need to change the entire dialogue around disability, in everyday circumstances, at work, at play, at school, and in social settings. The narrative around disability can be overwhelmingly reinforcing as a medical model of deficit. Under the social model of disability, the narrative must change to discussion of what people with a disability can do, given the right adjustment of the environment. The environment can be social, attitudinal, physical, communications or economic.

Attitudinal change is achieved by developing a positive narrative about disability around how the rest of the world can adapt to having a person with a disability in their midst, no matter what that person’s disability is.

Developing a positive narrative isn’t enough, though. We must also show the way forward for the development of a much less rigid definition of disability under the social model. If disability is regarded as a matter of adapting an environment, many things which were disregarded under the medical model come into play. Rather than only providing physical equipment needed, we can foster the entire environment to be flexible enough to adapt to people with a disability. And it’s not just a matter of language, it is physical and attitudinal change. In a workplace, this is easily translated to reasonable adjustment. But who does the adjusting?

Definition of reasonable adjustment

The definition of reasonable adjustment in a workplace is also based on the medical model of disability. It comes from the ‘rehabilitation’ focus, how do we improve a person’s ‘functionality’ in the workplace to equal their non-disabled peers? It is focussed on adapting the person to the workplace, the nine to five job.

If we change the focus of reasonable adjustment to include not only the physical equipment a person needs to adapt to a workplace, but adapting the work methods, ways of working, and attitudes of co-workers around people with a disability, we maximise their effectiveness as employees.

Job sharing, flexible work hours, flexible working arrangements, results only work environments and awareness training for co-workers are all part of a reasonable adjustment definition that we think needs implementing in the majority of workplaces in Australia, not only for people with a disability, but parents, carers, and remotely located communities.

As the saying goes, if you get it right for a person with a disability, you get it right for everyone.

The real cost of employing a person with a disability is rarely more than an average of AU$6-700, for which a grant is available from the Australian Government.[5]

Diversity must include people with a disability

There are some employers willing to embrace a social model definition of disability, who have made awareness of disability in the workplace, and reasonable adjustments a reality, and they are to be applauded. But there are many still operating under the medical model definition.

Not only do employers need to step back and take a look at the definition of reasonable adjustment, but also the definition of diversity.

If we take diversity to mean a true reflection of our population, with 4.2 million Australians with a disability we can assume that around one-fifth of our employees will have a disability. So far we have seen successful campaigns defining diversity as including

  • people of multicultural and Indigenous Australian heritage,
  • women
  • people who identify as LGBTI;

but often we do not include people with a disability as a specific group of people for inclusion in our workforces. Australia has one of the lowest inclusion rates of people with a disability as employees in the OECD.[6]

Some organisations have implemented a ‘disclose and interview’ policy, where people with a disability can self-identify and be prioritised for interview when applying for a job. This alone will not improve the employment participation rate – it may improve the ‘disclosure’ rate - it must come with a readjustment of thinking, attitudes, and accessibility. The social model must be applied to access, reasonable adjustment and workplace attitudes to disability to have any success. The definition of diversity must change, and the social model of disability must be applied to the definition of reasonable adjustment. This is part of the answer to expanding inclusion and diversity to represent the real diversity available in our workforce.

Until that happens, there won’t be a rise in the employment rate of people with a disability discernibly beyond where it is now, costing some $800 million in payments to Disability Employment Service providers, whose effectiveness in finding work opportunities for people with a disability has been shown to be declining.

We are not a Disability Employment Services provider, but a private company which is changing the narrative around disability to reflect the social model, if necessary, one job at a time.

Where next?

It’s simpler than you think. When you consider adapting your work environment to a person with a disability, think flexibility.

Enabled Employment can assist you with the implementation of practical and cost effective strategies to ensure your workforce is truly inclusive of the diversity of our population, using the social model of disability. We can give you the facts on the advantages, both social and economic, that attitude change, diversity, application of a broad definition of reasonable adjustment will bring to your business.

As a leader in the employment of people from diverse backgrounds, we can ensure that your company, business or organisation can set the standard and change the conversation about disability in the workforce.

Get in touch with us today.

 

[1] 4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 

[2] Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

[3] https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much

[4] Guilt Appeals: Persuasion Knowledge and Charitable Appeals Hibbert, Smith, Davies & Ireland, Nottingham & Leicester Universities, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 24(8): 723–742 (August 2007)

[5] http://askjan.org/media/lowcosthighimpact.html

[6]http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/FlagPost/2011/December/Disability_employment_in_Australia_and_the_OECD

 

New Mindset heading with a tickbox of yes selected

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

I was at a meeting recently, where the topic of employment for people with a disability was being discussed. The meeting had representatives from all areas of business, government and the not-for-profit sector.

I was mightily surprised, in fact, that the business leaders at that meeting s... Read more >

I was at a meeting recently, where the topic of employment for people with a disability was being discussed. The meeting had representatives from all areas of business, government and the not-for-profit sector.

I was mightily surprised, in fact, that the business leaders at that meeting saw the answer to the astonishingly shameful employment rate of people with a disability as philanthrophy.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a right time and a right place for philanthropy in our society. It achieves great things, and enables organisations to fund necessary and vital relief for people in our society.

But it doesn’t actually employ a person in your business. It doesn’t help anyone enter your specific workforce with a disability.

The problem is, we’re expecting the person with the disability to adapt to our ‘normal’ workplaces. And it’s easier to throw money at the problem rather than look at our own businesses and start to include people with a disability in our workplace.

The expectation is that the person will be needy, expensive, unreliable and constantly needing supervisory time. Given this stereotypical impression, it seems easier for corporate social responsibility programs to grant large sums of money to other organisations to ‘deal with’ the problem of unemployment for people with a disability.

If it costs, on average, $600 per person with a disability to make reasonable adjustments in any workplace – for which a government grant is available – then why donate hundred of thousands of dollars to a system that doesn’t work, namely, the charities the deliver Disability Employment Services? Why not bite the bullet now and look for the skills, abilities and aptitudes that make people with a disability the exact opposite of the stereotype you think we are?

Establishing an internship program for people with a disability, for example, is a much more practical and cheaper way forward in addressing unemployment levels for people with a disability. We train graduates – many people with a disability hold academic qualifications – and we have indigenous internships, how about disability internships? Paid ones? That’s what would change a life, and change attitudes and stereotypes in the workforce. Here’s what you need to know:

  • People with a disability take less sick leave
  • People with a disability make fewer workers’ compensation claims
  • People with a disability are more loyal to a company over time
  • People with a disability only need reasonable adjustment and flexible work in order to make the same, if not better, contribution to your business as any other worker
  • People with a disability are lateral thinkers – they’ve had to be in order to manage their lives with a disability.

Enabled Employment have been nominated for, and won awards, locally, nationally and globally, so that we can raise the issue of employment for marginalised groups on big stages.

Our Media and Liaison Manager, Chief Information Officer and me, are all people with a disability. If we three can run our business as a globally award winning and recognised one only 2 years after launching, just imagine what a person with a disability can do for your business – if you give them the chance.

It's no use throwing money at someone else to take care of the problem.

What we need is attitude change. That only happens where employers take charge, establish innovative programs such as internships, and change attitudes in the workplace by employing those with different abilities.

It's your responsibility to affect change in the workforce, not somebody else's.

So what can you do to change the hopes and lives of a person with a disability? We’ve run internship programs before, and we know how to do it. We have thousands of candidates with academic and other qualifications on our website waiting for a job offer with an employer who is willing to take responsibility for changing the world with us.

Touch base with us now.

www.enabledemployment.com

Australian money of different denominations and coins

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

Most businesses ultimately are concerned with one thing: profitability, and whether they made more this year than last year and how to improve next year. Whether in a period of growth or recession, most business discourse concerns the net worth and profitability of a b... Read more >

Most businesses ultimately are concerned with one thing: profitability, and whether they made more this year than last year and how to improve next year. Whether in a period of growth or recession, most business discourse concerns the net worth and profitability of a business; most will rarely make business decisions that may ultimately cost the business too much money for too low a potential for reward.

Employment of people with disabilities has been seen in the past – not as investment in human resources – but as a net cost; an American report in 2009 found that this was an attitude not just at the very top, but at all levels in a business’ hierarchy. Aside from being discriminatory, it is also false. Many costing myths exist regarding employment of people with disabilities.

Insurance Costs

This is the most common assumption, that there are greater safety issues when employing people with disabilities and therefore they represent a greater cost to insure. Firstly, there is the assumption here that insurance premium cost is based purely and entirely on the risk assessment portion of the insurance premium; certainly, risk of injury is one factor but it is not the only factor – the majority of a premium is calculated on likelihood of accidents based on the work the business carries out.

Even if insurance premiums were calculated purely on the risk of accident in the work place, statistics show that people with disabilities are marginally less likely to be the victim of an accident at work. The difference is slight but the common myth that they represent a greater insurance risk is unfounded either way. People with disability therefore represent a lower insurance risk and lower insurance costs.

Accessible Workplace

One of the arguments regarding the cost of employing people with disabilities is that it is either prohibitively expensive or an unnecessary expense for the employment of just a handful of people. The first is certainly not true as there are a number of regional and national schemes and funds available to either completely cover the cost of modification of the workplace or a substantial fund that they can apply to for a bursary through the Employment Assistance Fund and often represents a one off change for the future.

In the unlikely event that a business would be refused financial assistance for workplace modification, it has been calculated that the cost per person averages out at under $500. A UK based disability employment organisation quotes £184 and US statistics quote a similar figure. The investment is highly unlikely to see the business operating at a loss when we consider that people with disability have a lower attrition rate (are more likely to stay in a job) and are more productive.

Human Resource Costs

Workplace modification includes adjustments to doors, installation of ramps, lowering steps and other physical modifications. Human Resource costs come with certain extra considerations for people with disability – new computer hardware (such as a special keyboard or a mouse) software (for people with poor eyesight for example), or specialist office equipment (desk, chair etc). All of this equipment in Australia is covered under the Employment Assistance Fund.

An in depth academic study of common myths proving a barrier to more businesses employing people with disability is here (login required): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hrm.20211/abstract

This one examines the relative costs and benefits of employing people with disability: http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30001618?print_friendly=true

 

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

There is so much advice around the web on what constitutes a good resume and what elements should or should not go into one; the truth is though that there is no one size fits all formula for creating the perfect resume. It is not a case of getting everything in the right order and &ldq... Read more >

There is so much advice around the web on what constitutes a good resume and what elements should or should not go into one; the truth is though that there is no one size fits all formula for creating the perfect resume. It is not a case of getting everything in the right order and “bingo” the job is yours.

The Purpose of a Resume

The most important thing to remember about a resume is that it is about getting you to the interview stage. Certainly, the relevant decision makers will look at the resume after the interview to compare candidates but ultimately, it needs to grab their attention. What should go into the resume?

  • Qualifications: in this competitive employment marketplace, employers want to see the education-based experiences. A degree in English can say much in itself but if you are applying for a communications role, you need to give academic examples that are relevant.

  • Work experience: and not just from previous job though this is very important, but any experience that may be relevant to the role. This could be from voluntary work, personal interests or hobbies.

  • Abilities are different from experience in that you know what you can do, even if you cannot demonstrate it through on the job experience, through voluntary roles or in your qualifications.

Highlight Your Abilities

The key to a modern resume is experiences, particularly practical experiences and the identifiable abilities that you gain and have gained from those experiences. Employers want to see that you will be an asset to the business and this is how you need to market your abilities – those that are relevant and how they are relevant.

The first thing to do is look at the job description. Most will state the key skills that are required in the role. Though some will be generic “good organisational skills”, “works under own initiative” and “flexible”, some will be more specific than this: “good knowledge of MS Excel” for example. If you have a certificate of training to a higher level for that software package, or you have learnt advanced features of the software and can list an example, then make it relevant: “I designed a stock programme in Excel to keep track of petty cash” you will have demonstrated a core ability.

One element that people now include in their resumes is a list of highlights. These can be changed and tailored to each application; listing seven or eight bullet points that are relevant will present the employer with what they are looking for without having to search your resume for it and you may expand on these points later in the resume if you need to. The highlights bullet list should be a mix of experience, qualifications and achievements.

If the role is similar to one you have had before, or is a niche job that you have qualifications for, then imagine yourself already in the role. List the skills that you believe will be relevant to the job based on your previous work experience.

 

I was asked a question the other day that made me think. I get told constantly that I have a different way of thinking, and it is so different that it’s enlightening. But why is that? I always thought I followed the common principles of common sense, but after mulling it over and chatting w... Read more >

I was asked a question the other day that made me think. I get told constantly that I have a different way of thinking, and it is so different that it’s enlightening. But why is that? I always thought I followed the common principles of common sense, but after mulling it over and chatting with my staff, who are also like minded, I thought I should write something about it.

The question I was asked was ’do you have a breakdown in your database on the severities and types of disabilities your candidates have?’ My immediate response was a bit of a laugh and ’no, of course not!’, but in my head I was thinking ‘Why are they asking me this?’

After a moment I realised I was going to have to elaborate on why, because it was assumed it would be a standard information category we would record.

My response was, and is, I don’t care what a person’s disability is, I care about who is the best candidate for the job. I explained that I could give a breakdown on the skills people have, because when we want to fill a role we need this information, and I also need to understand our skills base for when I’m talking with an employer about what we can offer them as a recruitment agency. But why does it matter what the person’s disability is?

Yes, should the candidate get the role or have special requirements for the interview this might be relevant information, but again, we don’t need to know what someone’s disability is, we just need to know what flexibility or reasonable adjustment they may need to perform the best they possibly can in the role.

Which brings me to another thing we are constantly asked, ‘what is the candidate’s disability?’ We respond with ‘it doesn’t matter’ and we are met with ‘but I need to know to make sure I do everything right for the candidate’.

We explain that this doesn’t matter for two reasons: firstly, because when you disclose someone’s diagnostic label (always with the permission of the individual concerned) the unconscious or conscious bias beast will raise it head. And secondly, everyone is an individual and all an employer needs to know is what that person needs to do the job at the best of their ability. I’ll get to the first one later, but let’s think about the second one.

One thing we do for businesses and candidates before anyone starts in a role (or attends an interview if it’s needed), is broker accessibility requirements. We include information and an open platform to discuss what is needed for the candidate to perform at their best, this can include written information, separate conversations between a candidate and a business, right down to an open conversation if this is what the candidate wants. Ninety five per cent of these requests are for flexibility: for example, I need to start and finish earlier as twilight can affect my vision, or, I need to start late because I have anxiety in the morning, or even, I can work four days in the office but need to work one day from home as I am too exhausted from travel each day.

Yes, occasionally we do have physical access requirements that needs attention, but these are the minority, but that seems to be the thing that businesses worry about the most. They worry about the cost, the inconvenience, whether it will be enough? Again this is not such a big deal. My Media Liaison and Communications Manager worked in a government office which refused to contemplate a request for a change to the heavy manual open fire doors between the office and the kitchen. Sharon uses a walking stick and had no trouble opening the door at most times, but when carrying a coffee it was impossible to open the door holding a walking stick in one hand and a coffee in the other. She had to ask someone for assistance to open the door. You would think was no big deal but when it happens a couple of times a day the person nearest to the door was the only person available to help, and eventually made a complaint about having to open the door. What’s that? Yes, the person with no disability was the one that made the complaint! So from here, matters went into a tailspin, how were they going to afford the change to automatic sliding doors? What about the inconvenience to staff? Would these sliding doors meet the fire safety requirements?

You know what was funny about this? No one asked Sharon what she wanted. When it got down to it, she would have suggested that a shelf be put in near the door where she could place her coffee, open the door, walk out and then grab her coffee, letting the door shut. The solution was a $10 shelf, not thousands of dollars worth of renovations to the kitchen door.

This shines a massive light on why we always tell our businesses to just ask the person with a disability what they need. Not what they need for their disability, what they personally, as a human being, need.

There is a Government fund set up for this exact reason, so even changing to sliding doors would be no cost to the business – but that’s another story for another day.

So let’s get back to thinking about people with disabilities as a person, a human, a human with hopes and dreams, a human that can tell you what they need rather than you making assumptions for them. My first point earlier about assumptions and conscious and unconscious biases.

One thing I really struggle with is the demand for people to know ‘diagnostic labels’. What does it matter if Joe Bloggs has Multiple Sclerosis or Jane Doe has a mental illness? My thoughts are that once you know what a person’s diagnostic label is you start making assumptions about what that means. I’ll use my own example. I have severe anxiety, always have, and have examples of it included in my first memories. It has never affected my ability to be a fantastic employee, in fact it made me a better employee because I would throw myself at a project with everything I had. I would rather be working than anxious. For this reason I moved up the ranks quickly and found myself as an Executive Level 2 in the Government at the age of 31 which is when I had my first child.

And at that point, I was diagnosed with post partum thyroiditis, which meant my medication wasn’t working and I was living a 24 hour nightmare of panic disorder. The way my anxiety presents itself is as de-realisation, a state where you feel like you are waking up from a dream and nothing is real – and it’s terrifying! So of course, I wanted to get back to work ASAP and I did. The problem was I couldn’t work full time and had to disclose my disability.

And then the assumptions started, no one wanted to get me stressed, no one wanted to overburden me, no one wanted to ‘set me off’. So you know what happened? I was given nothing to do, given no staff and then avoided at all costs and cut out of the loop on the business of the branch. This was the worst possible thing for me, and my mental health spiralled out of control until I approached suicide. Fortunately for me, Enabled Employment sprung up in my head and was my saving grace. But, you know what my answer would have been if I had been asked? Give me more work, give me more staff, give me things that are challenging and stress me out! Because, if I’m worrying about those things I have no time to be anxious and I will get better!

Every single disability affects a person in a different way, we are all individuals and disability doesn’t discriminate. In fact it is the only minority group you can join at any stage in your life!

So why are people barraging businesses with information about everything that can go wrong when a person with a disability starts working with them? People with a disability are statistically less likely to have something go wrong than their peers so why do we set them up for low expectations or failure? Why can’t we just ask what they need? Treat them like the human being that they are, and cut out the fear and assumptions.

What we all need to do is just apply the principles of common sense. Flexibility in a role should be a given unless there are operational requirements that make it impossible. Not only is this good for people with disabilities it’s good for everyone. Have you asked your employee’s what they need to perform the best that they can in their role?

 

Jessica May accepting the telstra womens business award

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

There’s a good vibe on the factory floor of Bottles of Australia. People are busy. They chat to each other while they work, grinning from ear to ear occasionally.

Bottles of Australia Director Anton Pemmer has always had difficulty in finding staff for the factory floor, and recogni... Read more >

There’s a good vibe on the factory floor of Bottles of Australia. People are busy. They chat to each other while they work, grinning from ear to ear occasionally.

Bottles of Australia Director Anton Pemmer has always had difficulty in finding staff for the factory floor, and recognises the roles aren’t a career inspiring move. In saying that though, even the General Manager started in the production area, he says, and it has always been a starting point for people to build confidence, earn a living, and grow within the workforce.

“We used to hire a lot by word of mouth,’ he says, ‘which often worked, but as people moved on and up, we needed a more reliable way to recruit.’

“Enabled Employment has listed our roles, and we have some terrific staff who have really come into their own during their time here, and they are a great part of our team,’ he said.

Aisha and Shirley both applied to work for Anton and Bottles of Australia through the Enabled Employment website.

 

“I want to be famous!” says Aisha, striking a Zoolander pose for the camera, cracking up Anton, Shirley and myself.

Anton obviously enjoys the humour, and leaves me with General Manager Matt, to chat about the staff who signed up for the job through Enabled Employment, and their time at Bottles of Australia.

“Like a lot of other employees,’ says Matt “when they started they were a bit shy. Then that’s just like any other employee, now they’re part of the team, they chat at lunchtime, and interact just like anyone else. They aren’t any different to any other team member, there just isn’t an issue with their disability in the workplace,” he says.

Matt takes time to respond to my questions about those particular myths about disability in the workplace which employers sometimes hold.

“No, they don’t take more sick leave, or make more workers’ compensation claims, and they are often one of the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave from there area,” he says.

Anton confirms Matt’s response. As a business owner, it is ultimately his responsibility to ensure the team on the factory floor is a strong one.

“We treat everybody the same,’ he said ‘you get treated as a human being. We’re running a business, and Shirley and Aisha are a great asset to the team.

‘I loved having them at our Christmas party, we all had a great time, and these ladies are a real part of our business, and our achievements this year,’ he said.

Shirley and Aisha are members of the Deaf Community. Shirley is studying a Bachelor of Commerce, uses English as a second language, and is a cheerful and happy member of the team, and Aisha loves her football and is wearing her team jersey under her hi-vis vest. And, she wants to be famous, and we are sure she will be one day soon.

 

For over 4 million people with a disability facing adversity is part of everyday life. Especially when it comes to the job marketplace. Unfortunately there are still significant barriers to earning a stable income for many people with a disability.

Unemployment rates for this community ar... Read more >

For over 4 million people with a disability facing adversity is part of everyday life. Especially when it comes to the job marketplace. Unfortunately there are still significant barriers to earning a stable income for many people with a disability.

Unemployment rates for this community are unacceptably high. This year unemployment for people with disabilities was twice as high as the general population and labour force participation was half that of the non-disabled workforce.

At Enabled Employment we believe everyone has the right to financial independence, and flexible economic opportunities should be made available to all.

That’s why today we’re announcing a partnership with Uber -  to extend flexible income opportunities to thousands of of people with disabiloities able to drive on the uberX platform.

“We think the time is right for people with a disability to take matters into their own hands and manage their own income opportunities. Uber’s ridesharing platform presents a possibility to change the status quo, which has so far failed to create gainful economic opportunities for people with a disability.” - Jessica May, Founder, Enabled Employment.

We hope this partnership not only helps Enabled Employment members find well-paid income opportunities, but also encourages the 53% of people with disabilities with a driving licence to consider driving on the uberX platform.

This includes partners like Jordan who lives with Achondroplasia and chose to drive on the uberX platform to escape unemployment.

"I was unemployed for a year before I found Uber. I decided to join uber because I wanted to do something during the day while I was looking for a job. It was really hard for me to find another job because of my size, but with uber nothing like that matters.

“Joining Uber was the best decision I’ve ever made. Not only do I get to meet new people and hear funny stories, I can also start when I want and finish when I want.”

“I would recommend Uber to anyone looking for some extra money or finding it hard to find a job.” Jordan, Perth

And partners like Paul who chose to drive with Uber to supplement his income while studying computer science.

"I was born with Spina Bifida and I really should not be here (alive) to write this, let alone having the ability to walk and function reasonably well, something that the majority of people with my condition will never experience.

I have my older brother and sister to thank for my ability to walk and  the most amazing mother in the universe to thank for my life thus far.

I am a chef by trade, but due to my condition I had to retire. Uber has now given me the opportunity to supplement my average wage to the point that I may continue my studies and also afford a few personal splurges here and there.

Finding a second job that allowed me to keep off my feet, not to mention being free to relax and enjoy meeting so many cool people and only do the hours I am comfortable with was impossible until I found Uber.” – Paul, Brisbane.

 Flexible income. Set your own schedule. Great support. Sign up to drive today. To sign up and apply to become a driver partner got to https://get.uber.com/cl/enabled/

 Uber app with a message to a hard of hearing driver -partner

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

For the past year, since launching on 11 September 2015, Enabled Employment has been winning awards for being a ‘start-up’. Start-up is a term used in the entrepreneur and tech world for a new company which is primarily internet based, and which has a business model which involves see... Read more >

For the past year, since launching on 11 September 2015, Enabled Employment has been winning awards for being a ‘start-up’. Start-up is a term used in the entrepreneur and tech world for a new company which is primarily internet based, and which has a business model which involves seeking private venture capital investment after proving their market worth. The term ‘start-up’ can be used while the company is being established. Some start-ups are only months old, while others are two or three years old.

Enabled Employment CEO Jessica May chose to follow the entrepreneurial path when she formed the business model she wanted for the company, rather than choose a not-for-profit business model.

Private venture capital investment is a whole new world for most of us. I learned about it when Jess was accepted into the GRIFFIN Accelerator. Private venture capital investment is when you are asking investors to exchange their hard earned cash for shares in the company.

An ‘accelerator’ or ‘business incubator’ such as GRIFFIN Accelerator is a group of experienced business people and entrepreneurs who exchange their cash for shares in your company to get your cash flow started, and mentor you through your first three months of business and ‘pitching’ for investment. Enabled Employment was accepted into the GRIFFIN program last year in July, and the knowledge gained from the team of mentors about doing business in the corporate world, and investment, was invaluable.

But why would someone choose a business model based on private venture capital when they could run a not-for-profit and get government subsidies, and tax concessions?

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there are approximately 2.2 million Australians of working age with a disability. The current social security system demands that if you receive a government payment such as Newstart, you are required to meet the job seeking criteria. If you disclose you have a disability, you will be referred to an employment service which specialises in placing people with disability into jobs, in return for government funding.

Jess made a decision on ethical grounds about how people with a disability are offered jobs. Currently, job seeking assistance to people with a disability is paid for by the government, and, depending on the level of disability, per person the government pays $890 for 13 weeks assistance from an employment services provider. Then there is a job placement fee of $770 per job placement, bringing the cost of services per individual to $1660.

Employers are subsidised by the government to provide ‘placements’ for people with a disability. Employers receive a 13 week placement fee of $2860, and a bonus of $572, and at the 26 week placement point, a further $7,700 plus a bonus of $1540. That’s $12,672 for six months provision of a placement.

All this adds up to $14,332 per person, per placement. And that’s at a minimum; the figures are higher for those with higher assistance needs.

Enabled Employment does not receive any of this government funding under the current disability employment framework. CEO Jess May considered the practice of government payments to employers for providing ‘placements’ to people with disability, and decided that another option was definitely both needed, and possible.

As people with skills, work experience, abilities and qualifications, she does not believe employers should be subsidised to employ people with a disability. The company she runs believes wholeheartedly that paying an employer to provide a job to a person with a disability encourages a misplaced belief that it is a ‘charitable favour’ to give work to a person with a disability – rather than an opportunity to diversify the workforce, and gain the demonstrable skills and capabilities of a qualified and skilled employee.

Why should I, for example, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, be considered any less worthy of a role than someone with out those conditions? I’ve only taken one day off sick in the last 2 years, I work full-time hours, I have two degrees – and over 20 years experience as a professional communicator. Why should an employer get a windfall of some $12,000 to employ me for a short six months?

By not taking government subsidies, Enabled Employment is trying to change attitudes, in every sphere of Australia’s corporate world, towards how we regard the work capabilities and value of people with a disability. We do not believe that subsidies are the answer, for either employers or people with a disability.

So Jessica, and our Chief Information Officer and web wizard Chris Delforce, have ‘mainstreamed’ the recruitment process for our employee cohort, providing a jobs website where people with a disability can access job opportunities with inclusive employers – using flexible working options and a results oriented work environment.

Our approach ensures there is some level of self determination and choice in how people with a disability find work.

There’s a saying in ‘start-up’ world, and that is ‘Be the change you want to see.’

We are the change we want to see, and we hope our journey continues as successfully as it has for the last ten months.

As people with disability have suffered, and continue to suffer discrimination and prejudice in society, and in the workplace, it is understandable to hear the frustration. Frustration about inequality, channelled positively, can lead to activism, which can take many forms. Social media has made ... Read more >

As people with disability have suffered, and continue to suffer discrimination and prejudice in society, and in the workplace, it is understandable to hear the frustration. Frustration about inequality, channelled positively, can lead to activism, which can take many forms. Social media has made activism, advocacy and awareness-raising much easier, but it is not always positive. Recent campaigns for issues such as the ‘naked selfie’ for cancer demonstrates that activism can be positive and that social media can be a force for real change. What can the community of people with disabilities do to emulate a positive use of social media?

Fund and Awareness Raising

The Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 for ALS/MND is a superb example of raising awareness of a debilitating illness. Charity information, websites and campaigns can only go so far, and people must want to find out information in the first place about a particular issue, and information may often come off as ‘marketing speak’. That’s where a novelty action such as the ice bucket challenge can be far more engaging. The action of dousing oneself in icy water has been compared to the physical effects of ALS/MND on the body.

Blogs

One of the greatest additions to internet culture in recent years has allowed anybody to become a writer. Free blog sites such as wordpress, blogger, live journal and blog.com have allowed unprecedented access for people to tell their story to the world. That’s what inspired Eva Markvoort (a young lady who suffered from Cystic Fibrosis until her death in 2010) to live her life to the full and encourage others to do the same. She pursued an acting career, not letting her disability or the persistent rejections of directors expressing concern about the impact of her illness on the role for which she was applying, get in the way. Her death led to a discussion on Cystic Fibrosis in the Canadian Parliament, the first time the subject had come up in six years. Those who do not or cannot write are turning to videos to share their experience. One of the most prolific vloggers (the term for a video blogger) on YouTube is Robyn Lambird, a person living with cerebral palsy she vlogs about her experiences of CP, fashion, education, social attitudes and any other subject that takes her fancy.

DisabledCommunity.net

In a bid to make social media more accessible, and to provide a global support network for the widest range of people with disabilities, there is now a dedicated social network. DisabledCommunity.net links together people all over the world, not just those with disabilities, but also their carers. It aims to do for people with disability what Facebook has done for practically everyone, providing a positive platform for people to meet and stay in touch no matter where in the world they are.

What’s Your Message?

The key here is positivity. People respond to a positive spirit, the novelty, an engaging medium and attitude. Charities do a lot of great work in raising funds and awareness for causes but that is only half the story; the internet provides a great opportunity for people with disabilities to aid in breaking down the barriers, to show that the person is not the disability, to share real stories of real lives.

Let us know about your blog… We’re interested to see who amongst you has been blogging, and how you’ve approached thinking about how to change attitudes towards people with a disability, and how far your thoughts have reached. Have you stimulated a positive discussion about inclusion, and the expanding of ‘workplace diversity policy’ to include people with a disability? Contact us at info@enabledemployment.com and let us know what you’re doing in the world of blogging, or v-logging.

 

There’s a lot of chatter on various different social media platforms today about ‘equality’. Generally, equality is defined as equal opportunity for women, LGBTI, cultural or religious groups. Strong advocacy and decades of organising have given these groups a voice, and raised ... Read more >

There’s a lot of chatter on various different social media platforms today about ‘equality’. Generally, equality is defined as equal opportunity for women, LGBTI, cultural or religious groups. Strong advocacy and decades of organising have given these groups a voice, and raised awareness of the issues. People still rage against inequality, rightfully so, and talk of the glass ceiling, and lobby for better work opportunities.

But do a google search on the term ‘disability employment policy private sector Australia’, and for the first ten pages of results you’ll find two things; government diversity policies – necessitated by Australia’s signature on the United Nations Covenant on Human Rights, and supported employment providers in Australia.

Ironically, those with the strongest policies on disability employment – the public sector – seem to be losing the ability to employ people with disability, with Australian Government employment statistics showing a dismal participation rate, which has dropped alarmingly in the last decade.

But, back to the search engine - it’s not until the tenth Google results page or later that you’ll find some of our more progressive Australian private sector employers with specific inclusion strategies for people with disability.

While diversity policies exist in the private sector, the definition of ‘diversity’ is often vague, and acknowledges the minority groups with strong lobbying activists, LGBTI, multicultural and religious groups.

Disability is sometimes missing entirely.

Why is that?

The public sector and political approach to disability employment relies heavily on the not-for-profit ‘supported’ employment model. This model uses subsidies from the Australian Government to fill roles and ensure adaptive technology, workplace modifications and training are undertaken prior to placing a person with a disability in employment.  This is a valuable, and necessary part, of disability employment in Australia’s public, private and community sectors.

But it’s only partly the answer. And it’s expensive, and relies on an employer being ready to ‘adapt’ to a person with disability working for them. With a lack of awareness in diversity policies, or no diversity policies at all, disability employment participation rates have little to no chance of improving from the current unemployment rate for people with disability. Seventy five per cent of people with disability in Australia don’t need supported employment, aren’t covered by the NDIS, and have skills ranging from post-graduate degrees through to Certificate IV’s, and many – who acquire disability in their lives, have a great deal of work experience prior to incurring disability.

What should we change?

There’s really only one thing that needs to change. We all do it. We all check our work emails from home, or finish off that proposal or tender from home, or work on our graphic design or publication from home to stay on track. We might keep it a secret, but we all do it. Most of us can log in from home, and we can’t help ourselves.

It’s called telework, and it’s the easiest adaptation anyone needs to make to improve disability employment participation rates.

Teleworking removes lots of barriers for people with disability.

Transport can be a major hassle if you don’t drive, and rely on public transport. It’s also exhausting for some people with disability, eating into their energy reserves and reducing their possible working hours.

Then there’s entering an office. You might have a fully disability access compliant office, but I guarantee there’ll be something that presents a barrier – mostly fire doors – which are heavy and not able to be modified to assist access for a person with disability.

Your systems may not be compatible with vision assistive technology. While access for service dogs is legislated, people still complain about animals in the workplace – including guide dogs for the vision impaired.

Then there’s the stereotypes people with disability need to contend with and challenge. Each disability presents it’s own difficulties, whether it’s social anxiety, physical disability, vision impairment, or a mental health issue. But the biggest difficulty by far is dealing with people’s reactions to it, when it’s disclosed. Some of us have no choice but to disclose – it’s obvious, but some people have ‘invisible’ disability, and have a choice about whether to disclose or not.

What’s the answer?

Let’s just admit it, our definition of diversity doesn’t automatically include disability when we write our policies, unless we’re in government or the community sector. And when it does, the focus is on adapting the person to the workplace, not the other way around. We need to review our definitions in light of the growing number of people with disability – which is set to grow with our ageing population.

Teleworking is an ideal way to provide employment opportunities to people with disability. People who also have years of work experience, qualifications and a great desperation and willingness to work. Telework opportunities mean people with disability have true flexibility in their working conditions. Working from home in an environment which is socially and physically comfortable ensures we are able to work at our own pace, at our own time, and with safety and comfort.

Think about people with disability next time you log on to work from home.

 Four diverse people sitting around a coffee table talking through some documents

A number of years ago I encountered a fellow wheelchair user on my commute to work. He was a young man, I'm guessing in his late teens or early 20s. I saw him a couple of times a week. He always had university textbooks on the tray table attached to the front of his chair and, based on their titl... Read more >

A number of years ago I encountered a fellow wheelchair user on my commute to work. He was a young man, I'm guessing in his late teens or early 20s. I saw him a couple of times a week. He always had university textbooks on the tray table attached to the front of his chair and, based on their titles, I assumed he was studying something business-y. I say assumed, because he and I never actually spoke. We just did the silent smile and acknowledgement often shared by wheelchair users encountering each other in public spaces. I like to call it the crip-nod.

After a couple of years of traveling together, this man was suddenly gone. I assumed he had finished his degree and gone off to be an accountant somewhere. Not the job of my dreams, but I liked to think he was happy enough to join the 9 to 5 army with his business degree in a frame in his office. I was pleased for him.

Maybe a year or more after he vanished from my morning commute I saw this man again. This time he wasn't on a train with a chair full of textbooks. He was selling The Big Issue outside Parliament station. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him. Of all the hypothetical careers I'd dreamed up for him, this hadn't factored amongst them.

I must stress at this point that The Big Issue is a wonderful publication. I buy it often. It provides opportunities for many people who are disadvantaged by one circumstance or another. "Get your Big Issue! Help the homeless and long term unemployed" is the cry of the vendor I often purchase from. And I'm happy to. Big Issue vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and many of them are people with disabilities, like my former fellow commuter.

The day I first saw him again, his tray now covered with plastic wrapped magazines instead of textbooks, I wasn't surprised. I had imagined a life and a career for him, but I know how these things work. Having graduated from university myself and faced an enormous struggle to find work many years ago, I know how difficult it is. The battle to find a workplace that's wheelchair accessible is a feat in itself, let alone an employer who's going to be cool about employing someone with a disability in a job you actually want to do.

I really wish I'd counted the number of job interviews I attended during my six-month term of unemployment straight out of uni. I was on the DSP, and I certainly didn't want to be. I was willing and able to work. I hated the thought of not being financially independent, but I was grateful for the income support the pension provided while I was busy writing job applications and attending interview after interview.

My favourites were the ones where I couldn't even get into the building. I quickly learned that asking if an interview space was wheelchair accessible was a bad idea; it gave a potential employer an immediate bad impression. It was either a black mark against my name, or a straight up discussion of why I wouldn't be able to work there because they had no wheelchair access. Then again, not mentioning it sometimes meant that I had to be interviewed outside. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Whenever political discussions turn to pensions, I'm reminded that our leaders (whoever they may be at the time) do not understand the deeply entrenched discrimination faced by people with disabilities in Australia, especially when it comes to employment. Making the DSP harder to get isn't going to "entice" people with disabilities into the workforce. We're already enticed. Some of us are desperate for opportunities to contribute and to earn a living.

The problem for many people with disabilities is not that we are not able to work a certain number of hours a week. It's that no-one will let us.

You can re-assess people until the cows come home. It won't create jobs, it won't create access and it won't change the negative attitudes and low expectations faced by people with disabilities. Perhaps the National Disability Insurance Scheme can address those things in the long-term. But for now, taking some of the most disadvantaged people in our communities and subjecting them to assessments that don't take into account the very real discrimination they face, is pointless.

We need flexible employment, reasonable adjustments and for society to invest in us.

Sometimes, when I pass the entrance to Parliament station and my friend from the train is not there, I smile. I indulge in the fantasy that he's working in the job those textbooks equipped him for, paying off his HECS debt and being a corporate slave. I breathe a little easier when he's not there. But he always shows up again. He no longer bothers with the crip-nod. I go about my day, desperately hoping I never lay eyes on him again.

Disabled entry into a metro train station

Posted by Stella Young | 0 comments

As we are all aware the International Day of People with Disability is about promoting an understanding of people with disability and encouraging support for their dignity, rights and well-being. Today I want to focus on employment as a means of achieving this goal.  Everybody should have th... Read more >

As we are all aware the International Day of People with Disability is about promoting an understanding of people with disability and encouraging support for their dignity, rights and well-being. Today I want to focus on employment as a means of achieving this goal.  Everybody should have the right to access and participate in employment.  Employment is one of the key elements in assisting somebody to live a happy, healthy and productive life.  Employment not only provides the capacity to achieve greater financial independence but it promotes dignity and social and mental wellbeing for people. It enables people to actively contribute within their community.

Furthermore, increased workforce participation of people with disability underpins the long term financial viability of the NDIS.  In order to meet this goal it is vital that a strong and efficient employment support system exists that will assist people to participate to their full potential.  But do we have the right support systems in place?

The Commonwealth Government currently invests approximately $6.8 Billion per annum in specialist disability employment services (this includes Disability Employment Services and Australian Disability Enterprises), yet the labour force participation rate for people with disability 15-65 years remains at an unacceptably low rate of 54% compared to those without a disability (83%) – (ABS, SDAC, 2014). Additionally Australia is ranked 21st out of 29 OECD countries for employment participation of people with disability.

The 2011 Deloitte Access Economics report ‘The Economic Benefits of Increasing Employment for People with Disability’ concluded that Australia would increase its Gross Domestic Project (GDP) by $43 billion if employment rates for people with disability were increased only by one third. The report estimated that a 10% increase in the labour market would equate to an increase of between 191,000 and 203,000 jobs for people with disability.

To increase employment participation we need to effectively engage people with disability, employers, service providers and government.  Current specialist employment related services/interventions (from school to retirement) have inflexible rules and regulations that impede the seamless transition from one phase to the next.  These include rules and regulations around:

  1. eligibility and access to different types and levels of support

  2. the manner and the delivery of the support required; and

  3. what constitutes employment.

So I have a few questions I hope you can provide some answers to, and these questions really drill down to how we can better assist people who want to work access employment opportunities.

If the current rules and regulations did not exist, what would the suite of employment supports look like?

How can people obtain the support they need to access appropriate types of employment when they need it?

How do we engage more effectively with employers?

I hope you will all engage in this conversation with me.

Male and female dressed in corporate wear shaking hands over a desk with papers on it

International Day of People with Disability is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the many skills and talents of people with disability, and to breakdown some of the unhelpful stereotypes that persist in our community. While it is true that people with disability are overrepresented in our... Read more >

International Day of People with Disability is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the many skills and talents of people with disability, and to breakdown some of the unhelpful stereotypes that persist in our community. While it is true that people with disability are overrepresented in our unemployment figures, and are far more likely to be living near the poverty line than people without disability, there are also over one million people with disability successfully employed in the Australian workforce. More than 1/3 of employed people with disability work in professional, managerial and administrator roles. People with disability are employed in a wide range of occupations and industries, and bring a diverse range of skills and abilities to the workplace.

Also contrary to common misconceptions, many people with disability have completed tertiary education or attained other qualifications. In fact, with advances in assistive technology, more and more people with disability are completing tertiary education than ever before – from 1995 to 2012 the number of people with disability graduating from university increased by over 400%.

Another persisting myth is that it costs a lot to employ a person with disability. This is simply not true; on average, employing a person with disability doesn’t cost any more than employing someone without disability. If there is a cost involved in making workplace adjustments, then these can be covered by the Australian Government funded Employment Assistance Fund. When workplace adjustments are required, often they are simple technological fixes that can break down barriers and improve workplace communication for everyone, not just the person with disability.

Which brings us to the theme for this year’s IDPwD: Sustainable development - the promise of technology.

Technology is a great enabler of human potential, and, for many people with disability, can help to break down barriers. When people have access to the right ‘tools’, opportunities are opened up and meaningful inclusion becomes a closer reality.

Every day, life-changing advances are being made in the field of assistive technology. It’s incredible the ways that simple (and not-so-simple) technology can enhance inclusion for people with disability, particularly when it comes to securing and maintaining employment.

People with impairments that affect their vision, hearing, movement, dexterity, cognition or communication may experience significant barriers in accessing information or participating in some aspects of daily life, and can find themselves excluded from many employment opportunities. Assistive devices, software and other technologies can negate the impact of a person’s impairment, opening up a range of opportunities and levelling the playing field.

One of the most significant areas that accessible technology has progressed is in the Smart Phone / Tablet market, and the development of assistive apps.

Mobile devices are leading the way in terms of accessibility; not only are the phones and tablets themselves embedded with a range of accessibility features, but new apps designed to improve accessibility for people with disability are launched every other week.

Apps can assist people with disability to communicate, to navigate, to travel, to purchase and to learn new skills. Apps can increase independence and enhance inclusion within the workplace, and make it easier for people with disability to do their jobs, and to fully participate in all aspects of life. The beauty of apps for accessibility is that they are cheap to develop, can be easily updated and improved without having to purchase new equipment, and are transferable to a range of devices.

There are apps to help people with vision impairments to read signs, reports, menus and other information when they’re out and about, and way-finding apps that use GPS and location-tracking technology to assist navigation. Speech to text apps can be of great assistance to people with hearing impairments. Apps can also integrate with other assistive devices like hearing aids, electric wheelchairs, or braille devices, and can even be used to control automated functions (eg. lights, television, alarm systems, temperature control) within the home or office.

Seeing the progress that has already been made in such a short timeframe, it’s exciting to imagine the future: a world where technology breaks down even more barriers and assists people with disability to be fully included in all aspects of life.

Two Smart Phones Stacked Together Showing Different Apps

Remember that feeling when teams are being picked and you are the last one.  It might be a sporting team, it might be a spelling bee, or it might be the handing out of invitations for the six year old birthday party.  Most if not all of us, at some point in our lives, have been left on ... Read more >

Remember that feeling when teams are being picked and you are the last one.  It might be a sporting team, it might be a spelling bee, or it might be the handing out of invitations for the six year old birthday party.  Most if not all of us, at some point in our lives, have been left on the bench.

It's a horrible feeling, right there in the pit of your stomach.  It usually shows on your face, and sometimes even trickles out of your eyes.  You want to be part of the in-crowd, but you don't get invited.

That's what happens to Australians with disabilities in the employment market.  Despite it being the accepted wisdom in Sydney's Daily Telegraph, none of us want to survive (I wouldn't call it live) on the Disability Support Pension - less than $20,000 a year.  All of us want to have an answer to that first barbecue question "what do you do?.

But 45% of Australians with disabilities live in poverty.  We are employed at a rate 30% less than the general population.  And in reality the statistics probably paint a more positive picture, because many of us have withdrawn from the labour market.  In the game of employment, far too many of us are benched from Team Australia.

This is despite the fact that we stay in employment longer and are more committed employees, we take less sick leave and make fewer workers compensation claims, we have a better safety record, and we are excellent problem solvers - we would have to be to get through our lives.

So it's time we - the members of Team Australia - did something about it.  Yes, I mean each one of us reading this blog.  It's time we shirt fronted our local politician.  Which I understand in polispeak means having a very robust conversation.  And here's what we should say.

I propose that politicians take the lead on employment of people with disabilities.  I suggest a government-established scheme which allows an extra member of staff for each politician who employs a person with a disability.  If you don't think it works, just ask Senator the Hon Jan McLucas the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Minister Duncan Gay in the NSW coalition government, or Jan Barham in the NSW Upper House representing the Greens - they've already done it, and they speak publicly about the benefits.  Or just ask Kelly Vincent, a woman with disabilities representing the Dignity For Disability party in the SA upper house.  I'm sure other politicians around the country have done it as well - I just don't know who they are.

Let's count the positives-

  1. Each politician gets an extra member of staff.  That gets a tick inside Parliament.

  2. Just doing the numbers - pun intended - at the federal level, around 250 more people with disabilities get a job.  That gets a tick in the disability sector, and in the community.

  3. The additional cost to the budget is under $20 million assuming $80,000 for the cost of employing each extra Electorate Officer.  That's probably the equivalent of the pilot's seat in one of our new Joint Strike Fighters.

  4. People come into electorate offices and see Australians with disabilities gainfully employed - a positive image.

  5. We make a small saving from the welfare budget if people move off the Disability Support Pension.  Let's say that's $5 million - we saved the seat cushion.

  6. The percentage of employees with disabilities in the public service increases from its current shameful level of 2.9% when the number of people with disabilities of working age is 15%.

So how do we make this dream a reality?

It's up to all of us.  I challenge every one of you who reads this to shirt front your federal member of parliament, in the House of Representatives or the Senate.  Personal visits work best.  Letters or phone calls next best.  But emails are good as well.  You can find their contact details at  www.aph.gov.au  It doesn't matter which party they represent - we just want to create a ground-swell of support.

I made three phone calls today.  How many have you contacted?

Graeme Innes AM is a human rights advocate, Australia's former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and a renowned shirt fronter - in polispeak of course.

Circle of hands clasped together as a team

Posted by Graeme Innes | 0 comments

To kick off of our week long blogging event to celebrate International Day of People with Disability we have turned on of my most popular blog posts 10 Facts About Disability Employment You Won't Believe into an infograph... Read more >

To kick off of our week long blogging event to celebrate International Day of People with Disability we have turned on of my most popular blog posts 10 Facts About Disability Employment You Won't Believe into an infographic.  Hope you find it eye opening.  Make sure you share and lets try and get this information viral!  Tune in tomorrow for our next blog post by Graeme Innes AM.

Infographic of 10 Facts About Disability Employment You Won't Believe

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Last week, Enabled Employment competed in the 1776 World Cup Challenge, a global competition in 16 cities around the world to identify and celebrate the most promising startups tackling the biggest challenges in four categories:... Read more >

Last week, Enabled Employment competed in the 1776 World Cup Challenge, a global competition in 16 cities around the world to identify and celebrate the most promising startups tackling the biggest challenges in four categories: education, energy, health, and cities.  We were up against some amazing competitors and it got me thinking about other businesses that are instigating change in the disability sector.

One of the main reasons that Enabled Employment chose to be a for profit business was to try and disrupt the disability sector and encourage other businesses to do the same and instigate social change.  Along the way we are hearing of many innovative businesses in the sector doing some fantastic things with technology so thought I would share some information on these amazing ideas.

Technology is big business – it drives us and this is as true in the disability sector as it is anywhere else. Whether the latest advances in building modification, IT developments, mobile apps or anything else – here are some of the most important developments in the last few years that are or can improve the employability of people with disability.

Hear and Say

The 2014 Queensland Technology and Innovation Award went to the Hear and Say Centre, an organisation dedicated to paediatric care of children with severe hearing difficulties, and those who are completely deaf. The organisation has been operating for 21 years and presently has six centres; it helps families all over the country develop language and communication skills, both for the children, and for the families to communicate with their hearing-impaired children. In the last few years it has branched out into partnerships all over the globe, such is the success of its model.  You can read more about Hear and Say at their website http://www.hearandsay.com.au/

Kenguru

Mobility is one of those issues restricting the mobility of some wheelchair users.  Many wheelchair users do drive and enjoy the freedom of having a car.  For others, simply getting in and out of a car is difficult. Introduced in early 2014, the Kenguru Electric Car addresses this problem.  With a hatch at the back large enough for a wheelchair to roll in and roll out, it has the complete frame of a typical electric car and even looks like a car, but the mechanics of steering and mobility on the inside is more like a motorcycle.  Its weight and design means it is classified as a light motorcycle for license purposes.  Read about thie success at http://www.kenguru.com/

Smartphone Technology for the Blind

Most people are able to enjoy the convenience of a smartphone, all except those who are completely blind.  That is why in 2013 several designers conceptualised and developed Braille Smartphones and the first models went on sale in early 2014.  Previous phones for the blind relied on audio technology, vibrations and voice command – not one had been able to incorporate the technology allowing blind users to read messages.  There are now many options to choose from; it is not clear whether the devices will take off in the long term considering Apple iPhones come with VoiceOver (a gesture based technology), ideal for blind users.  The first braille phone to be released in Australia was the OwnFone https://www.ownfone.com.au/

Lucy Keyboard

People with disability struggle in a working environment and arguably those who struggle most in an office environment are people with very limited or no use of their hands.  Lucy-4 tries to solve this problem using lasers. With a small laser mounted onto head ware – it fits easily onto a pair of glasses and on a headband – simply point the laser at the desired key on the light-sensitive keyboard (ideally placed next to a monitor) and the keyboard will do the rest. Its designer came up with the concept in 1980 and it has gone through several design upgrades since.  More information on Lucy Keyboard is at http://lucykeyboard.com/

Enable Development

Enable Development is one of our partners and is headed up by Huy Nguyen who was the ACT Young Australian of the Year for 2013.  Enable Development is working in collaboration with the Australian National University to develop low cost solutions to assistive technology such as mobility aids, computer accessibility software and sporting equipment.  Through enabling technologies people can invest their money into more fulfilling activities such as traveling the world, gaining higher education. Instead of activities that most people take for granted.  You can read all about the great work that Enable Development is doing in this space at http://enabledevelopment.com/enabletechnology/

Do you know of any other innovations in the disability sector?  I would love to hear about them. Leave me a comment below and we can keep the conversation going.

Chalkboard with a drawing of a light bulb and the text Innovative Start Up

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

Last week, I was privileged to attend a panel discussion on disability employment hosted by the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis as part of the Parliamentary Triangle Seminar Series.

Read more >

Last week, I was privileged to attend a panel discussion on disability employment hosted by the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis as part of the Parliamentary Triangle Seminar Series.

The discussion centred on the ‘tiers’ of the NDIS, and the need for a ‘jobs plan’ from the Federal Government.

But, a huge percentage of Australians living with a disability are not eligible for support under the NDIS. The majority of them are living in poverty, and in the demoralising and depressing reality of attempting to find work as a person with disability. Or they are being supported financially by their family, suffering from episodic illness or ‘invisible’ disability. Some have given up on the chance of ever having a career or using their qualifications – a hopeless and helpless situation which increases the likelihood of mental health issues such as depression.

The suggestions raised by the panel discussion on how to move forward on disability employment were closely focussed on ‘supported employment’.

Supported employment is a necessary and valuable strategy used by the not-for-profit sector to find employment for people with disability. At the end of the day, the government will pay a not-for-profit a considerable sum to place a person with disability in ‘supported employment’, which means the employer is paid to take the person on as an employee, and the not-for-profit organisation provides training to the employer and their staff on disability in the workplace, and mentoring for the person employed. I am not criticising the supported employment model, it is a valuable and necessary process for those people with disability who need the support.

But what about people who cannot, and do not, access supported employment?

Generally, they are highly skilled, having gained their academic qualifications, and then seeking work, finding no opening available. Often they return to studying, and become highly qualified, perpetual students with bright minds and a great eagerness to enter the workforce. And yet, the unemployment rate for people with disability in Australia is running at a fairly constant 45.7 per cent. Studies have shown university graduates with disability take longer to gain full-time work than other graduates.

The panel discussion raised the pertinent point that employers hold an ‘expectation of underperformance’ when it comes to employees with disability. Flexible working options for people with disability are also frowned on as too easily ‘rorted’. In the current employment climate, any person with disability given employment will need to put in 150 per cent effort and work twice as hard as non-disabled employees to gain credibility and prove they are not underperforming because of their disability. Busting the stereotype demands an enormous amount of dedication and twice the effort.

I was somewhat disappointed that the discussions at the seminar did not include people with disability taking their financial futures into their own hands, running their own companies, or using home-based work as a genuine career option.

People with disability, I would argue, have the same right as any other Australian to expect that they can have a career, and use their qualifications, and earn a living. But that’s not our reality. As Stella Young said at the launch of Enabled Employment in September 2014, “nobody with two degrees wants to work in a ‘sheltered workshop’ doing photocopying.” Australia ranks 21 out of 27 in the OECD for disability employment participation, prompting the development and implementation of the NDIS.

In ‘The New Leviathan: A National Disability Insurance Scheme’ by Andrew Baker, he notes ‘that a substantial number of people of working age with disability will miss out on funded supports because their disability is likely to be assessed as not severe enough to warrant NDIS-funded support. This group will likely believe they should receive funded supports, but in reality will not.

Unfortunately, the NDIS is not the cure-all for people with disability that the general public thinks it is, and in terms of disability employment – it relies heavily on supported employment from not-for-profit organisations, with no mention of private or public sector involvement or dedication to the employment of people with disability who do not qualify for NDIS support.

For the majority of people with disability in Australia, there is no option but to rely on the government for an income, and to live below the poverty line. The barriers to employment for people with disability include access, reluctance by employers to embrace flexible working arrangements, and the stereotypical expectation that an employee with disability will automatically underperform.

Flexibility for people with disability in employment is the key to raising the disability employment participation rate. Private sector employers with open minds are embracing the idea of telework for people with disability, while both state and federal governments lag behind with ever decreasing disability employment statistics in the public service.

And, it is time for people with disability to demand the right to work, and to use their qualifications and skills in their chosen field of study. While we remain silent and continue to rely on pensions and social security payments, we are disempowered and lost in the dark reality of stereotypes and myths about employing people with disability.

So how do we solve the problem?

We need to reassess how we employ people with disability. Employing a skilled worker who happens to have a disability does not necessarily mean spending a great deal of money adapting a workplace and training staff and management in how to ‘cope’ with a person who has a disability. Neither does it mean an increase in insurance premiums or excessive sick leave. Studies have proven that people with disability take less time off, make less workers compensation claims, and are just as productive in comparison to non-disabled people.

Flexible working arrangements, such as teleworking, provide a viable and effective means to ensure people with skills and qualifications can participate in the workforce. I urge all employers – public, private and community sectors - to re-think their disability employment strategies – and their flexible working options – to ensure that people with disability who do not access supported employment can expect the same career opportunities as everyone else.

I welcome your feedback, please leave me a comment below.

 

Home based work for people with disability

My blog post on 10 Facts about Disability Employment you won't Believe has been getting a lot of traffic, so I thought I would go into a bit more detail on these and other facts and what Australia is doing... Read more >

My blog post on 10 Facts about Disability Employment you won't Believe has been getting a lot of traffic, so I thought I would go into a bit more detail on these and other facts and what Australia is doing to try and change these shocking statistics. 

In 2008, the United Nations launched the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Designed to ensure that people with disabilities were considered equal in the eyes of the law in each participating nation, it covers a multitude of things, including rights regarding employment. Many countries still have low participation rates in the employment sector and in some ways Australia is falling behind many of its developed world counterparts. The country is taking steps to address this imbalance but first we need to look at the current state of affairs.

Hard Facts

In recent years, two separate studies have demonstrated low workforce participation for people with a disability.  The first recorded 54.3% participation and around 84% for people without a disability.  A separate study demonstrated an even greater disparity with the figures at 39.8% and 79.4%.

In 2009, following the worst period of the economic crisis, the national average unemployment rate rose to 5.1%.  However, amongst people with disabilities that figure was 7.9%. The situation for people with mental illness is even worse: participation rate in 2003 was just 28.2% and the unemployment rate in the same year was 19.5%, nearly four times that of the general population.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an organisation dedicated to promoting democracy and the market economy, listed 29 countries for employment rates of people with disability.  Australia was ranked 21st, this was the lowest of all developed nations.  In 2011, Pricewaterhouse Coopers listed quality of life for people with disability in 27 countries.  Unfortunately, Australia came 27th in that list too.

When it comes to poverty, the global average of people with disability living at or below the poverty line is 22%.  Australia’s is over double that at 45%.  It’s hardly surprising when around two thirds of people living with a disability is earning a weekly wage under $320 when the equivalent amongst the general population is one third.  Unfortunately, in Australia, people with disabilities are more likely than any other group to be living day to day in poverty.

So What is Australia Doing about This?

Shocked by some of the findings above, the national government took steps to improve the situation and adhere to disability employment laws as well as international conventions on human rights.  The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 aims to significantly improve a number of factors related to disability employment including awareness, to allow the individual control over their working lives and to actively encourage businesses to more actively consider people with disabilities’ applications.

Part of this strategy included the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a plan to permit people with disability and mental illness to control their own employability and employment. It replaces a number of grants and schemes for individuals for greater workplace participation. It includes (but is not limited to) training and care provisions for those who are ineligible for Job Services Australia and Disability Employment Services, assistive technology and a number of other services. 

By 2020, Australia expects to be amongst the highest rated nations for workforce participation of people with disabilities and mental illness.  We will be watching and waiting to see when the NDIS turns its thoughts to employment which is the logical and very talked about next step.  We, like I'm sure you do, have a lot of suggestions on how this may work in the future.

Lady in business wear stands with clapping colleagues

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

A lot of people with disabilities have identifiable physical signs and the potential employer may already be aware of their disability.   People with mental health issues on the other hand often find themselves in a grey area and feeling anxious about what they can be open about, when and if... Read more >

A lot of people with disabilities have identifiable physical signs and the potential employer may already be aware of their disability.   People with mental health issues on the other hand often find themselves in a grey area and feeling anxious about what they can be open about, when and if they should tell someone, and to whom.

Mental Health and Work

The Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia (MIFA) reported in 2010 that 60% of respondents felt that employment and support for seeking employment was a key concern, second only to housing.  Many stated that employment was not only feasible but also key to their recovery.  A 2003 analysis showed that workforce participation rate for people with mental illness was 28.2% with the unemployment rate at 19.5%; this compares to people with physical disabilities at 48% participation and 7.7% unemployment.  Furthermore, MIFA also reports that people with mental illnesses are the largest group to access disability employment services and have the lowest rate of positive outcomes for securing and remaining in employment – the report cited employer reluctance, based on misunderstanding, to recruit people with mental illness.

Though there are no legal obligations to do so, there are pros and cons to informing or not informing an employer.

Reasons to inform your employer:

- Permits your employer to investigate any potential adjustments to your working pattern – an example might be necessary time off for therapy or counselling or company support programmes

- As with any other employee with a disability, employers are legally obliged to take reasonable steps to accommodate you

- Protects your rights as a person with a disability and where necessary, your right to bring a Disability Discrimination Complaint should disciplinary action ever require such an action

Reasons not to inform your employer:

- When the mental health condition does not and will not impact the job and cannot see that you will ever require reasonable adjustment

- Your right to privacy and trusting your own judgement about your condition

- Concern that being open about your condition may lead to discrimination, harassment or might affect promotion prospects

What an Employer Can Do

Employers are legally obliged to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.  Workplace adjustments for people with mental illness might reasonably include some of the following:

- Flexible working conditions

- The option of the employee with a mental illness to work with a mentor

- Modifying the job role to reduce stress and anxiety if the job role proves stressful

- Mental health awareness training for staff and management

- Any required physical modifications

- The offer of counselling or any other help that might assist the employee to be fully productive in the work place

Support Services and Assistance

The National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy (NMHDES) released in September 2009 aims to assist people with mental illness and disabilities obtain and retain employment. There is an annual fund of $1.2b that started in financial year 2009-10.

The Disability Employment Service is applicable to people with mental illness. It provides flexible assistance for those seeking work and for those who require help as part of employment they are already engaged in.

The Employee Assistance Fund (EAF) provides assistance and access to necessary resources for employees and employers including advice on relevant workplace modifications. The EAF is the major source of funding for workplace assistance for people with mental illness and helps with education for employers regarding mental health issues; for employees it offers special support and training packages.

JobAccess provides advice and workplace solutions for people with mental illness and their employers.  The service is free and has professional psychologists as part of its team.  The professional services include information on the full range of government funded services, practical working solutions and how to create and maintain a productive and healthy working environment for people with disabilities or mental illness.  It can also advise on the full range of legal obligations and offers information on financial assistance.

The Workplace Adjustment Tool is an online database that gives advice on potential workplace adjustments that you might make for an employee with a mental illness – and key indicators that the staff member might be experiencing an issue.  A wide range of issues are covered: depression and anxiety, eating disorders, dementia and personality disorders.

Mindfulemployer.org offers a wide range of advice for employers, especially in the realms of education and awareness.  They provide regular workshops with employers in mind.

Similarly, Beyondblue.org.au covers the spectrum of mental health awareness and offers advice on making a workplace a healthy place to be for people with mental illness.

Business woman sitting and reading a book

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

Most of the developed world is now entering economic recovery. But Australia is not doing quite as well as some other countries, and there is a looming issue with something all too common during economic growth: a skills shortage.  Skills shortages also occur during economic decline but it c... Read more >

Most of the developed world is now entering economic recovery. But Australia is not doing quite as well as some other countries, and there is a looming issue with something all too common during economic growth: a skills shortage.  Skills shortages also occur during economic decline but it can be more pronounced during periods of growth.

Each one of Australia’s states and territories is presently reporting skills shortages in multiple areas and the problem can come in many forms:

  1. Not enough qualified people to fill vacant roles

  2. Lack of experience of qualified people applying for those roles

  3. Disparity between employment package and employee expectations

  4. Jobs that regularly attract no applicants

  5. Unwillingness to relocate.

Tackling the Problem

One way to address the skills shortage is for businesses to offer better conditions and higher wages, but this is not always going to have the desired effect, especially if you are looking for people with niche skills who may not be looking for work. The newly-qualified aren't always going to have the experience you desire.  There is another answer and it means changing your business practice and outlook to focus in on expanding the talent pool.

Considering the disability employment participation rate in Australia and the high unemployment rate (which means they are willing and able to work), it is apparent that there is large untapped resource available to address some of the problems that Australian businesses face.

The Advantages of Employing People With Disabilities

I have discussed on this blog numerous times the impressive statistics regarding employees with disabilities:

  1. They take less sick time and are just as productive as any other worker

  2. They stay in jobs longer (are less likely to move on which is critical in jobs that require a lot of training)

  3. Are willing and motivated, largely because of the low participation rate of their demographic.

A company called Gitanjali Gems of India came up against a skills shortage in the latter part of the last decade. They faced two problems:

  1. Jewellery manufacturing is a niche skill requiring a lot of training; and

  2. the industry has a high dropout rate.

Their directors decided to actively pursue potential new employees from a new demographic – a group with just 8% workforce participation and a devastating 0.1% full time employment rate. Thanks to this programme, 10% of Gitanjali Gems’ employees are now people with disabilities. There has been a noticeable effect on the company, including greater productivity and lower turnover.

Actively encouraging people with disabilities into your business has clear and measurable benefits whether you have a skills shortage or not.  When you expand your talent pool as far as possible, you will see only benefits. 

We have 150 highly qualified and skilled employees ready to start working for your business now, so if you're finding it difficult to recruit because of a skills shortage, think outside the square.

How many people with disabilities does your business employ?

We want to hear your examples of people with disabilities improving your business outcomes.  Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going. And if you want to increase your productivity, address the skills shortage and have a more reliable and stable workforce, call us at Enabled Employment. We can help.

Magnifying glass over the word skills

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

I have spent a bit of time telling you all about the benefits of telework, but now I'm going to get more in to the benefits of employing people with a disability.  There are a lot of myths out there about people with a disability and I think Graeme Innes, the former Disability Discrimination... Read more >

I have spent a bit of time telling you all about the benefits of telework, but now I'm going to get more in to the benefits of employing people with a disability.  There are a lot of myths out there about people with a disability and I think Graeme Innes, the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, gets it right when he says "the soft bigotry of low expectations limits what we achieve".  Unfortunately, low expectations is something that people with a disability face all the time.  But why is this?  Most of us are very highly educated and want to work so why do employers think we can't? 

I think this is very much about changing attitudes to people with a disability and some fantastic work is being done by the Attitude Foundation (http://www.attitude.org.au/) and the Able Movement (www.facebook.com/theablemovement) in this space, but I wanted to contribute to busting some of the myths about employing people with a disability.  So here it is, hope it's enlightening for you and inspires you to increase the diversity of your workforce.

1. Talent Pool

One of the biggest ongoing complaints from business in the western world is often a lack of a suitable talent pool from which to choose potential new employees. There may be a number of reasons for this, but businesses can maximise their talent pool by consciously attracting people with disability and making their premises attractive and accessible. People with disabilities are just as educated, just as ambitious, often just as experienced and motivated as the rest of the population.  We also make up 15% of Australians of working age (15-64 years) so if you're excluding people with a disability this is a big amount of potential talent you are missing out on.

Moreover, you may bring additional skills into the premises (sign language being one such example). Having one person with that skill will make it easier for others to integrate. “People with disability are a resource of abilities, of willpower - they are real economical and social actors” according to President of the ACCOR hotel group.

 2. Image and Staff Morale

It will be good for your company image to promote a diverse workplace, accessibility and not keeping your talent pool to narrow criteria (which is against the law in most countries anyway). Companies who actively promote diversity usually gain recognition in trade or national press and have potential to win awards; recent studies have shown that people look favourably on businesses with inclusive employment policies.

There are extra benefits to your existing staff. It can enrich the working lives of your other employees by exposing them to people with disabilities that they may not encounter in other aspects of their life. Breaking down prejudice in the workplace can be immensely helpful to removing the barriers that prevent people with disability from participating in the workplace on an equal footing.

 3. Employees

 People with disabilities want to work and prove themselves as individuals just like anybody else. Statistics and studies have persistently shown several eye-opening facts:

  • They are just as productive and motivated as able bodied people

  • There is a greater level of retention with employees with disabilities – in short, they are less likely to move on and more likely to be amongst your longest-serving employees

  • A report in Salon in 2013 reported high levels of reported efficiency amongst business leaders when discussing the performance of their employees with disabilities

  • Most importantly, there are reported much lower levels of sickness and other unscheduled leave

Further, the Salon article states “Studies of Walgreens’s experience at a few distribution centers show disabled workers are more efficient and loyal than nondisabled workers. Absenteeism has gone down, turnover is less, and safety statistics are up. And the cost of accommodating such workers with new technologies and education is minimal.”

4.Profits

If you are retaining staff for longer, experiencing less unscheduled leave, increasing productivity, improving staff morale and your image what do you think will happen? Your business will grow, you will attract more business, you will attract better employees and you will increase your profits.  Now, that's not a bad thing is it?

It is largely the cost of accommodating employees with disabilities, and not prejudice, which sometimes may put off businesses from actively engaging the wider workforce pool. This may be particularly true of small to medium enterprises that have less capital and lower turnover. Fortunately, in the 21st century most countries in the developed world have specific bursaries and funds available to help businesses meet the costs of workplace modification and most modifications are inexpensive anyway. Charities and commissions are on hand to offer advice and services like Enabled Employment remove all of these barriers anyway. 

So why aren't you employing more people with a disability?  It's very easy and as above you can see the benefits it will make for your business. As always, I love to keep the conversation going so ask me some questions or leave some comments below.

Talent2

 

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

Keeping in theme of my last blog post about telework and the results only work environment, I thought I would go into some more detail about how telework can benefit your business.  I know through my discussions with business it is not so easy to see why telework might be right for your busi... Read more >

Keeping in theme of my last blog post about telework and the results only work environment, I thought I would go into some more detail about how telework can benefit your business.  I know through my discussions with business it is not so easy to see why telework might be right for your business so here are my top five reasons reasons that you should consider telework. 

I am positive that teleworking is right for a lot of businesses, it is just a different way of thinking, but once you have seen the results and the potential cost savings in practice, you will want to do more!

1. Efficiency

In a period of economic difficulty, recession or even the early stages of recovery, a business’ performance is most important to its survival or success. This is the time to look at streamlining operations, cutting unnecessary costs and attempting to maximise output. Telework increases work efficiency by focusing on the targets of individual employees rather than the amount of time they are at work. “Work smarter, not harder” is a common business phrase today and telework allows the business and the employee to work smarter.

Consequently, the focus on targets and achievement encourages the employee to understand the importance of targets, deadlines and amount of work that you are looking to achieve as a business.

2. Job Satisfaction

Many studies have demonstrated that employees are far more productive and happier when offered flexible working patterns. Parents often make decisions about where and when they work, taking into account their extra responsibilities. The ability to set his or her own hours around those responsibilities leads to less stress for the employee and more work produced for the employer.

Never underestimate the importance of a bond of trust. If you have a system in place for your employees to work from home, they are going to feel trusted and valued that they have more freedom and satisfaction in that freedom. Job satisfaction also means greater staff retention.

3. Expands Potential Work Pool

Single parents, people with disabilities and mental illness who may not be able for one reason of another to get into a place of work are able to work from home or any other suitable place of their choosing.  Some jobs may exclude these groups merely by requiring them at a place of work.  When that is also their home, many of the stresses of other commitments become negligible.  With a flexible working system such as telework, geography, commitment and disability need not be limiting factors in the way that they may be with traditional working environments.

4. Saves Money

In a conventional office environment, you are likely to have many overhead costs – particularly in relation to utilities, which can be astronomical if you are running many computers, printers, scanners all at once all day, every day. If you then remove most of those staff to telework, this will drastically reduce your utility costs. Consequently, you may even be able to reduce your total office space and reduce your costs further.

Though an employee’s transport costs may not affect the business, some jobs do pay a bursary for commuting – especially for mid to high-level employees – and usually are responsible for the costs associated with sending an employee to a different work site. Telework will eliminate the costs associated with that; you will also be able to increase your business prestige by reducing your carbon footprint.

5. Unexpected Time Off

Studies have demonstrated that the amount of unscheduled time off such as sick days when the employee was capable of getting in to work and well enough to work, is greatly reduced. When at home, people are more likely to simply get on with their tasks and work through a minor ailment. It also means a whole working day is not lost if they happen to feel better at lunch time.

Have you got some tales about how telework has benefited your business?  I would love to hear them.  Leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation.

 

Benfits

Posted by Jess May | 0 comments

Telework is a growing trend and thanks to cheap and efficient internet-based technology of the last few years, the 9-5 communal office is not always the most beneficial way to get maximum productivity from your staff. Both employers and employees alike are seeing the benefit of working from home ... Read more >

Telework is a growing trend and thanks to cheap and efficient internet-based technology of the last few years, the 9-5 communal office is not always the most beneficial way to get maximum productivity from your staff. Both employers and employees alike are seeing the benefit of working from home rather than insisting on the office-based environment.  For employees with disabilities, telework could be beneficial and practical for all parties concerned.

Introducing the possibility for your employees to work from home can be hugely beneficial to your business but you will need a clear plan of how it might work. Logistically, there is a lot to think about and thankfully, there are already clearly defined programmes, presently working in the real world, which allows businesses to diversify to home-working employees.  One of the best-known systems is the Results Only Work Environment or ROWE.

So what is ROWE and how does it work?  In a move designed to reward productivity rather than hours worked, ROWE seeks to encourage managers to think about achievable goals for their department and for individual employees. The number and pattern of hours worked is irrelevant – this is about agreed achievable targets. Through it, businesses no longer need to work on the minutiae of their employees, merely their output. It seems to be working – ask clothing retailer GAP who fully embraced the method in 2008.

Telework is ideally suited to the ROWE method for its philosophy of working practice and patterns. The benefits for both employers and employees include:

  1. A focus on performance and targets leads to greater efficiency during a working day. Neither employee nor employer is watching the clock. The employee can use their own judgement on when to start and stop work and to take necessary breaks

  2. Employees who work from home and use the ROWE method report higher levels of job satisfaction from the flexible nature of the work pattern – set hours are a thing of the past, so long as scheduled tasks get done on time

  3. It builds trust between the employer and employee. Never underestimate the greater satisfaction that employees get from greater autonomy and accountability

  4. The employee will develop a greater understanding of the importance of business targets – why a certain project is vital to the company or why this target must be reached by the end of the month
    Employees can be recognised and rewarded for measurable results

Have you heard of ROWE or seen it in practice before?  What do you think of it?  Leave us a comment below and we can start a conversation about it.

Results

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Despite the fact that one in four Australians have a disability of some description, the employment statistics are shocking! 54% participate in the workforce compared to 84% of the general population. Telework, or working from home, provides a number of benefits to those who are able and willing ... Read more >

Despite the fact that one in four Australians have a disability of some description, the employment statistics are shocking! 54% participate in the workforce compared to 84% of the general population. Telework, or working from home, provides a number of benefits to those who are able and willing to work but are restricted by a disability.  Here are some great reasons why telework is going to totally change employment participation for people with a disability.

  1. Accessibility – Access to the building of a place of work and transport are the biggest barriers to the employment of people with disabilities

  2. Based on other studies from around the world, telework will increase disability employment levels anywhere from 3,230 (for those will a mild disability) to 14,868 (inclusive of all people with a disability in Australia)

  3. 9% of all people with a disability who are able to work identified flexible working hours as a major barrier – telework permits flexible hours

  4. A similar percentage identified transport as the biggest barrier – telework negates the travelling associated with most work

  5. A massive 66% of people not presently employed due to disability said they would take up a job if telework was an option

  6. Independent living modifications will already be present in the home – the environment will be suitable for their particular disability

  7. Technology necessary for a home offices is no longer cost-prohibitive – VoiP and Cloud technology makes for easy file sharing and communication

  8. A lack of flexible working hours is also a barrier to carers – a telework arrangement will help them work and remain focused on their caring commitments

  9. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia piloted a telework test scheme and calculated a 27% increase in productivity

  10. It’s good for morale too – over 70% of all employees who had used a telework option said they were happier in their jobs

  11. This in turn means your employees are less likely to leave. Replacing them can be expensive

  12. Geographical location need no longer be a barrier to employment

  13. Telework will allow people with disability to engage more fully in employment, productivity will increase and employees will overall be far happier in their jobs

Do you have any more reasons why telework is awesome, or even a personal story?  Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!

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We have some very exciting news here at Enabled Employment, we have been accepted into the GRIFFIN Accelerator!  This is HUGE news for us and means we will have some big employers on board very soon!

About the GRIFFIN Accelerator

The GRIFFIN Acceler... Read more >

We have some very exciting news here at Enabled Employment, we have been accepted into the GRIFFIN Accelerator!  This is HUGE news for us and means we will have some big employers on board very soon!

About the GRIFFIN Accelerator

The GRIFFIN Accelerator is a start-up accelerator in Canberra, Australia. Once a year entrepreneurs are invited to apply for a place in the 3+3 program for the opportunity to validate their idea, develop networks and fine-tune their business model.

The GRIFFIN Accelerator model is unique: shortlisted applicants will gain access to a 3 month program with $25,000 for customer validation activities, in return for 10% equity. At the end of this 3 month block, a select number of Griffin start-ups will be invited to continue for another 3 month intensive program with an additional $25,000 instalment for a further 5% equity. The core agenda is to form and support new innovative companies; providing a structured high growth path so start-ups exit the program with an investible proposition or revenue generation.

The GRIFFIN Accelerator, Canberra, draws experience from a pool of mentors, each with entrepreneurial experience, skills and experience in the government sector, or a significant technology industry network.  GRIFFIN mentors get involved. They provide sage advice and get their hands dirty when projects need a boost. A mentor is married to each project, acting like a case manager to ensure the participants are headed in the right direction.

If you would like to know more out the Griffin Accelerator you can visit their website.

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So keeping in the theme of our our last two blog posts, I'm sure you're all wondering how much does it cost to set up a home office?

Hardware technology for a home office is no longer as restrictive as it once used to be. With telework growing, it is quite clear that the cost of purchasin... Read more >

So keeping in the theme of our our last two blog posts, I'm sure you're all wondering how much does it cost to set up a home office?

Hardware technology for a home office is no longer as restrictive as it once used to be. With telework growing, it is quite clear that the cost of purchasing all necessary equipment is accessible to far more people. So, what might you need and how much will it cost?

  • Furniture – whether you use a laptop or desktop, you are going to need a suitable desk and chair. A basic computer desk with storage compartments and a shelf for a keyboard will start from around $130. A sofa chair, dining chair or high chair of a breakfast bar will not be good for posture. A good adjustable office chair starts from around $30
  • Internet – you will need access to the internet for telework – a home office simply cannot survive without it. There are a range of deals available in Australia – a typical 70GB monthly package will cost in the region of $50 per month
  • Computer – Your most basic piece of equipment. A desktop or laptop will be a matter of personal taste but a laptop will be cheaper and you can carry it around. A desktop may be more comfortable for the extended periods of use. Entry level price $400
  • Printer – You may or may not need one of these depending on your work. Multi-function devices (printer, scanner photocopier) are most popular these days. Starting price $150
  • Telephone – these are relatively cheap but as a homeworker you may get lots of phone calls so a model with a built in answerphone may be preferable here. Starting price $50

There’s so much freely available technology and no need to invest in expensive packages:

  • VOiP – Skype, Jitsi, VSee and Google Hangouts all offer a range of phone and video call options, video conferencing and text based communication (IM). All are suitable for the home worker
  • Office software – There’s no need to invest in the latest MS Office package when LibreOffice, OpenOffice and NeoOffice are useful emulators and even use Microsoft formats so you needn’t worry about incompatibility with others
  • Sharing –Google Docs and Zoho Docs are both free. Evernote allows you to grab web pages, images, audio clips, to make lists and share them across multiple devices and people instantly
  • Multimedia – Paint.Net and GIMP are superb open source versions of Paint Shop and Photoshop

Do you know of any other great free products you can use in the office?  Leave us a comment below with all of your ideas, I'd love to hear from you.

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Setting up a home office may seem simple, but it is easy to overlook some of the most fundamental requirements that would be second nature when working in an office. Before embarking on working from home you need to make sure that your working environment is safe, comfortable and suitable for you... Read more >

Setting up a home office may seem simple, but it is easy to overlook some of the most fundamental requirements that would be second nature when working in an office. Before embarking on working from home you need to make sure that your working environment is safe, comfortable and suitable for your individual needs. 

The Environment

The working conditions of the place where you work can be easily overlooked. The room needs to be light but minimising glare. Working by a window might give you maximum light but it is inadvisable to work in direct sunlight as this will lead to eye strain – as will too much shadow.

Room temperature is also a factor. In an office workplace, an employer is legally obliged to keep a room above a certain temperature. Within your home, you naturally want to be comfortable so do not overlook that a room might be too warm or too cold for you to work effectively.

Both the chair and the desk must be adjustable for personal comfort. People are of different builds and heights and there will be different opinions on personal comfort within the boundaries of what is deemed a healthy environment.

If you are primarily using a laptop, you might need a stand to raise the screen to a more comfortable level; any extended period of use of a laptop will also require a mouse.

Take Breaks

It is very important to take (typically 15 minutes out of a two hour period should be spent away from the screen). This does not just mean coffee breaks or lunch breaks, but also the need to mix up tasks within the working day; it is easy for work-from-home employees to lose track of time or to skip these breaks to get a task finished, especially when not conforming to a regular working-day format.

When it comes to laptops, these are designed primarily for short periods of working time. As well as the above mentioned stand and the need for a mouse, you will need to ensure that the table or desk you place it on is suitable. For a laptop especially and because of the potential greater strains on the body, it is necessary to take frequent short breaks away from the computer – this is also vital purely to keep active. It might be a good idea to work your exercise routine into your day. This means that you will need to work out a clear structure to your working day.

Structure

Distractions are the major problem with teleworking. You are always tempted to have that lie-in, to meet your friend for coffee, to have an extended lunch break to do household chores, to visit your parents, to check your social media, check your emails… and if you have children then your day is going to have to work around them. What you need is a structure to your working day and week. Make a plan of your weekly tasks, use a database or a spreadsheet to plan how long each task takes and whether they have deadlines.

If you live alone you are going to be working in isolation most of the time. Humans are social creatures and need interaction. Ideally, you could work social plans into your daily pattern. Certainly arrange to meet friends for coffee but set yourself a target of what you are going to achieve before you leave the house, or what you are going to do to “make up the time”. Strike the balance between work and play but do not let distractions consume you.

Is there anything you think I've missed?  Leave me a comment below. 

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Economic downturn and unemployment needn’t be the end of the world. This present economic downturn coupled with the always online connectivity has given some people the perfect opportunity to start freelance careers. Before you consider it, there’s some things you need to about workin... Read more >

Economic downturn and unemployment needn’t be the end of the world. This present economic downturn coupled with the always online connectivity has given some people the perfect opportunity to start freelance careers. Before you consider it, there’s some things you need to about working from home:

  1. Your working environment is crucial: You need the right desk and comfortable chair, a well-lit room away from everything else where you can focus on your work

  2. Structure: You are in charge of when you work (often meaning more hours) and take breaks. You are going to need structure – but that structure might change week to week

  3. Always at work: Your home is your workplace so “taking your work home” is unavoidable. It’s tempting to work weekends and evenings when you are bored and you will need to sometimes, try to do it only when it is necessary

  4. Your human contact will drop considerably: The working relationships of the office you have become used to will end so it is down to you to make a concerted effort to see friends and family

  5. Distractions are everywhere: The internet for the latest news, the neighbour who needs your help, your mother checking up on you, your children wanting you to play, the television, the radio, the friend who wants to meet for coffee, the sunshine is so inviting isn’t it?

  6. Free Technology: It’s everywhere so there’s no need to shell out on expensive software packages. As you start out, you’ll be on a limited budget. Skype and its clones are perfect for IM, phone calls and video conferencing, OpenOffice is a great MS Office clone

  7. Negotiation is an art: Unless you are working for an agency that will pay a set amount per job, you will come up against people who’ll knock your price down; you’ll be tempted to undersell your skills to secure a good contract. Stand up for what you are worth but be flexible

  8. Your working philosophy will change: It’s all results now, not hours. You can take Monday and Friday off but you might have to work through the weekend next week. It’s all about how much you achieve

  9. Communication: Most of your clients will be remote, sometimes hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Producing high quality work is essential but if you are difficult to get hold of, late with deadlines and rarely answer emails that will affect their opinion of your professionalism

  10. You are your own boss: Aside from some of those things above, you will reap the rewards of your success but you can also be the agent of your downfall. There’s no passing the buck or turning a job over because “it’s out of my pay grade”

Do you have any tips on working from home?  Leave a comment with your best ones below.

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To celebrate the launch of Enabled Employment, I'm going to post a few blog articles over the next few weeks with the first one setting the scene of disability in Australia.  Some of these facts and figures you won't believe.  How is a country as advanced as Australia failing so miserab... Read more >

To celebrate the launch of Enabled Employment, I'm going to post a few blog articles over the next few weeks with the first one setting the scene of disability in Australia.  Some of these facts and figures you won't believe.  How is a country as advanced as Australia failing so miserably in empowering and supporting people with a disability?

One in Five People in Australia has a disability which is in the region of 4 million people.  Keeping that information in mind, the following facts should be eye-opening:

  1. There is 54.3% workforce participation for people with a disability compared to 84% for people without a disability. A separate study showed that employment levels were 39.8% and 79.4% respectively

  2. As recently as 2010, the OECD rated Australia 21st out of 29 countries for employing people with disability – the lowest in the developed world

  3. Two thirds of people with disabilities are earning less than $320 per week compared to just one third of the general population. As a consequence of that...

  4. People with disabilities in Australia are more likely to be living in poverty than any other minority group

  5. Australia recently ranked 27th out of 27 countries for people with disability living on or near the poverty line. The global average is 22%, Australia’s is over double that at 45%

  6. On average, employees with a disability are less likely to take unscheduled time off, less likely to use sick leave and when in employment, on average stay in a job longer than their non-disabled counterparts

  7. The unemployment rate in 2009 was: 5.1% for the general population and 7.9% for people with disability – being registered unemployed means those individuals were willing and able to work

  8. People with mental illness had the lowest employment participation rates than any other disability group: employment participation rate in 2003 was 28.2%. Compare this to statistics at number 1 in this list

  9. People with mental illness had the highest unemployment rate of any disability group: 19.5%. Compare to statistics at number 7 in this list

  10. 48% of Complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission concern disability and are made against businesses

 Surprised yet?  It's pretty shocking isn't it?  I'd love to hear what you think about these statisitics, leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.

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I can't believe it's here, today is the day that we launch Enabled Employment! 

Did you know people with a disability take fewer days off, take less sick leave and stay in jobs longer than other workers? Have you always wanted to employ someone with a disability but thought it was to... Read more >

I can't believe it's here, today is the day that we launch Enabled Employment! 

Did you know people with a disability take fewer days off, take less sick leave and stay in jobs longer than other workers? Have you always wanted to employ someone with a disability but thought it was too hard or complicated?

Having a disability is tough, but that doesn’t mean that people with a disability should have fewer choices about where they want to work and what they want to do.  Enabled Employment offers people with a disability an opportunity to work in a job they choose, from a location that is the most convenient for them.  All of the jobs advertised on Enabled Employment are completely virtual meaning many of the barriers previously faced about getting to the office or needing adjustments to a workspace are erased.

Here at Enabled Employment we take care of everything for you at a fraction of the cost of hiring from another employment agency.  Not only will you get a qualified, competent and skilled employee to work for you but you also won't need to worry about all of those pesky things like finding and providing suitable accommodation, administering payroll and superannuation, payroll tax, insurances or contracts, we even provide a collaborative space to track the employees progress on any designated task or even just have a chat on how they are going.  Our simplified three-tier wage system also means there are never any surprises, you will always know how much to expect.  This means you can spend more time on things that are important to you, like your business.

Signing up with Enabled Employment is free so why not give it a go today? You will be surprised by how easy it is to advertise or apply for that job you have always wanted to do.

Enabled Employment is going to revolutionise the way we look at disability employment, get on board today!

 

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Jessica May
Director
Enabled Employment

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