Did you know that in Australia 1 in 5 people have disability?
And that people with disability are twice as likely to be unemployed than a person without disability?
The reality is that people with disability have just as much to contribute to a workplace and the economy as anyone else – and more often than not the only barrier standing in the way is other people’s attitudes.
We all have a role to play in levelling the playing field for people with disability. You can help break down these barriers by being aware of the myths and the facts about employing people with disability.
Myth 1: People with disability don’t want to work.
Fact: People with disability share the same life goals as everyone else, and that includes finding fulfilling work. A job brings a lot to a person’s life: a sense of purpose, social interaction, self-esteem and greater financial independence.
When people with disability join the workforce, they become financially contributing members of society. Many people with disability look forward to a time when they will be working and paying taxes, so they can help support Australia’s future. Working and paying taxes can evoke a sense of pride and belonging.
Myth 2: People with disability can only do simple jobs.
Fact: People with disability are already successfully working in all kinds of jobs. People with disability usually have a pretty clear sense of their abilities and are more likely to want a career that plays to their strengths and passions.
Society’s attitudes are the only thing that would stop a person who is an amputee from being a speech pathologist, or a person with hearing loss being an architect, or a person with Down syndrome owning a business.
Myth 3: People with disability need heaps of support.
Fact: People with disability may need support, equipment, or changes to a workplace at the start, but they’ll generally be fine once that’s in place.
We’ve been working with a guy on the autism spectrum who found he was getting distracted and couldn’t concentrate at work because of all the talking, laughter, and millions of other sounds that happen in an office. Through the purchase of some noise-cancelling headphones, he can now stay focused and get ‘in the zone’.
Myth 4: Most people with disability use wheelchairs.
Fact: That’s just not true. In fact only around 2% of Australians with disability use a wheelchair. Sometimes a person’s disability may be visible, but other disabilities may be invisible. Think about people with mental health conditions, low vision or chronic pain.
Myth 5: It will be hard to know how to act around a person with disability.
Fact: We all have our differences. But it should never be hard to be respectful of other people. If you’re not sure about meeting someone with disability, follow the same rules you’d use when you meet anyone else. Make eye contact, smile and say hello. It really is that easy.
If you’re unsure of a person’s needs the best thing you can do is ask them. They are the experts in their disability and will be able to tell you if there’s anything they need.