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What are you doing to ensure people with disability have equal access to work opportunities in your organisation?


29 November 2019 at 4:08 pm
Claire Robbs
That is the question Claire Robbs, chief executive of Life Without Barriers, is asking of employers everywhere as we approach International Day of People with Disability on Tuesday.


Claire Robbs | 29 November 2019 at 4:08 pm


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What are you doing to ensure people with disability have equal access to work opportunities in your organisation?
29 November 2019 at 4:08 pm

That is the question Claire Robbs, chief executive of Life Without Barriers, is asking of employers everywhere as we approach International Day of People with Disability on Tuesday.

In Australia, the unemployment rate for people with disability is unacceptably high – it’s double the national average. One in five people have a disability, yet only half of those of working age have a job. 

For many people with disability, a major obstacle to obtaining work is unconscious bias. This barrier is one that’s incredibly tough for people to overcome on their own, and frankly, one they shouldn’t have to.

The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people with disability in a range of areas including employment. Work gives us not only financial freedom, but purpose, social connection and learning and development opportunities – it’s something most of us take for granted. Why should people with disability be denied this?

If you needed a stronger reason than that to increase the proportion of people with disability in your workplace, employing people with disability makes good business sense. It gives organisations greater diversity, which inspires innovative thinking and better decision making through exposure to a variety of perspectives. In fact, research reveals that diversity in an organisation is good for all employees, not just people with disability.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure the rights of people with disability are protected – and this includes their right to work.”

It’s clear that the only way to change the experiences of people with disability and improve access to labour market participation is for us as employers to change our employment and recruitment practices. For the past two years Life Without Barriers has committed itself to a robust Accessibility, Inclusion and Employment Plan. We’ve pledged to make 12 per cent of all new recruits people with disability by 2022, among a range of other measures.

This week I’ve been speaking to representatives of the community services sector about how we as a sector can shift this issue. This is especially important given we are the fastest growing sector in the country.

Life Without Barriers has released a Position Paper this week to provide insight into this significant and entrenched barrier facing Australians with disability, and why we must take organised action to change it. It is our collective responsibility to ensure the rights of people with disability are protected – and this includes their right to work.

Now I’m asking: what can you do? 

To help kick start that journey, we’ve come up with some questions you can ask yourself and some actions you can take:

  • What percentage of your workforce is made up of people with disability – is that reflective of your community?
  • How inclusive are your recruitment practices now?
  • Do you have data on the numbers of people with disability who have secured a job with you versus those who have applied for a job?

Then, take action

  • For example, you could set a disability employment target and make a plan for how you’ll achieve this.
  • You could get in touch with your local disability service provider to find out how they can support you in your recruitment.
  • Create a workplace adjustments policy.
  • Ask your employees to provide anonymous feedback on how they found the recruitment process.
  • Access our Workplace Toolkit on our dedicated campaign page to help walk you through how you can create #employmentwithoutbarriers.

I encourage you to listen to Allan’s story, a colleague of mine at Life Without Barriers, who assists people we support with their NDIS plans in our far north Queensland office, about his experiences finding employment. Or challenge your thinking about the worst part of a job interview in this video.

Our disability team on the Central Coast recently collaborated with Joblife Employment – a disability employment service – to fill a gap in vacancies for disability support workers by training up jobseekers with disabilities and offering them permanent positions. It means that Joanne, one of our invaluable disability support workers who had not been in the workforce for 10 years, now gets the opportunity to work in the community and fulfil her potential.

My question to you is: what is your organisation going to do to create employment without barriers?


Claire Robbs  |  @ProBonoNews

Claire Robbs is the chief executive of Life Without Barriers.

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