Job seekers with disability urged to dream big

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

ABC’s popular Q&A program last night hosted a disability special, providing people with disability and their advocates a valuable platform to share their experiences.

The panel, which included the likes of wheelchair athlete Dylan Alcott, actor and dancer Kiruna Stamell, and former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, offered valuable insights from people with first-hand experience with disability.

EPIC CEO Bill Gamack watched the episode with keen interest.

“I’ve heard Graeme Innes speak about ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’ many times, and I’m always struck by the truth of it,” said Bill.

“When you think about it, many people with disability are led to believe that employment isn’t going to be possible for them. And those thoughts occur from a young age.

“How often do we ask young children with disability what they want to be when they grow up? How many are encouraged to dream about their future job? I would suggest not many,” he said.

Bill says all people with disability have a right to employment, and having the views and experiences of people with disability brought into the mainstream through programs like Q&A is essential to raising expectations.

“Here we see successful people with disability showing that they are just as capable of achieving great things as people without disability. They are living proof of what is possible when space is made for people with disability to show what they are capable of,” said Bill.

But some people with disability struggle to speak up and advocate for their rights, particularly when it comes to employment.

“For people that have dealt with discrimination for much of their lives, they can feel ‘beaten down’ in many respects and lack the confidence to say, ‘this is what I’d like, this is what I’m good at, and this is what I can bring to a workplace’,” said Bill.

“Dylan Alcott made a similar point about advocacy during Q&A. He said while he feels comfortable to advocate for his rights, not everyone does.”

Bill says while there are many components of a satisfying and fulfilling life, employment is certainly a major one.

“When you think about what people ask when they are meeting for the first time, it’s generally ‘what’s your name?’ and then, ‘what do you do?’” said Bill.

“A job makes people feel that they are included, that they are contributing to their communities, and gives them a strong sense of self. A job isn’t everything, but it is a lot.”