I did an interview today about my experience with employment since my injury and this got me thinking about how much, even though time consuming, work gives a sense of fulfilment. It’s now recognised that working has health benefits adding to self-worth, self-esteem and a feeling of self-reliance.
After my accident I prioritized finding a job and almost one year after incurring my disability I re-entered the workforce. My employer at the time of the accident, a multi-national healthcare company, was excellent in aiding me to get back to employment. They did this in a number of ways; Firstly, by transferring me to a different branch (closer to where I now resided), secondly they reallocated me with a new post more in line with my subsequent abilities, thirdly they made some essential changes to my place of work and lastly they allowed me to be accompanied by a personal assistant until I became familiar with my new surroundings.
I was one of the lucky ones as a significant employment gap between disabled and nondisabled people remains along with the poverty that generally accompanies disability. A big player in independence is your ‘financial resources’ with poverty and independence being closely related. This is an invisible community, living for the most part in silent suffering as they cope with the day-to-day struggles. Currently, there are over 7,600 persons with disabilities on social housing waiting lists in Ireland. With reduced incomes this makes social events costly and excursions become sadly a non-relevant aspect of life for a proportion of disabled living.
Even though for the most part I have been lucky with regards securing employment I did however have a few negative experiences. One such was being told by a person specially trained to help disabled people find suitable jobs that “it would not be worth an employer’s time to employ you”. This disability employment adviser was and is a member of the social welfare office in my area and despite his invaluable advice I have obtained several paid roles in the past three years. His attitude towards disability was most definitely not leading the way but lagging behind. This staggering negative perception and attitude around disability is what prevents employers from hiring disabled people and this needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are seen as incapable, with decreased mental aptitudes and ability. In 2018, disability discrimination should have no place in our society including our work environments.
In my opinion, there is little guidance, support and training to help you into employment if injured and once again the myriad initiatives designed to lift people out of isolation and segregation fall short. The system fails so many people with disabilities to re-enter the workforce and become independent, creating a mentality with little expectation that a person with a disability will add to the state, instead they remain a stigmatic liability due to their disability. Work opportunities need to be given and barriers need to be overcome. The Irish society to stand behind people who are different by way of physical or intellectual needs and actively empower them. The government needs to actively help employers and doctors work together to get people with disabilities into work. Employers need to take a positive approach to disability and offer interviews to all disabled applicants who meet the minimum job criteria. Further schemes must provide essential finances towards the cost of special equipment at work and/or travel expenses.
I leave you with this last thought; Do you think enough is being done to promote diversity in your workplace, when thinking about disability in particular?