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No Improvement for People with Disability Engaging with Australian Businesses


1 December 2017 at 11:41 am
Lina Caneva
Many businesses still don’t have a good understanding of customers with disability, according to a survey of more than 500 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) by Australian Network on Disability (AND).


Lina Caneva | 1 December 2017 at 11:41 am


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No Improvement for People with Disability Engaging with Australian Businesses
1 December 2017 at 11:41 am

Many businesses still don’t have a good understanding of customers with disability, according to a survey of more than 500 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) by Australian Network on Disability (AND).

The 2017 Disability Confidence Survey also found that some businesses still hold outdated stereotypes about the skills and capabilities of people with disability as employees.

The report found that despite customers being more empowered than ever, there had been no change in SMEs ability to be accessible and inclusive of people with disability in the past two years.

“This lack of understanding of people with disability as customers and employees is disappointing,” AND CEO Suzanne Colbert said.

“Disability discrimination receives the highest level of complaints across the board to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC). Our survey finds that 60 per cent of SMEs aren’t considering the four million Australians with disability. They need to think about how they can be more welcoming and inclusive,” Colbert said.

Supported by the National Disability Insurance Agency, Westpac Group, IBM and the Department of Defence, the Disability Confidence Survey measured awareness and attitude of SMEs to people with disability.

It found that six out of 10 SMEs had done nothing to make it easier for customers with disability to do business with them in the past 12 months, citing a lack of specific requests as the main reason (50 per cent).

Colbert said that while the situation was disappointing for customers with disability, it was “even worse” for jobseekers with disability.

“More than half of the businesses surveyed (58 per cent) identify that they see their attitude to employing skilled people with disability as positive. However, only three in 10 Australian SMEs actually employ people with a disability,” she said.

“Many survey participants shared that they don’t feel that people with disability are relevant for their work or situation. But disability is diverse, it doesn’t discriminate, and it can happen to anyone. Employers cannot know with any certainty [that] people with disability are not relevant for their work or situation.”

Disability Confidence Survey graphic

Some of the key findings included:

  • 67 per cent of participants believed their customer base included people with disability (which is unchanged from 2016);
  • 57 per cent said customers with disability were seen as being important to their organisation;
  • 62 per cent of participants had not done anything in the past 12 months to make it easier for customers with disability. There was a perception of not being asked to;
  • 41 per cent of participants saw the inclusion of job applicants with disability as important to their business, but many businesses saw job applicants with disability as “not appropriate” for their work;
  • 30 per cent of participants were aware they employed people with disability, compared to 48 per cent that didn’t and a further 22 per cent who were unsure;
  • 66 per cent of those that employed people with disability had experienced clear benefits including strengthening workplace morale, improved skills set, greater customer satisfaction and improved productivity; and
  • 58 per cent saw their attitude to employing skilled people with disability as a positive.

Colbert told Pro Bono News it was no surprise that there had been no change in SMEs ability to be accessible and inclusive of people with disability, but it was “disappointing”.

“SMEs really struggle to find the time to focus on issues such as inclusion of people with disability. Traditionally, SMEs have looked to their Chambers of Commerce, industry organisations, and government agencies for guidance on good practice,” she said.

“We believe there is much more that can be done to encourage and support this large segment of Australian business to become more accessible and inclusive. There needs to be significantly more investment if Australia is to deliver on the NDIS’s promise of an ordinary life for people with disability and all businesses will need to be part of change.

“Jobseekers with disability, employment service providers, advocacy organisations can more easily reach out to SME’s as it’s much harder to link with large business.”

AND is a national, membership based, for-purpose organisation, working to provide an accessible and inclusive environment for people with disability in all aspects of business.

The full report can be found here.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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One comment

  • Avatar Anne Griffiths says:

    Nothing very surprising here. I wonder what research has been done about the expectations of people with intellectual disability and the opportunities available.

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