Including the disabled in workforce

LIFE is about luck, and when it comes to sickness and health, it really is the luck of the draw.

Two children can be born to the same parents, and one, because of a genetic mix up, may be born with a disability.

Two people can be in a car accident; one may walk away uninjured while the other loses mobility and requires assistance for the rest of their lives.

In these scenarios, it is up to the community to create equality.

We can also look to the very system that we trust to manage and oversee such things - the government - to even out this score.

But we are failing.

The federal government is looking at reducing disability welfare payments after a Deloitte Access Economic report found $80 billion savings over 20 years could be made with reductions to the disability pension.

We should be trying to increase the employment opportunities of those with a disability (including physical impairments, acquired brain injuries, autism, cerebral palsy and down syndrome) before we reduce the funds that assist in the event they are unable to find work.

In 2009, 54 per cent of people with disability were in paid employment, comprising just 10 per cent of the Australian work force (ABS).

To improve upon this, the private and public sector need to instil workplace cultures that open the workforce doors to people with disability.

If not the private sector then definitely the public service sector.

Figures on the Australian Public Service reveal that employment data of people with disabilities dropped 2.1 per cent from 2009 to 2012, while other figures reveal that just 3 per cent of employers turn to the National Disability Services to find new employees.

In recognition of the issue, a 2012 public service disability employment strategy aimed to change the way that people think about disability.

Look around your office or workplace - there is probably someone that does not have a disability but who needs additional management or extra time to get things done.

I am sure there would also be people in the community with a disability that could get the same job done, and who require less help, but it seems they are often overlooked for the job.

Employers fear hiring those with disability because of perceived concerns about productivity and extra costs, low qualifications, increased health and safety risks, a lack of infrastructure for those less able, and a lack of understanding or training amongst other employees or customers to be around or assist those with disability.

How sad this is.

Interestingly, it is not just affluent countries or communities that treat people of less ability with ignorance.

On a sailing trip in the Caribbean, I visited the San Blas Islands where persons born as albino were seen living amongst the populace.

Those with the obvious white hair and red skins seemed to be on the social outskirts of those island communities.

It shouldn't be this way.A simple stroke of luck creates the difference, but we have control to make everyone equal.

Isabel Bird

Isabel Bird


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