Publishing date 12/02/2023
I have completed 3 university degrees. I have a Bachelor of Visual Art (Media Art) from University of Sydney, I have a Master’s in Art Administration from the University of NSW and I have a Graduate Diploma in Political Public Policy from Macquarie University.
When I finished university, I thought I’d get a job straight away. I was so wrong.
I would never have imagined that employers would discriminate against me because of my disability.
Sadly, my experience since has shown that many employers do discriminate against people with disabilities. The reasons vary but I think it’s because they don't understand what amazing assets we truly are. Another factor is that many people haven't met a person with a disability before or if they have, they have not got to know the person and so don’t know what incredible things we can do for their company.
My advice to employers is that it very important to see past a person’s disability to get to know their ability.
Defining and tackling the problem
People with disabilities want to contribute to society, just like everyone else, but many struggle with getting a job. It is hard for most people with disabilities to gain meaningful employment – a job doing work they actually enjoy. They do not want to waste their qualifications, knowledge, and skills. They want to be an active member of society. In other words, we are just like you.
In Australia, the government is trying to increase the number of people with disabilities in the workforce by funding several programs. Currently the rate of employment of people with disabilities is appalling. In November 2021, the Disability Royal Commission* reported that only 53.4% or 1 million of working-aged people with disability participate in the labour force in Australia and are twice as likely as those without disability to be unemployed.
A recent study showed that Australians with disability are “more likely to be over-educated for their jobs, have lower earnings and poorer job satisfaction”.
We need to do better than this.
Increasing employment rates for people with disability benefits all of society
People with disabilities should be given the same opportunities in all areas of life, particularly employment as our participation in the workforce benefits everyone.
A study conducted by Deloitte showed that people with a disability are “90% more likely to be equally or more productive than an able-bodied person”. And if that wasn’t enough proof that people with disabilities should be given a fair go, Telstra conducted a study that showed people with disabilities have 8 fewer sick days a year than people without disability and they stay in a role a whole extra year than their other colleagues.
What it feels like to be on the receiving end
When I was younger, I went to a job interview and before the interview even began the employer looked me up and down and told me that they were not going to give me the job because they didn’t know what to say to me.
Society believes that people with disabilities have no power, particularly when it comes to the workforce. Many people with disabilities have low self-esteem to begin with. The constant rejection of job knock backs doesn’t help people feel worthy of employment. This leads to more self-doubt and people with disability comparing themselves to a person without a disability.
It took me 5 years to get a job because people couldn’t see past my disability. I have had so many setbacks while trying to get a job and unfortunately, they have all been linked to having a disability.
When I apply for a job, I feel I have to disclose my disability because to the new employer as they will see it when I show up to the interview. Or if they request to do a phone interview, I worry they won’t be able to understand me when I speak.
If my disability was invisible, I wouldn’t tell them because I would have a better chance at getting a job. Not everyone chooses to disclose their disability in the interview process and sometimes people don’t even disclose after getting the job.
In my view, people shouldn’t have to tell employers about their disability – they have a right to privacy. They should only tell the employer if there is a safety risk to themselves or others.
I have had a number of roles in my career, such as AAC assessor, researcher and disability advocate. I love my current role as a writer and researcher at Achieve Australia. My colleagues in the marketing and communications team are lovely. The work I do is very interesting, and I look forward to another year of productivity and job satisfaction.
I also look forward to seeing Achieve Australia continue to grow and employ more people with disabilities. The CEO Jo-Anne Hewitt has shared the organisation’s goal of employing people with disability at all levels of Achieve and this includes the Board where lived experience of disability is already represented.
What is the Federal Government doing to encourage employers?
The government runs a wage subsidy program where it pays an employer half the cost of the salary of a person with disability. This is to lower the cost of employing a person with disability for an organisation. Read more about the government subsidies available to employers.
The Government’s Job Access program ensures the workplace is accessible to employees with a disability. The Employment Assistance Fund is one of the programs run by Job Access. It provides financial assistance to employers to purchase a range of work-related modifications and services for employees with disability. If you would like to know more, head to this page on the Job Access site.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Assistance provides funding for people to find and prepare for work and for those already in work.
I would like to see the Federal Government offer tax incentives to organisations that employ people with disabilities to encourage companies to hire people with disabilities.
Get going employers!!
To all of employers who want to hire people with disabilities, thank you! We make the best employees ever and you get that. To others, check out the support from government.
I hope that in the future, people with disabilities are treated like everyone else and employers can trust them to do their jobs well.
Without people employing people with disabilities, we can’t be active members of society because we aren’t being given a chance to succeed or take on paid employment.