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Our FAQ Magazine

F. A. Q. on Disability and recruitment.
part 1

Q. Why should we bother to spend time and energy on Disability recruitment?

A. Three reasons,

  1. the Employment Equity act no 55 1998 requires that people with Disability be given affirmative action status and are therefore a designated group which along with Race and gender require increased employment attention.
  2. another reason is that people with Disabilities are part of our reality in society, as they are with all other societies around the world, and have been excluded for to long and it makes economic sense to include them not exclude them.
  3. for most business or service providing organizations; Disability constitutes existing or potential market share, and that in the spirit of Diversity it makes sense to incorporate as much diversity within ones organization as exists in society and the market place.

Note: consider this quote by Peter Bonnfield ex CEO of British Telecom
“Companies that fail to embrace Diversity, including Disability, as a core business issue, are simply missing the point.”

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Q. But my premises are not accessible. We cannot accommodate them, how are we supposed to comply with the EEA?

A. Firstly it is a mistake to think of Disability in extremes, people with Disabilities are not just made up of people in Wheelchairs or the blind, or the Deaf. Disability is very broad, and encompasses a wide range of issues. Secondly, in this day and age after more than 20 years of National Building regulations have incorporated Access into their stipulations, inaccessibility is not a defense and is probably unlawful to begin with.

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Q. There are so many jobs in our company that simply cannot be done by Disability, can we target a selected range of positions for people with Disabilities?

A. Absolutely not. This approach, often called the shopping list approach is completely wrong. The idea that certain jobs cannot be done by disability is baseless and inaccurate and is a result of an old fashioned Medical model approach. The fact is that very, very few jobs in any industry are “impossible” for Disabled people to do.

Note: try a little exercise: thinking of the company you work for.
Identify the job that cannot be done by a person with a Disability in your company.
Very quickly, you have probably come up with several jobs that you are sure, CERTAIN disabilities cannot do. E.g. a driver cannot be a Blind person, or a telephonist cannot be a deaf person……
There are two traps to look out for here.
One, just because one disability for instance a blind person cannot be a driver, does not mean that another person with a different disability cannot be a driver. Once again we tend to think in extremes and often exclude all sorts of things as a result.
Second, how many senior level jobs did you think of? It is interesting how often we think of Disability opportunity as a lower level opportunity but very rarely do we think of senior or executive positions as potentially able to be filled by people with Disabilities.
What does this say about our faith in the ability of people with Disabilities to be able to do whatever job they are skilled/prepared/trained to do.

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Q. But what do I do if a blind guy, say, applies for a position as a driver?

A. we have an old saying; “people with Disabilities, are Disabled, not stupid!” what this means of course is that people with Disabilities are perfectly capable of self selection, you simply wont get a blind guy applying for a drivers job, or a deaf guy wanting to be a telephonist, or a chap in a wheelchair applying for a job as a rigger, etc, etc. its already hard enough as a person with a Disability in the job market, lets not make it harder by creating additional and unnecessary barriers.

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Q. What if I can only cater for certain types of Disabilities, is it ok, to target certain Disabilities only?

A. No, it is definitely not good Equity practice to do this. Just like with so called “ring fenced” jobs, one should for the most part always put the intention of inviting ANY person with ANY kind of Disability to apply for ANY job you have available. This will not be the embarrassing drama that many might think, for the reasons stated above.

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Q. Do I have to get my work place completely accessible before I begin to recruit People with Disabilities?

A. As ideal as this sounds, it is highly unlikely that you will manage to get it 100% accessible for EVERY kind of Disability. It would be futile therefore to hold back on hiring people with Disabilities on the grounds that you were not ready. Certainly, one should as a matter of law and decency, particularly if you have a fairly public front, make an effort to be basically accessible especially from a physical point of view. However as was discussed in the last “Nutshell” article, access is way more than just a wheel chair consideration. The fact is that everyone benefits from good access, not just people with Disabilities.

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Q. But I am frightened that if I have to give a job to a person with a Disability, it will cost me a fortune with all the accommodation I will need to make for them.

A. This is definitely not the case as a generalization. The fact is that on average people with Disabilities cost very little if anything. It is a myth to assume that all people with Disabilities “cost a fortune”.

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Q. is it true that people with Disabilities are less productive than able bodied people?

A. Astonishingly, this has become a rather wide spread rumour, and speaking even beyond basic political correctness, it is simply nonsense. It is baseless and spurious and of course damning to the ideal of increased opportunity. Having said this, however, if one insists on only targeting entry level positions for people with Disabilities, then certainly, one will have a certain amount of lower productivity to deal with as the incumbent learnes the ropes.

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Q. I have several people with disabilities employed in my call centre and reception . They make up at least 2% of my workforce. Surely I am now compliant in terms of Equity?

A. Not necessarily. The best way to describe this is to ask if by employing people of colour or women in such positions only, would that be equity? Clearly this would not be acceptable equity, so why then do we feel it is appropriate to mostly employ people with Disabilities in mostly, lower level jobs?

End of Part one.

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