While many Australian businesses are making great headway in the diversity and inclusion space, recently released statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) indicate people living with disability, who are of working age (15-64 years of age), are more than twice as likely to experience unemployment than those Australians living without a disability.1
One in six people in Australia are estimated to be living with disability, which have a combination of direct, indirect, large, and small impacts on their day to day lives. This research shows, in the previous 12 months, people living with disability of working-age, between 15 – 64 years old, have experienced discrimination due to their disability, including:
- One in five experiencing some form of discrimination compared with one in seven without a disability
- More than two thirds (44%) have avoided situations because of their disability
- Nearly half (48%) are currently unemployed; 32% lower than those living without a disability
- One third (30%) have had challenges with mobility, communicating or accessing buildings or facilities including for employment opportunities.1
Shaun Pianta, Australian Paralympian and atWork Australia Disability Employment Services (DES) Ambassador and Disability Awareness Trainer believes these statistics demonstrate in part “the existing stigma relating to employees living with disability and the work that still needs to be done to close this employment gap”, and is encouraging employers to change their way of thinking when it comes to people living with disability.
In 2008, while holidaying in Bali, Shaun contracted a superbug virus that attacked his optic nerve, resulting in losing 90% of his vision. Now, Shaun is a B3 classified visually impaired Para-alpine skier and represented Australia at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games. “As an avid snowboarder I turned to sport, with my mind set on becoming a Paralympian. And that’s exactly what I did. But after several injuries, I retired from the sport. That’s when all my previous uncertainties about employment came flooding back”, said Shaun.
Now, Shaun is passionate about breaking down the perceived barriers and challenges facing those living with disability to find meaningful employment.
“In a time where many businesses are struggling with labour shortages, there is a massive pool of talented people who are ready and willing to work. People living with disability aren’t looking for a hand-out or to be given a job because they have a disability. All they want is a fair opportunity in the recruitment process, for employers to have an open mind towards how a task can be done, and to be considered according to their skill set and experiences they can bring, not their personal situation”, said Shaun.
Businesses that embrace equality attract a broad range of talent to their business, with different perspectives, ideas and thinking patterns which can only add value to the business and help relate to a more diverse client base.
“Through my work, I’ve seen first-hand that fear of the unknown can lead employers to overlook employing people living with disability. But there is a motivated group of individuals, able and willing to prove them wrong. It’s time to challenge the way we think about disability when it comes to employment in Australia, to grow a more inclusive workforce”, continued Shaun.
Service providers like atWork Australia are here to connect more people and businesses so both can thrive. Together, working to break down stigma relating to people living with disability, rebuild people’s confidence and work collaboratively with clients to find creative employment solutions so everyone is able to find employment that is right for them.