Monday, 29 July 2019

I take my hat off to Dylan Alcott who recently launched the #removethebarrier campaign – a bold challenge to business owners and corporate Australia to remove the barriers to fair employment opportunities for people with disability.

As I have said time and time again, different does not equal less.

Just as the #blacklivesmatter and #metoo movements have created global conversations which have in turn lead to shifts in public opinion, I hope that the #removethebarrier campaign helps spark more conversations in boardrooms, between CEOs and HR teams and in small businesses. And that these conversations lead to more opportunities for people with disability to prove their strengths at work.

Because our society needs to drastically change its opinion about the employment potential of people with disability. We need to be prepared to have some frank conversations and challenge our assumptions and misconceptions about people with disability. We need to shake the mindset that different equals less.

There is a persisting assumption that because someone has a disability, they aren’t capable of working, or they don’t want to work.

That’s just not the case.

People with disability do want to work. And they are more than capable of working. In fact, often people with disability will be the model employee. Studies have shown that people with disability are problem solvers, they take fewer sick days and on average stay in a role for a year longer.

There is an assumption that employing people with disability will be difficult and that businesses will need to change their offices or their processes.

Again, this is just not the case. As we see every day, and as Dylan is seeking to highlight, the biggest barrier that a person with disability faces at work is often the low expectations of other people.

While physical adjustments that may be needed generally don’t cost much at all (and may be funded by government incentive programs) they generally benefit the whole team.

Thankfully the steps to creating an adjustment in attitudes and helping to #removethebarrier are also simple:

  1. Share. (Share your voice with your networks to let them know that you support removing barriers in your workplace)
  2. Talk. (Talk with your HR team about how your organisation can be more accessible)
  3. Act. Take steps to make your recruitment practices disability-friendly. (You don’t need to go it alone. Make sure you get advice from the experts.)

If you’ve never hired someone with disability you may be unsure where to start. Specialist disability employment services, like EPIC Assist, can work with you to help you to break down the barriers around hiring people with disability, and help you to connect with suitable candidates.

In our increasingly volatile and uncertain world, there is one certainty – the list of complex issues to be resolved will continue to grow and challenge society everywhere. The expertise needed to solve them will not come from ‘the same’ but from ways of thinking and problem-solving skills born out of difference and diversity.

I look forward to continuing this conversation with you.