Disability does not define where a person can work. People with disability can be amazing doctors, paramedics, chefs, lawyers, tradespeople, artists, writers, sportspeople, and teachers.
The biggest barrier people with disability face is the way our society disables them. For the 1 in 5 Australians living with a disability, job quality, underemployment, and discrimination are enduring challenges.
This International Day of People with Disability we’re seeing the ability in disability
This International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), we’re shining a light on some of the incredible individuals that have come through our services and are proving every day that disability is no barrier to employment.
International Day of People with Disability is celebrated annually on 3 December to recognise the amazing contributions and achievements of people with disability. 2020’s theme is “seeing the ability in disability,” and it strives to raise awareness, understanding, and acceptance of all types of disability and create a world where no one is restricted by society’s barriers.
Here at EPIC, we believe that everyone has a right to meaningful employment. No-one’s disability, injury, mental health condition, or health condition should stand in the way of their happiness or dreams, and we’re working hard every day to make this a reality.
The below stories should not be the exception – they should be the norm. Over our 30 years of disability employment, we’ve seen firsthand that everyone is capable of amazing things. It’s time that our society, businesses, schools, and employers understand that and take a step to see the ability in disability.
People with disability can be doctors
After a catastrophic car accident in 2010 made Dr Dinesh Palipana a person with quadriplegia, he was determined not to let it define his options. Over the last ten years, Dr Palipana has been redefining the medical field, proving what can be achieved when we raise expectations and hire for ability.
“I’m actually not a huge fan of the word ‘disability’. I haven’t felt disabled since the accident. In fact, I feel like I’ve done more in the seven years since the accident than I have in my life before,” said Dinesh.
Dr Palipana became the second person with quadriplegia to ever graduate from a medicine degree, and since gaining support from EPIC to secure work as a doctor in 2017, his name has been up in lights.
Dr Palipana was named Junior Doctor of the Year at the Gold Coast University Hospital in 2018, awarded the Media of the Order of Australia (OAM) for medicine in 2019, and named Queensland Australian of the Year in 2021, among many other accolades and accomplishments. He was recently admitted as a lawyer in September 2020.
People with disability can be paramedics
For Rebecca, living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), depression, anxiety, and insomnia is a constant challenge, but she hasn’t let it define her job opportunities.
Rebecca has been working as a paramedic for the NSW Ambulance Service for the last two years and having regular and meaningful work has been life-changing for her mental health.
“Due to my mental illness studying, learning and improving my practice may have been made harder and taken longer than those around me but it didn’t make it impossible. Now when I’m struggling or being hard on myself for not doing things perfectly, I can remember how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned. I remind myself mental health recovery is a journey, it takes time.”
People with disability can be artists
Whether you are blind, have no arms, or are non-verbal, our EPIC art exhibitions are proving that disability is no barrier when it comes to creativity.
From Trish Jackson, who paints with her feet, to Donna Hawkins who is a three-time cancer survivor and lives with various auto-immune disorders, to Renee Kelly who is completely blind, these artists are innovating the industry and making art a powerful career for people with disability.
People with disability can be legal officers
As a blind woman with a guide dog, Isabella believes she often represents ‘the great unknown’ to employers.
Isabella has an impressive host of qualifications including a Bachelor of Criminology, Diploma in Justice Administration, and Certificate II in Business. She is also currently studying a Bachelor of Law. Despite this, Isabella was submitting hundreds of job applications and getting nowhere.
With EPIC’s support, Isabella was introduced to HR at Gold Coast University Hospital where she was offered a graduate legal officer role in the governance, risk and commercial services department. While studying, she has also been enjoying part-time work as a program support officer in the Office of the Director General.
Isabella hopes the more comfortable people get around blind people, the more equitable job opportunities they will have.
“I think the only way of breaking the stigma is getting more blind people in employment, in all kinds of different workplaces, to actually show employers what blind people are capable of.”
People with disability can be personal carers
There’s a misconception that people with disability won’t be able to handle the high-stress aged care environment. Laurence is proving those people wrong.
As a personal carer, Laurence uses his experience with disability and autism to care for the residents at Rockpool Residential Aged Care. His employer, Kristy-Lee, says that his caring and kind nature makes him perfectly suited to the industry.
“I love helping the residents with whatever they need. I love putting a smile on their faces. It gives me meaning,” says Laurence.
“I want to stay working in the aged care sector. I’m incredibly passionate about this line of work and want to grow my career in this industry.”
People with disability can be tradespeople
For an industry that involves heavy manual labour, confined spaces, long hours, and loud noises that make communication difficult, at a glance the trade industry seems like a fairly inaccessible labour market. Brett is proving that this is not the case.
Brett works as a general hand edging kitchen cabinet boards for Cutting Edge Cabinets. When he first started his verbal communication skills were minimal, and when he was able to speak, he had a severe stutter and struggled to get his words out. Now, Brett is in charge of the forklift operations, receiving orders from the multiple trucks that come in and sorting them into their separate jobs.
Brett believes that everyone, no matter their disability, should have the chance at finding a job they love.
“Just because you have a disability, there’s no reason for you to think that your options are very limited, because they’re not. That’s where EPIC helped me out and found me a job to suit my needs.”
People with disability can be agriculture workers
EPIC has helped multiple job seekers find work at QCamel and other agriculture businesses.In a world full of wonderful, wacky, and unique jobs, your perfect job match could be anywhere. For six EPIC job seekers that match was at a camel farm on the Sunshine Coast, QCamel.
From milking the camels and looking after the calves, to husbandry and general dairy work, the farmhands are showing what’s possible when diversity and inclusion are embraced.
EPIC’s partnership with the Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN) has created opportunities for people with disability to not only work but thrive in agriculture.
EPIC Assist is your local disability employment service
For 30 years, we have been helping people with disability, injury, mental health conditions, and other health conditions find and maintain meaningful work. If you think you could benefit from our support, get in touch with us today.