New Research Looks to Improve Disability Employment Rate
9 July 2018 at 2:35 pm
A new study led by a researcher with lived experience of disability will investigate the workplace experiences of people who develop a physical disability mid-career.
Paul Williamson, an honorary associate at Sydney University’s Centre for Disability Research and Policy, will lead the study seeking to gain a better understanding of the issues affecting those who develop a physical disability while in the workforce.
Williamson suffered a brain aneurysm aged in his mid-20s, requiring urgent brain surgery, and he also needed a total bilateral knee replacement along with a subsequent ankle replacement due to an aggressive form of arthritis aged in his mid-30s.
He said that the study aimed to help more people with disability remain connected to the workforce.
“Stereotypes about the implications of disability on workplace productivity, concerns on the part of employers about the cost of workplace accommodations, conscious and unconscious bias on the part of both employers and colleagues – together, can marginalise the attachment of people with disability from the workforce,” Williamson said.
“Gaining a better understanding of the experiences of these people, who are already facing considerable challenges in their lives, gives us the opportunity to highlight possible ways to ensure more people with disability are able to maintain their connection to the workforce.”
The researchers said at the mid-career stage of a person’s working life, a significant amount of human capital and experience had been collected.
Therefore, prematurely losing those people from working not only affects the individual and their family, but results in a loss of skills and experience from the workforce.
Australia’s ageing population has put pressure on workplaces to retain skilled workers and maximise the opportunities for people with disability to remain in the workforce.
Data has also shown considerable scope for improving the employment rate of people with disability in Australia, with rates well behind other OECD countries.
Williamson said too many experienced and capable people were leaving the workforce prematurely after developing a physical disability.
“In my experience, the workplace is not always a friendly place for people with disability – a lot comes down to the attitudes of individual supervisors,” he said.
“With the right support and workplace accommodations, these people could continue working for much longer – a real win-win situation for everyone.”
Together with associate professor Jennifer Smith-Merry, Williamson will speak to people with disability who have been able to continue working, as well those who have not, to get a broad sense of the issue.
Those who have developed a physical disability mid-career have been encouraged to take part in the study by filling out a survey.
More information about the study can be found on the Centre for Disability Research and Policy website.