Requesting workplace adjustments, flexible working arrangements, or modified equipment in the workplace is a tough gig. It is even more difficult for those who are the only disabled person on their team or in their workplace – that is, almost all disabled people.
Like many parents, Jonathan Wenig was concerned about his daughter’s career path after she left school last year. Tali, 20, who has autism, faced more than the usual challenges in finding a job that would suit her.
You’ve already been told by your potential employer that your resumé is the best they have ever seen. The employer has every intention of giving you the job. The interview is just a formality. But, when you arrive for the interview, you find yourself unable to enter the building. Because of this, no matter how perfect you are for the position, you won’t get the job.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is seeking new astronauts for the first time in a decade and wants to recruit one person with a disability. At a briefing held today, ESA experts and astronauts discussed the selection criteria for the four to six astronauts who are needed. The agency said it was keen to improve its record on diversity and inclusion and wants one of the new recruits to have a disability – a “parastronaut”.
As a nation, Australia is falling short when it comes to the employment of disabled workers. Ranking 21 out of 29 OECD countries for labour force participation among those with a disability, it lags behind New Zealand and many European nations. So what needs to change to improve the landscape for disabled workers?
Yuri Sianski has spent the last 25 years trying to find a job — and his father has told the disability royal commission the situation is a “shameful cul-de-sac of neglect”.
The 9th hearing of the Disability Royal Commission has heard evidence today of widespread wage theft among firms that hire workers with disabilities. Employers avoid paying even the minimum wage to workers on the assumption, the Commission was told, that additional income from the Disability Support Pension provides sufficient support. But experts warn the majority of bosses neglect workers’ basic rights, leaving workers with little option but to leave their job, entrenching them in unemployment.
Meredith said her experience with having her welfare payment suspended for not meeting her mutual obligations while undergoing cancer treatment kept her “up all night with panic attacks”and worried about how she’d pay her bills and feed her child. ‘You people are going to be the death of me and many others,’ she told her WISE Employment job consultant via email.
Globally, Australia ranks 21 out of 29 among OECD nations for the employment of people with disabilities. A recent research project by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Business School found that the entrepreneurial spirit developed by those with disability is in part due to the failings they experienced in traditional working environments.
“I just thought, stuff it, I’m going to just employ people with disabilities top to bottom and show how good they can be within a workplace,” Alcott said. “We’re not doing this for CSR and we’re not doing it to do the right thing. We’re doing it because people with disabilities are bloody good employees.”
Finding a job can be difficult, and if you have a disability it’s even harder because of persistent workplace discrimination. But people with a disability are increasingly taking control of their own lives, building their entrepreneurial skills and establishing their own enterprises.
But looking at the funding more closely, advocacy organisations say it is not “additional” money, but rather is reflective of the natural growth of the scheme.
“It’s well recognised that people with disability face multiple barriers to finding and keeping paid work,” said Romola Hollywood, Director Policy and Advocacy, People with Disability Australia (PWDA). “Without targeted measures, in a tightening labour market, people with disability will continue to be excluded from mainstream employment. This budget has missed a critical opportunity to turn the tables, and that is a shame.”
Jo Viney from Phillip Island is one of 15 Victorian business owners finding her feet in industry in part thanks to a program designed to support entrepreneurs with disabilities. The Good Incubator program, which started in June and concludes later this month, partnered participants with business mentor Tricia Malowney who has helped them as they develop their businesses.
The take home message is that it was always possible, all the time that employers where saying it was not. It is a form of ableism in the sense that it’s concentrating on that proportion of society who fit within a particular norm.”