Disability and Employment: Shifting Perspective



The rollout of the NDIS is exciting and long-overdue. Its ability to help thousands of Australians to live an ordinary life, the way they want, is powerful. However, Australia still suffers from deeply engrained misconceptions about people with disability and their role within the workplace; often blocking those with a disability from employment all together.  

During 2015-2016 the Australian Human Rights Commission received 2,013 complaints, of these, 37% were lodged under the Disability Discrimination Act—reflecting how exclusion is still part of the Australian social fabric.

Looking at the consistently low unemployment rate for people with a disability across Australia reflects how we must focus on changing perceptions. For example, the unemployment rate for people with autism is six times that of those without a disability; despite people with autism, or autism spectrum disorders, often possessing unique skills such as deep knowledge in particular area, remarkable attention to detail, and exceptional memory.    

The ABC’s new documentary series, Employable Me Australia, is helping change the perspective of people with disability and employment. The program follows six job seekers who are determined to show that their disability shouldn’t stop them from being employed. The program highlights that often employers say they want candidates who think differently, but do they really mean it?

For Rohan, who features on the documentary and has autism, it’s about getting a job so he can live independently. “I want to contribute to society. I want to just be normal I guess…I need a job; everyone needs a job.”

Rohan, like so many others, has struggled to get a job despite his desire for one. When Rohan is assessed by one of Australia’s leading doctors from the Brain & Mind Research Institute, Professor Adam Guastella, it’s confirmed that Rohan has an ability to digest and memorize information in a way that only 2% of the population can. Professor Guastella says “It’s truly amazing” and that people like Rohan need to be in jobs that “Take advantage of these skills.” Exposing the huge talents people with disability have.

When it comes to further benefiting businesses few know that research has shown that people with a disability have higher rates of retention, better attendance, and fewer occupational health and safety incidents than those without a disability.

Employable Me Australia along with the impacts of the NDIS could mark a cultural turn of the tide; one that sees those with disability sharing the same employment opportunities as everyone else.            

To watch ABC’s Employable Me Australia click here.


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