Since we opened our doors at Enabled Employment, we’ve been advocating for people who face discrimination when looking for work with out accepting government funding assistance to do so.
We’re still unique, offering job opportunities to our inclusion groups without government funding, ensuring we are able to advocate for our candidates in enquiries, and with employers.
What we have noticed though, particularly when submitting tenders for recruitment, is that employers are taking a broader view of the word ‘diversity’, which is a welcome step forward for the Australian employment market. What employers would like to see is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for diversity, one website where they can employ a person who will make their workforce more representative of the Australian population.
As part of this process it has become apparent that we only represent a portion of what our clients consider ‘diversity’ so we’ve made a decision to expand our candidate groups to ensure that we are inclusive and can offer the opportunities we have to everyone who encompasses this meaning. This has meant adding three more candidate groups including those people from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex and humanitarian refugees.
The value in having a one-stop-shop for employers is that it helps us successfully win tenders for recruitment services, and it will have a positive effect for every inclusion group we represent. If we are successful in bidding for further tenders, we will increase the number of jobs available for you to apply for on our website, and ensure more people are able to enter the workforce with an inclusive and flexible employer.
Whilst we know that this announcement will be welcome from representatives who have strongly been advocating that we make this change, we know that it may cause some concerns for our other candidate groups, and want to ensure that you know we will still be strongly advocating for people with a disability, our former ADF personnel and their family members, carers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and our older Australians and ensuring your voices are heard where it matters.
We are also offering our employers the ability to identify specific diversity groups for identified positions to ensure that we can still cater to those trying to increase their diversity in one specific area. And we still know that the barriers to employment for each group are specific, and we will continue to talk with new and existing employers about the distinct advantages of each inclusion group.
Knowing that, and acknowledging the incredible loyalty of our followers on facebook and twitter, we’ve decided to present our business and our candidates as part of that ‘one-stop-shop’, and we want Enabled Employment to be known as the place to come for diversity for both candidates to find a job, and employers to source candidates representing the diversity of the Australian population as a whole.
At the moment, we are running separate social media sites for each inclusion group we represent. Rather than dividing these audiences, we would like to have one company page which represents all of us, on our social media channels.
We are asking our current followers to migrate across to the Enabled Employment Facebook page, and the Enabled Employment Twitter account.
This will ensure we strengthen the brand of our business, as being the place to come for job opportunities if people face disadvantage in seeking employment, and we can represent a diverse workforce as a stronger, bigger group.
We will be operating our social media accounts at:
Facebook – Enabled Employment at https://www.facebook.com/EnabledEmployment
Twitter – Enabled Employment at @EnabledEmploy
We should be able to merge our Facebook pages without our followers needing to take any action, however we would like to ask all our followers to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ the accounts above, for the latest job updates and news as we will be closing our other accounts by the end of the year and no longer be posting content to them.
Our Twitter followers from the @Employ_Veterans and @Employ_Seniors accounts will need to follow @EnabledEmploy on Twitter, as we cannot automatically merge those accounts, and they will close at the end of the year.
We look forward to seeing you on our main company accounts.
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.
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.
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:
- eligibility and access to different types and levels of support
- the manner and the delivery of the support required; and
- 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.
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.