By Jacqui Tibbits, Consultivation Director
Long before access and inclusion plans, the Disability Services Act and great changes to societal attitudes to include people with disability I was fortunate to watch a man with a masterful mind live, work and play.
One afternoon while chopping wood, my Pop, Tom Barrett, had a brain aneurysm rupture causing him to lose function in his legs. Perhaps he was fortunate he already ran a successful business, employed dedicated people and was an important member of his community before this occurred.
I remember fondly as a young girl riding on his lap while he sat in his wheelchair, racing down the ramp that led from his home’s back door past the outside washer room and water closet on our right and two large rain tanks on our left onto the lawn. Once we reached the grass, there was a left turn as we then headed across the grass to the driveway and back doors of the business where I would jump off and head back to the house. Yes, the business and his home were alongside each other – perhaps a clever planning design we have lost sight of in our pursuit of progress, growth and separation of work and private life.
I was fortunate to grow up seeing what many other people didn’t - that people with disability can contribute to business, economy and society. Stereotypes, stigmas, myths and unconscious bias often influence decisions on employing or not-employing people with disability compounded by messages and imagery in media and entertainment.
Fears of rising insurance costs, adapting physical environments and people not fitting in can be a barrier to employment and hinder the human rights of people with disability. The World Health Organisation has gone as far as saying, ‘people are disabled by society, not just by their bodies.’
The Australian Network on Disability (AND) reports 1 in 5 people in Australia have some form of disability resulting in a high proportionate of people in workplaces already have some form of disability. As people, we tend to acknowledge individuals with physical or visible disability more than those that we do not or cannot easily see yet only 4% of people with disability use a wheelchair. Add to this, our ageing workforce and the correlation between age and disability it is fair to surmise many workplaces are already catering to people with disability.
The reality is, people with a disability often have a lower employment participation rate, higher unemployment rates and graduates can take longer to gain fulltime employment than people without disability. On disability employment, 2010 research revealed Australia ranked a shocking 21 out of 29 OECD countries and with little movement in the employment rate of people with disability in Australia over the last 20 years it is believed this has not changed.
There are many benefits to employing people with disability. Direct organisational benefits include:
* improves diversity, workplace morale and enhanced teamwork
* increased reliability and loyalty with lower absenteeism and employee turnover
* lower recruitment costs
* builds organisational reputation and brand
* improves capacity through broader talent identification pools and opportunities
Our movement to more flexible working conditions, part-time positions and job share assist in promoting job opportunities for people with disability. Developing ideologies in corporate social responsibility and social impact complemented by more educated people in management positions also helps to drive these opportunities.
Progress on a national level and investment from Government including the funding of Disability Employment Services (DES) helps to support some people with disability. DES funded organisations primarily support people with disability to find or be matched with employment opportunities but they can also provide continuing support once a person is employed. The DES framework has been under review in recent months with a new streamlined, flexible, more person-centred support to commence in 2018.
The Government also assists with an employment assistance fund, wage subsidies and support. More information on these initiatives is available through JobAccess.
As part of our Cohesive Communities Program, Consultivation has two events available to help address challenges faced by people with disability and people in business. The first event is a larger, holistic opportunity for stakeholders to come together to identify issues and solutions contributing to safe, liveable and viable communities.
The second event, Business Excellence and Innovation for Inclusive Communities creates an opportunity to bring together people with disability and the business community to identify barriers, gaps and innovative solutions to business facilities, practice and products by working together. This event helps attendees to recognise the importance of people with disability being respected as active community contributors and the value treating them with dignity and respect has not only on community cohesion but also business profitability and sustainability.
Bunbury will be a pilot site trialling AccessAbility, an initiative of the federal Government. The project plans to bring together people with disability and employers to explore new possibilities, address stigmas and unconscious bias in the hope it may lead to meaningful employment.
How you can help
Do you employ or work with people with a disability or have you thought about it? If the answer is no, then people with disability could be an untapped, skilled and talented pool of people available to bring direct benefits to your organisation.
Many people with disability want to work but simply need a chance to do so. In honour of Sunday 3 December 2017 being International Day of People with Disability I challenge you to review your workplace practices, policies, environment and culture to see whether improvements can be made to make it more inclusive of people with disability. If you are doing a great job I hope you make an opportunity to celebrate.
If you would like assistance, the Consultivation team is ready and available to help.
Consultivation is an independent, ethics led business consultancy organisation.
We are passionate in helping organisations to flourish.
If you would like us to help you and your team contact us today.
I wish I had a picture of Pop and me whizzing down the ramp! Different times.
Australian Human Rights Commission (2017)
Australian Network on Disability (2017)
Department of Communities – Disability Services (2017) Benefits of employing people with disability
Department of Social Services – New Disability Employment Services from 2018 Discussion Paper (2016, Australian Government)
World Health Organisation (2017) 10 Facts on Disability
Jacqui is a positive change management specialist with a penchant for public speaking.
Susan has expertise in cognitive behaviour therapy, narrative therapy & mindfulness.
Guest bloggers are invited to contribute to the Consultivation blog. If you have an idea, concept or perspective you would like to share please contact Jacqui at Consultivation.
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