Let’s Get Physical | Hire me, hire me not - Challenges faced by the disabled in the workforce
Employment in Jamaica, like any other country, is a great challenge. Once we overcome the hurdles of gender inequality in the workplace and workplace issues, including labour relations, what we have left, we may believe, is not as crippling as it appears.
One such issue that seems to be rampant in Jamaica is the hiring of persons with disabilities (PWDs). Some PWDs in Jamaica have described the process of seeking employment as degrading and disappointing.
Personally, I have found it to be daunting, and if you are not motivated, then it can break you.
According to the World Bank, 15 per cent of the world's population, or one billion people, experience some form of disability. This statistic, though broad, gives us a good understanding that a representative number of the world experiences disability in some form.
In Jamaica, disability was seen as a scourge. It was seen as a malady that some people not only shied away from, but visibly scorned.
STRUGGLE WITH SEVERAL ISSUES
Thanks to the Government and organisations such as the Jamaica Council For Persons With Disabilities (JCPD) for ensuring the passing of the Disability Act and educating/sensitising the public, while ensuring the welfare of PWDs.
Disability is now a subjec tthat persons have been able to better understand and not shy away from so openly. In Jamaica, the disabled still struggle with mobility and health issues. We struggle with issues that seem insignificant to those who are not disabled, for example, a blind person forced to navigate the narrow sidewalks of Jamaica with light posts erected in the centre.
Notwithstanding this, PWDs are faced with the difficult situation of completing tertiary education and then finding suitable employment.
While being disabled, I can personally account that persons have asked me questions like, "In your condition, can you work?" And my all-time favourite, "Why is it not listed on your rÈsumÈ that you are disabled?" The last time I checked, a disability is not a qualification, professional experience, a skill or even an achievement.
BENEFITS OF HIRING PWDS
- Creating diversity in the workplace, which will, in the long run, increase the image value of the company.
- Creating an organisation staffed with reliable employees, as PWDs are reliable, loyal and have a higher job retention rate.
- Introducing a higher level of creativity as well as more uniquely talented and skilled individuals who are adept at problem-solving.
WHAT TYPE OF SUPPORT WILL PWDS NEED IN THE WORKPLACE?
- Infrastructural support - The building, if not equipped with a ramp, rails, elevators, parking and bathrooms for the disabled, will need to be retrofitted accordingly. Additionally, there may be need for text-to-speech software like JAWS (Job Access With Speech) on computers for the visually impaired to work effectively.
- Policy support - PWDs will need the organisation to establish and implement appropriate policies and procedures to protect them from discrimination, while giving them the opportunity to reach their true potential in contributing to the organisation's's success.
- Social support - PWDs are all capable of socialising. This may be done in different ways and could range from an office game night to an office outing. In a work environment, it is crucial for PWDs to be included in socialisation activities and be accepted as much as possible to help build confidence in establishing healthy relationships with those in the office who are not disabled.
STEPS TO TAKE WHEN SEARCHING FOR A JOB AS A PWD
- Be creative in your approach to the job market. If you have a degree in social work, for example, try to connect with organisations that need social workers, such as church groups, counselling centres, etc.
- Assess all the skills you possess and look at what direct needs there are in the market. Once you have been able to evaluate, see how you can use your skills to help bridge the needs gap within the market.
- Look at all the possible activities you enjoy and look at the local market to see how your hobbies may be used to help fill a need on the local market and can be fully monetised.
- If you have a veritable business idea, you may approach the JCPD and advise them that you are not employed and want to start a business. The JCPD is able to offer advice and provide information on the options available to you.