That’s five times the national average!
Also 53% of those who want a job have given up looking because they are too disheartened and 34% of visually impaired people with postgraduate degrees were unemployed.
According to the report, “this is due to a lack of motivation in this group, employer perceptions and lack of awareness about practical solutions that can be applied to workplaces.”
Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Greame Innes who himself is blind and relies on a guide dog is one of Australia’s most influential people.
In a terrific interview on ABC’s Sunday Profile radio show last Sunday, Innes told Monica Attard that even he suffers discrimination every day:
Oh, going into buildings and not being able to, independently, travel to the floor that I want because the lifts don’t announce the floors or there aren’t markings on the buttons of the lifts, walking into meetings where pieces of paper are passed around and, of course, there isn’t one in braille that I can read.
When I was younger, having qualified as a lawyer, spending 12 months where probably the majority of interviews that I went for I was refused the job not because I wasn’t the best applicant but because people couldn’t understand how a person who was blind could function as a lawyer and I eventually took a job as a clerical assistant. I used to make a joke that I was the only clerical assistant in the New South Wales public service with a law degree.
So, yeah, I and many, many other people with disabilities experience discrimination all the time, much of which occurs out of good intentions and much of which is not deliberate, but much of which also restricts our opportunities to function normally in the community, because that’s really what people with disabilities want to do. We don’t want to be portrayed as heroes or as victims but rather, given the chance to operate just as agents of our own destiny.
When we get to that point, and I think we will, then we’ll have an inclusive community which completely includes people with disabilities.
Chief executive of Vision Australia, Gerard Menses thinks it’s down to employers’ misconceptions, telling The Sydney Morning Herald:
“There’s still a perception among employers that disability is a liability rather than an asset. There’s a need to raise awareness that with some simple adaptive technology blind people are as productive as sighted people.”
16.6% of working aged Australians have a disibility, so what prevents employers from taking them on?
Employing someone with a disibility is costly. MYTH, says the Human Rights Commissioner:
We found in our report, the work that we did, that there were three barriers: an information barrier, a cost barrier and a risk barrier, and the cost and risk barriers are largely barriers of perceptions rather than reality.
So, for most people with disabilities the extra cost of a piece of equipment or technology or a change that needs to be made to a building is under $100 and there are various government-funded schemes which will resource employers for the extra costs. But it’s this attitude issue that I talked to you about before. It’s persuading people that a person with a disability can do the job. That’s the big barrier that we need to get over.
But unfortunately the myth prevails.
28 year-old Riki, who has moderate vision loss and slower physical motor coordination, writes to Australians for Disability and Diversity Employment’s website.
When people discuss employment, it means different things to different people. For some, they have success, fortune, and a love of their work. For others, it may be a difference between paying bills and not. Some people have the ability to find jobs that fall in their lap, while others don’t seem to get their fair break. It is even much tougher for those of us with disabilities who struggle to compete in the open working market.
In the 10 years since finishing year 12, I have struggled in order to get paid employment. While peers at school had part time work, I stumbled in and out of a few interviews, without any success. I have had the assistance of various employment agencies As hard as my marketers worked to get me a job, a lot of employers just dismissed me. A lot of employers consider vision impaired people high risk factor and are unsure of their skills, abilities and contribution they can make. The hard part is educating employers and public about the positive contribution we can make as staff members.
Have you recently employed somebody who is blind or has low vision? What changes did you make to the office if any did you make? Was it a cinch?
Please, share your stories!