People with disabilities and those who work on their behalf, are increasingly concerned that negative images of disability - and incorrect assumptions about disabled people - can hamper their progress towards equal opportunities at work.
Employers committed to good practice in the recruitment and career development of disabled people need to be aware that most of the barriers which the latter face are created by the negative attitudes and misconceptions held by society. These barriers are reinforced by small details of language and behavior which may seem insignificant but which can reaffirm inaccurate assumptions and cause unnecessary offence.
By recognising this, and by understanding the feelings of disabled people themselves, employers can do much to ensure that their disabled employees can compete and flourish on equal terms in the workplace
MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIESMost deaf people can lip-read.The truth - This skill is never wholly reliable, requires intense concentration and can be very tiring. Deaf people communicate most easily in sign language.
Blind people acquire a sixth sense.The Truth - Other senses may be used to gain accurate information bur there is no such thing as a sixth sense.
Wheelchair users are literally “bound”.The Truth - Wheelchair like a shoe or a car is a mobility aid that enables a person to get around. Wheelchair users are restricted by an environment that has been designed for abled-bodied living.
Disabled people always need help and may be dependent.The Truth - Being physically unable to do something does not causes dependency - not being able to fly is Solved By Using the services of an airline company. Disabled people may require different services and it is only when choice over those services is removed that dependency occurs.
DISPELLING MYTHSMany employers, having never encountered persons with disabilities either in their personal lives or work environment, have misconceptions or myths which need to be dispelled. The following are a few “myths” which the group of women with disabilities have faced and wish to respond to:
MYTH - People with disabilities use more sick leave than able bodied employees.RESPONSE - Statistics show that people with disabilities use less sick leave than non-disabled employees. (Journal of occupational Accidents-1984).
MYTH - People with disabilities require expensive renovations and assistive devices in the workplace to be effective.RESPONSE - In several countries there are programs like The Access Fund which fund capital renovations for non profit organisations to improve physical accessibility to a building. Other programs like The Centre for Disability and Work, Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Assistive Devices programmes can help to cover costs of assistive devices. Funds may be available for the purpose of obtaining assistive devices for employers maybe exempt from taxes for architectural adaptations to the workplace.
MYTH - People should be upfront with prospective employers about their disabilities in an interview or on an application form. If an applicant has a disability, I want to know about it.RESPONSE - Negative attitudes about people with disabilities are real. Some people feel comfortable disclosing their disability to an employer right away. Others prefer to meet the employer an determine how open they are toward their disability.
MYTH - It might be difficult to fire an employee with a disability if they don’t meet the performance requirements.RESPONSE - It’s important to treat employees who have disabilities in the same way that the other employees would be treated. All employees should receive a warning as they may be unaware of their inappropriate actions.
MYTH - Employees with disabilities might find it difficult to juggle the time they need to take care of their special needs with the time it takes to do their job well.RESPONSE - Women who work and are not disabled make accommodations every day to manage their lives at home and at work.
MEETING PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY
MEETING PEOPLE WITH LOSS OF VISIONFirst identify yourself clearly, and introduce anyone else who is present. Try to indicate where they are placed in the room.
When offering a handshake, say something like “Shall we shake hands?”
When help is needed on unfamiliar ground, say “Let me offer you an arm.” This will enable you to guide rather than propel or lead the person.
When offering a seat, place the person’s hand on the back or arm of a chair.
When talking in a group, remember to say the name of the person to whom you are speaking.
Don’t leave someone talking to an empty space. Say when you wish to end a conversation.
MEETING PEOPLE WHO USE A WHEELCHAIR OR CRUTCHESWhen talking to someone in a wheelchair, try to put yourself at their eye level to avoid stiff necks.Check the following:Are there suitable parking arrangements?Is there a ramped or step-free entrance?Is there a lift if required?If there are potential access problems, notify the person in advance and discuss what can be done.Is reception altered to provide assistance?
MEETING PEOPLE WHO ARE DEAFDo not make assumptions about a person’s ability to communicate or the ways in which they do it.
Remember that those people that use sign language find this the easiest method of communication.
If an interpreter is present, speak to the person you are meeting rather than to the interpreter.
When you are speaking directly to a person who is deaf, remember that shouting does not help. You may want to use written notes.
WHY SHOULD I HIRE SOMEONE WITH A DISABILITYMany people with disabilities have a wide range of skills , experience and education and are anxious for an opportunity to utilise their talents.
Many people with disabilities are motivated and determined to meet employment challenges.
Many people with disabilities are accustomed to finding alternative ways of doing things. This innovative thinking can carry over into the workplace.
Many people with disabilities tend to remain with the same employer for many years. Unfortunately, this low turnover rate occurs because of the difficulty finding other employment, adequate housing and specialised medical care.
Many disabled people in Singapore are enthusiastically awaiting opportunities to receive training and meet the human power shortage in the nations workforce.
IN HIRING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, EMPLOYERS HAVE FOUND THAT MOST HAVE NOT ONLY MET BUT EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS - IN FACT, THEY HAVE GONE ON TO BECOME VERY PRODUCTIVE AND LOYAL EMPLOYEES. ONCE GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY, PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES HAVE PROVEN THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES - BEGINNINGS A JOB SEARCHAside from the question of how to discuss having a disability with a prospective employer, there are some of the questions a women asks herself when beginning a job search.Where do I Start looking?Am I ready?What are my goals?What kind of job do I want?Where can I find information about getting the kind of job that I want?Do I have the skills, education, training and experience that an employer wants?What do I need to be successful?How can I get a start?what accommodations will I need to be successful at work?
SUITABLE CANDIDATES INTERVIEWINGIt may be necessary to have an interpreter to assist the employer when interviewing a candidate with a hearing impairment.
If your scheduled location for interviews is not accessible, arrange to have all interviews at an accessible location. If the qualified candidate requires specific accommodations, these can be made at the time of hire.
As can be seen in MYTHS there are many misconceptions about the abilities of people with disabilities. These misconceptions are often the result of a lack of awareness about disabilities. People often see the disability before the person. They often make unfounded assumptions about how the disability affects the person.
INTERVIEWING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIESConduct interviews with disabled peoples as you would with anyone.Emphasise abilities, achievements and individual qualities but avoid putting people with disabilities on a pedestal.
Remember that questions concerning an interviewee’s disability should be restricted to those relevant to work. Before asking a question about a person’s life outside work, ask yourself if you would put this question to any other interviewee.
Do not make any assumptions about an individual’s ability to perform certain tasks. Disabled people often offer innovative solutions to everyday challenges, with or without the technical aid or personal support.
Do not rely on intermediaries for information or opinions about a disabled person’s capacity to succeed at work. Form your own judgments from discussion with the person themselves, as you would with any interviewee.
If a hand-written application is required, ask if it is necessary. Some people may need someone else to fill it in, or may need to use a computer or tape.