Despite the fact that it is a legal
requirement to have 2% of a company’s workforce represented by people with
disabilities, this easy target is still not being met.
problem seems to be an aversion to employ people with disabilities due to
various misconceptions, says Talent Ocean, the online talent management
division of workforce management solutions provider the Kelly Group.
first is the mistaken belief that people with disabilities do not have the
right skills,” says Jennifer Mathews, online marketing manager. “The fact is that people with disabilities
develop important critical thinking skills.
Whether through birth or because they acquired one, people with
disabilities, must develop other strengths, traits and qualities including
perseverance, problem solving, goal setting and determination, all of which
make them valuable and marketable in the workplace,” she says.
second misconception is that supports in the workplace are too costly. Many
believe that they will have to change their physical structures, every desk and
every doorway to accommodate people with disabilities. However, research done in America found that
the vast majority (73%) of employers reported that their workers with
disabilities did not require any additional support structures.
should also be noted that employers accommodate their able-bodied staff all the
time. Examples include permission to go
to the doctor, not asking an employee with a bad back to lift a heavy box or
not requiring an employee with poor eyesight to read fine print, all of which
cost nothing,” says Mathews. “If you are
doing something out of the ordinary, you are accommodating the people you work
with without even thinking about it.”
third misconception is that saying the wrong things in the workplace will
offend employees with disabilities. “At the
Kelly Group, we see the fear factor with many of our clients,” he says. “They are worried about saying the wrong
thing, embarrassing themselves or setting themselves up for a lawsuit. But that’s not the case at all. People with disabilities appreciate “people
first” language. Employers need only
remember to put the person first and the disability second. This means referring to workers as “people
with disabilities” not “the disabled” and describing an individual as a “person
who uses a wheelchair,” not one who is “wheelchair bound.” “Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you
are unsure of what to do,” says Mathews.
fourth misconception is that co-workers will be uncomfortable and that their
productivity will be negatively affected.
In fact, workers with disabilities have a positive effect on
co-workers. Watching someone who has
overcome a major challenge in his or her life raises morale and provides a good
working environment for everyone.
last misconception is that getting information on how to hire people with disabilities
is time consuming and complicated. There
are a number of NGOs in South Africa that look after and promote the interests
of people with disabilities including the South African National Council for
the Blind, the QuadPara Association of South Africa, the Association for the
Physically Disabled and Rehab, an NGO that focuses on the rehabilitation of
individuals with disabilities.
organisations will meet with companies to help address the psychological
barriers employers and staff might face when employing people with
disabilities. As part of the education
process, they will cover the ‘Code of Good Practice on Key Aspects of
Disability in the Workplace’, which is a guide for promoting fair treatment and
reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities,” says Mathews.