In 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that over 4.4 million people in Australia have some form of disability. From this group, 2.1 million Australians are of working age. Yet only 47.8% were employed, compared with 80.3% of people without a disability.
There are significant barriers for people with disabilities to obtain employment. So, what can employees do to help bridge this gap?
Despite facing many challenges when attempting to enter the workplace as someone with a disability, these individuals can be successful once given the right opportunities and support.
On the latest episode of the HR Think Tank, we chat to Simon Darcy, Professor of Social Inclusion at UTS, on the rights of all people to participate in community life and how employers can successfully create inclusivity in their workplaces.
Common Employment Barriers for People with Disabilities
According to Professor Simon Darcy, the biggest barrier is opportunity, “It wasn’t long [after my accident] that I realised people had no expectations for me – we’re always spoken about as victims.”
“The whole discourse around disability was largely negative, except every now and then, where disability would be used in an inspirational sense. But even then, a disabled person doing something that was put up as ‘extraordinary’, no matter how ordinary it was.”
The way society viewed disability back then and even now wasn’t conducive to providing opportunities to people with disabilities.
What Employers Can do to Make Their Company More Inclusive
While there is a list of things employers can implement to make their company more inclusive, Simon mentions that the list isn’t necessarily static. Instead, employers need to consistently adapt and accommodate, so the list of things is dynamic and ongoing.
For the most part, building codes have ensured that workplace premises are adequately equipped to support physically disabled persons. And universities have become far more accommodating of people with learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities and mental health challenges.
But for employers, it’s the small things that make all the difference, “good employers do really straightforward things.”
“Some of the really little things are desk heights, for example. Can a person with a mobility disability get under a desk or other areas of the business? Can they be adjusted height-wise? So that’s really something simple.”
Beyond the simple workspace adaptations, Simons encourages employers to think about people with disabilities as a resource, “if you’re truly an inclusive employer, then signal it on your advertisements.” For example, employers can say something along the lines of, “We strongly support people with disabilities to apply for these jobs. Because we believe a diverse workforce is a better workforce.”
Employment Screening Tips for Candidates with a Disability
It turns out that psychometric testing actually tends to disadvantage people from marginalised groups. Simon shared an example of his own experience, “If for whatever reason, I am feeling a little tired or whatever, the speed of my response using the mouse suffers dramatically. So getting the psychometric test completed could be a problem for me – especially if they’re timed.”
So, to level the playing field, if one candidate falls within a marginalised group, it’s best to ensure that psychometric testing is not used.
Another consideration is a skills development and training opportunity. Simon mentions that, in his research, he has found that many employers who end up giving disabled candidates the job then forget to ensure that they have equal development opportunities.
“So people might get the job, but more often than not, they end up left in that position because their direct manager doesn’t see them in the same way that it sees other junior candidates to provide career development.”
At the end of the day, creating inclusivity for disabled candidates is a collaborative effort. And, in all disability spaces, access and inclusion evolve. So, what was best practice 20 years ago, may not be best practice today.
In the latest episode of the HR Think Tank, Professor Simon Darcy offers great insights on how to optimise employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including how employers need to rethink their hiring practices to increase diversity.
Make sure to tune into HR Think Tank Episode 12 with Khai Ngo and Professor Simon Darcy
You can also connect with Simon on LinkedIn or visit the UTS website for more information about his research on tourism, sports management, events, volunteers, transport, employment, entrepreneurship, built environment and Disability Services.
And, over the next few months, VerifyNow is trying to help establish the first UTS Business School scholarship for students with disabilities. If you want to help me raise the necessary funds, you can reach out by LinkedIn or email. Otherwise, you can actually donate directly on the UTS giving site.
Or, if you would like to know more about our VerfiyNow’s recruitment services, get in touch with us today!