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Are We Failing Our Disabled Workforce?

Are We Failing Our Disabled Workforce?

Written by: S. Haarshini

Job hunting and employment is no walk in the park for anyone, even for those with impressive resumes and backgrounds. However, the competitive job market combined with today’s fast-paced world, has made it especially difficult for people with disabilities to get employed.

About 15% of the world’s population experience some form of disability. That is nearly one billion people. Unfortunately, these individuals are marginalised and are often left to deal with certain adverse impacts such as low-quality education, poor health outcomes, inaccessible transportation, digital divide due to unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, and measly employment rates or wages. This article will focus on the inadequate representation of disabled individuals in the labour market.

Around the globe, people with disabilities are subjected to lower rates of employment or bare minimum remuneration, impeding them from financial security and social benefits. On average, only one in three people with disabilities, is employed. Gender disparities are not void in this aspect as well, as women with disabilities face much lower employment rates then men with disabilities. Why are disabled individuals being subjected to discrimination like this and what needs to be done to ensure positive and equal change?

Inclusion, diversity, and equity are all the rage in modern working environments. Despite this current positive outlook, many establishments are hesitant to fully embrace having disabled individuals in the workplace. The lack of disability inclusion can be attributed to the following common misconceptions:

  • High costs of installing accessibility features in the building
  • Constant need to monitor and manage performance, perceived as less competent
  • Additional support, leeway, or job modifications

These baseless concerns couldn’t be further from the truth. Installing accessibility features such as ramps and bars, don’t always have to be expensive or tedious. In fact, they are a one-time expense, that will also allow the establishment to hire more people with disabilities later on. These features should have also been considered at an earlier stage, instead of trying to retrofit them.

Furthermore, not all disabled individuals require constant monitoring and management. Most are very capable, independent, and can efficiently do as they are asked. All employees should be treated with an equal amount of respect, trust, and accountability. Why decide what they can and cannot do, before even giving them the chance to show you? An opportunity and a well-outlined job description will suffice. Similarly, not all people with disabilities require additional support, leeway, or job modifications, and it is also discriminatory to assume as such. An individual in a wheelchair is still able to work at a desk, just like everyone else. However, if the individual expresses the need for any of the aforementioned, then the employer should accommodate within reason, or consider job carving, instead of turning them down.

“Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life” – Emma Thompson

What can be done to increase job opportunities for disabled workers?

  • Recruit and promote based on skill and potential: This will attract and retain disabled workers who are competent and more than capable.
  • Implement company-wide training on disability inclusion: Every employee in your establishment should be aware of the value of hiring disabled individuals and should be taught how to and how not to treat these individuals in the workplace.
  • Initiate inclusion schemes: Creates a brand of inclusivity and a good work culture.
  • Provide necessary or required support: While employers shouldn’t treat disabled individuals differently, some overall accommodation strategies do need to be implemented. Consider aspects such as assistive technology, reserved parking spaces, service animals, or workspace accessibility. Employers should also provide disability insurance.
  • Equal pay: Disabled individuals should not be subjected to bare minimum wages and should be paid according to their job description, skill, and contributions.

People with disabilities have rights, they have experiences, talents and skills, and due to their individual disabilities; they develop resilience, problem-solving skills, and empathy. These individuals should not be overlooked and discriminated for a small part of who they are. They do not define themselves by their disabilities and the rest of the world should not either.

It’s time we stopped failing our disabled workforce.

Go ahead, revamp your workplace to support disabled individuals and provide them with equal opportunities. They do not deserve to get left behind in this fast-paced world that has created barriers for them. Thus, everyone needs to hold out a hand and uplift our disabled equals who have been marginalised and neglected for long enough. Educate yourself on
disabilities, initiate conversations, help or encourage a disabled individual in any way that you can, create awareness. Stand for disability rights.

“Disability is the inability to see ability” – Vikas Khanna