Is Disability Employment important?
How many people do you know? If you know five people, there is a good chance that at least one of them has a disability.
Since businesses and other organisations draw their existing and potential employees, clients, shareholders, business partners and service providers from a community that is almost 20% disabled, thinking disabilities can be ignored is ridiculous and ignorant!
As disability issues increase with age, the impact on the workplace, and society continues to increase. It is estimated that 4 in 10 workers will be 45+ by 2020.
In the competitive marketplace both domestically and globally, we simply can’t afford to ignore this huge market segment. People with disabilities are potential employers, employees and/or service providers.
Changing Disability to Ability
The most significant barrier to including people with disabilities in the work force is not the people with disabilities, it is the stereotypical assumptions and attitudes employers have about what people with a disability can and cannot do.
Why should we change this thinking? Because:
- Backed by ADA, People with disabilities no longer accept less than good, equitable opportunities This includes both in the workplace and in daily life.
- Technology has removed many barriers faced by people with disabilities and enabled more people to do more to reach their full potential.
- The economic and social cost of ignoring 20% of the population is unsustainable.
Employer misconceptions preventing the full inclusion of people with disability in the workforce include:
- The number of workplace adjustments needing to be made to employ a person with a disability.
- The lack of awareness and confidence in creating a workplace which is inclusive of people with disabilities.
- The perceived impact on workers compensation, sick leave and OH&S regulations
- The belief people with disability will take up too much time to manage
- The fear of other people in the workplace doing or saying the wrong thing
Disabilities and employment issues cover the world. Australian (Deakin University 2002) and overseas studies have found that workers with disability are no more likely to be injured at work than other employees and there are no differences in performance and productivity. In fact, studies revealed that employees with disabilities actually have fewer scheduled absences than employees without disabilities, and they have increased tenure.
In other words, employing people with disability does not cost any more than employing people without disability. Assistance with the cost of making workplace adjustments is available through the Australian Government funded Employment Assistance Fund. The US government also offers tax assistance and other programs to increase the ease of employing people with disabilies.
The principles of employment are the same for people with disability as those without disability. The main focus should be on the skills, talents and capabilities the person with disability brings to the workplace.
Progressive Organizations Hire the Disabled
Progressive organisations recognize there are business benefits, beyond the right thing to do or compliance with legislation, of employing people with disabilities. The benefits include:
- Being an Employer of Choice – attraction of employers through access to a broader talent pool as people with disability bring a diverse range of skills and abilities and new and valuable perspectives to the workplace
- Retention – retention of existing employees who have or acquire a disability as they age.
- Shifting demographics – an ageing population and increased incidence of disability impacts workforce and means changing markets
- Increased use of technology – enhancing opportunities for people with disability
- Greater creativity, innovation and product development – understanding the needs of people with disability as a service provider is critical in retaining those customers
- Improved customer service and attraction – being disability confident, including how to communicate with customers with disability, enhancing customer service
- Reputation & Brand – according to a University of Massachusetts survey, 92% of the American public view companies that hire people with disabilities more favourably than those that do not; 87% of the public also agree that they would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities.
- Procurement process & tender documents – increase in companies seeking information from suppliers on their employment and CSR programs and encouraging tenders from diverse suppliers.
- Strengthening workplace morale and productivity through a more committed and diverse workplace
- Risk management – compliance with legislative requirements and meeting international standards reduces litigation risk.
Like in the United States and other countries, there are a range of Australian Government incentives available to assist businesses to employ the disabled and create a more diverse workforce.
Whatever country or group you identify with, disabilities will affect you either personally, or through the group or the society you are part of. Improve your own chances for happiness and peace by playing a positive role as an employer, a positive coworker, friend, acquaintance, or stranger.