Disability Confident might be a nice term that looks good on paper, but should disabled people have to accept a toolkit-like approach for businesses to consider hiring them?
Employment for people with disabilities remains at a shockingly low percentage in New Zealand. New initiatives like Employability (a project launched by the Minister for Disability Issues) haven’t worked well, and Enabling Good Lives has decided to drop its push for employment as part of its support options.
Stats released last week indicate that disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than those without disabilities. The report also suggested that a person with a disability earns $200 a week less than colleagues without additional support needs.
Disability Confident: What Is It?
Disability Confident is a campaign that aims to provide employers with all the information they need to successfully hire a disabled person.
It highlights the benefit to a business, and it also provides information on how an employer can apply for grants. These grants can be used to modify an office to make it more accessible, or to hire a buddy that supports the disabled employee so that they can work safely.
Disability Confident is a tool kit of sorts, a “how to” for hiring someone with a disability.
But crucially, Disability Confident doesn’t do much to address the attitudes that prevent disabled people from gaining meaningful employment.
Problems With Employing Disabled People Start With Attitudes
Simply giving businesses the information they need that shows how to get disabled people into the workforce isn’t going to see the stats improve. The discrimination still exists, and the attitudes that prevent disabled people getting into work start back during education.
If young learners with disabilities continue to be excluded from mainstream schools, the perception amongst their peers will have the same affect. Future business owners, and future leaders of the country need to see that disabled people, whilst requiring some support, can be worthwhile members of the workforce with something to offer. Segregating disabled people doesn’t help that vision, it does the complete opposite.
And that’s why, in 2017, vocational services remain the one and only option for a lot of people with disabilities.
The Problem With Vocational Services
Contracts that provide funding for vocational services are highly sought after by Service Providers in New Zealand. But with all the change that the sector is seeing, including a greater push for individually tailored support, do these services still have real relevance?
Yes, but they don’t provide disabled people with meaningful employment opportunities in mainstream business.
The vocational service option can often trick disabled people into thinking that the purpose of participation is for a real job. However, the majority of vocational options for disabled people don’t pay, and until that changes, no real job opportunities can be expected.
Vocational services often promise a pathway to paid work opportunities, but in a lot of cases, this is a false. Disabled people are forced to find other avenues once a service shuts down, wait until the next one begins, or settle for living on the Supported Living Payment (SLP) with little incentive to get off it.
How is this a real quality of life? Being forced to live on benefit and occasionally venture out into a barely accessible community when circumstances allow it to be possible.