What are you doing to make sure individuals with disability have equal entry to work alternatives in your organisation?

That is the question Claire Robbs, Managing Director of Life Without Barriers, is Questions to employers everywhere as Tuesday approaches International Disability Day.

In Australia, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is unacceptably high – twice the national average. Every fifth person has a disability, but only half of those able to work have a job.

For many people with disabilities, an unconscious bias is a major barrier to finding work. That barrier is incredibly difficult for people to overcome, and frankly, one they don’t have to.

The Disability Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in a number of areas, including employment. Work not only gives us financial freedom, but also meaning, social connections as well as learning and development opportunities – this is a matter of course for most of us. Why should people with disabilities be denied this?

If you needed a stronger reason to increase the percentage of people with disabilities in your workplace, employing people with disabilities makes good business sense. There is a greater diversity in organizations that inspires innovative thinking and better decision-making by exposure to a variety of perspectives. In fact, research shows that diversity in a company benefits all employees, not just people with disabilities.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected – and that includes their right to work.”

It is clear that the only way to change the experiences of people with disabilities and improve access to labor force participation is for us as employers to change our employment and recruitment practices. For the past two years, Life Without Barriers has become a robust one Accessibility, Inclusion and Employment Plan. In addition to a number of other measures, we have committed to making 12 percent of all new hires people with disabilities by 2022.

This week I spoke to representatives of the municipal services sector about how we as a sector can change this issue. This is especially important as we are the fastest growing sector in the country.

Life without barriers posted one Position paper this week to provide some insight into this significant and ingrained barrier that Australians with disabilities face and why we need to take organized action to change it. It is our shared responsibility to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected – and that includes their right to work.

Now I ask: what can you do?

To kick off this journey, we’ve come up with a few questions to ask yourself and some actions you can take:

  • What percentage of your workforce are people with disabilities – does your community reflect that?
  • How inclusive are your recruiting practices now?
  • Do you have data on the number of people with disabilities who have found a job with you compared to those who have applied for a job?

Then take action

  • For example, you can set an employment goal for the disabled and come up with a plan for how to achieve it.
  • You can contact your local disability service provider to find out how they can assist you with your recruitment.
  • Create a workplace customization policy.
  • Ask your employees to anonymously provide feedback on how they found the recruiting process.
  • Access ours Workplace Toolkit on our special campaign page to help you how to create #employment without barriers.

I encourage you to listen Allan’s story, a colleague of mine at Life Without Barriers, who helps people we support with their NDIS plans in our far north Queensland office, about his job search experience. Or challenge your thinking about them The worst part of a job interview in this video.

Our Central Coast Disability Team recently worked with Joblife Employment – a disability recruitment service – to fill a gap in vacancies for disabled workers by training and offering permanent positions to job seekers with disabilities. It means that Joanne, one of our invaluable handicapped workers who has not been in work for 10 years, is now given the opportunity to work in the community and realize her potential.

My question to you is: what will your organization do to create accessible workplaces?

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