Dylan Alcott launches campaign fighting barriers to work for people with disability
24 July 2019 at 5:47 pm
People with disability spend much of their lives overcoming a myriad of barriers. One that’s often out of their hands is finding a job. But a new initiative headed up by paralympian Dylan Alcott is trying to change this.
The Remove the Barrier campaign, launched by the Dylan Alcott Foundation on Tuesday, aims to remove the visible and invisible barriers that prevent people with disability from finding work.
Despite one in five people in Australia living with disability, only 54 per cent of people with disability have employment, with few initiatives in place to shift the statistic.
Alcott, who recently returned from winning the wheelchair quad singles title at Wimbledon, said the biggest problem people with disability faced in finding a job was one that was invisible to most – unconscious bias.
“This invisible barrier is at the core of the campaign and is what The Dylan Alcott Foundation and the young people with disability involved in the campaign are asking businesses and individuals to remove,” Alcott said.
“The Dylan Alcott Foundation decided it was time to raise awareness of unemployment among people with disability and change perceptions of what they can achieve in the workplace.”
Oliver Hunter, who uses a wheelchair, featured in a video for the campaign that follows three people overcoming physical and mental barriers as they prepare for their working day.
Hunter told Pro Bono News while he has now worked in a few different jobs, there was one experience when he was studying that would always stick with him.
“It was a university student leadership position that I was more than qualified for, but the interviewer told me that due to my physical restrictions, I wasn’t able to do the job,” Hunter said.
“My disability had nothing to do with the position, but his reasoning was that because the campus had stairs I wouldn’t have been able to access upstairs classrooms.
“I remember ringing my mum in tears because I’d never experienced such blatant discrimination.”
He said the problem people with disability faced was not about having the right qualifications or skills, but not having employers that were open minded.
“We go into an interview just hoping there’s someone on the other end who’s open minded and ready to see the benefits of hiring someone with a disability, which is what this campaign is trying to highlight,” Hunter said.
He added that in most cases, he didn’t believe unconscious bias came from a place of malice, it was an issue of jumping to conclusions.
“It’s just about having a conversation. If the hiring manager is concerned, then bring it up in a reasonable and professional way, because most of the time they will probably find their concerns are not that big a deal,” he said.
The campaign has so far received backing from big corporates ANZ and Nike, which Alcott said would hopefully spark important conversations about disability inclusion in boardrooms, shop floors and offices around the country.
“Regardless of the fact that people with disability deserve the same rights as able-bodied people, disability inclusion is simply good business,” Alcott said.
Hunter added that having the support of such big names would show other organisations and companies what was possible.
“It might be another business and company and government organisation sees this and goes ‘well, we need to think about it too’. And then before you know it, people with disabilities have better jobs,” Hunter said.
The campaign ad featuring Hunter, and accompanying imagery, will feature across TV, digital and online media nationally throughout July and August.