The stats aren’t looking good, guys. People aged between 15 and 64 years with a disability have both lower participation and higher unemployment rates than people without a disability. The good news is that society is finally starting to talk about how disabilities can be mental as well as physical. Mental health falls under this bracket too. Despite this growing awareness, those of us with a disability still face problems- especially job hunting.
1. Being underestimated
Particularly with visible disabilities, employers are constantly underestimating what we’re capable of. It’s so easy for employers to fall into the trap of defining someone by their disability, rather than seeing how highly valuable and skilled we are.
The Australian Human Rights Commission says young people with a disability are at a greater risk of experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Yeah, technically it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of a disability but this doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Zoe Brissett, an experienced and qualified marketer who has cerebral palsy and a hearing impairment once overheard a recruiter saying, ‘don’t worry about the next candidate, we are only doing the interview to be seen as doing the right thing’. Discrimination is still alive and well, folks.
3. Lack of conversation about the issues
In the case of non-visible disabilities, we’re often unsure of whether to talk to our potential employers about our disability in case it affects whether we’re hired/promoted or not. We’re so worried about saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong questions that we avoid the issue altogether- which is hurting more than helping. It’s a cycle that means that discrimination and lack of understanding keep happening.
Employers see hiring people with a disability as too much work and aren’t willing to take an adaptive approach. Management staff who stereotype people with disabilities to be poor employees is just another example of how negative and discriminatory attitudes in the workplace are making more barriers for those of us looking for a job.
Prue Hawkins (who uses a wheelchair) once had a job interview in a building where the lift was out of order. This is just one example of the struggles that people with a disability face when trying to find work. Physical obstacles that most people wouldn’t have a problem with need to be considered for people with a disability- from working lifts to transport to and from the office.