The Field opens up for employees with disability
9 November 2022 at 5:28 pm
A new job site connects accessible employers with people with disability who are looking for an inclusive job.
Picture this: you’ve been accepted for an interview for a job you really want. You suit up and arrive on time, ready to prove to the hiring panel that you’re the one they’re looking for.
But when you get there, you find that the workplace doesn’t have an accessible entrance, or accessible toilets. The corridors are too narrow for your mobility scooter to fit in. And ultimately, the hiring manager decides that while they like you, the job just won’t be the right fit.
That’s the reality faced by people with disability every day, and it’s something that graphic designer Santi Martinez has experienced himself.
“In my particular case, mobility is the biggest barrier that I face when I try to look for a job,” said Martinez.
Martinez lives with muscular dystrophy. He is proud of his disability, but originally didn’t disclose it on his CV because he was worried about what the reaction would be from employers.
He said he felt that while many employers have “good intentions” around hiring people with disability, they are not prepared for the sorts of accommodations that may need to be made.
“That is a problem because maybe they feel scared about hiring someone with disability, because there… is a lack of knowledge about how to do things. Probably they want to [hire people with disability], but they don’t know how,” he said.
Levelling employment’s playing field
Today, Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott AO launched a new job site designed to connect people with disability to inclusive employers.
Called The Field, the website has been designed and led by people with disability and aims to remove accessibility barriers present in other jobseeking sites.
It’s been supported by the federal government, fulfilling an election promise, with more than $6 million in funding.
Martinez was one of those involved in designing the site; as a graphic designer he specialises in accessibility, and was only too happy to share his knowledge for the project.
The Field provides equitable access to job seekers and simplifies the recruitment process for employers.
According to Martinez, The Field will be useful for people with disability looking to connect with accessible and inclusive employers. They will have access to more information about potential employers, who can promote their inclusive strategies and accessibility features on the platform.
At the same time, employees can specify their own preferences, accessibility requirements and skills in a format of their choosing, to make finding a job easier.
“I can enter the system and put [in]… if I’m feeling confident doing a video interview or recording audio or having a virtual meeting interview,” Martinez explained.
“I can also see, before applying, what [the] features are that every single employer has — so [whether] they have enough space in the corridors, for example, or if they have adjustable tables or… bathrooms.
“It can help you to understand better how your life will be in that workplace, and what are the barriers that the employer could have, before applying.”
Another positive about The Field is that it features employers that are specifically looking to hire a person with disability, Martinez said.
“That is good because… if I enter on other [jobseeking] platforms, at the end there is always [the question] ‘do you have a disability’, and honestly, I feel a fear of saying yes because they say ‘we will not discriminate and we are very inclusive’, but at the end of the day, that is not 100 per cent true,” he said.
The launch of The Field comes just days after social services minister Amanda Rishworth launched a trial to link NDIS participants looking for work with disability employment service providers.
Removing barriers and providing opportunities
Around 4.4 million Australians identify as having a disability, and of those 2.1 million are of working age with nearly half a million actively seeking work.
“It’s time to make accessibility and inclusion mainstream in employment,” Alcott, who pledged to use his Australian of the Year platform to promote better employment opportunities for people with disability, said on the launch of The Field.
The Field will also provide businesses with access to practical support to help them in hiring a person with disability, including an inclusive language tool to assist them to post disability inclusive job ads, and digital training resources to build capability and grow understanding of inclusive practices.
“The Field’s accessibility features are what makes the job site unique, it’s been built by people with disability for people with disability,” said Alcott.
And the site removes the deficit lens of disability, focusing instead on what people with disability can do rather than what they can’t.
“A unique AI tool will match candidates with jobs based on their skills, role and accessibility preferences,” Alcott continued.
“Not everyone with disability can work and that’s OK, but for those that can, they deserve the right to choose if they do. Everyone deserves the right to employment. The Field is a groundbreaking digital job site that will open up a marketplace of talent with disability and level the playing field in the employment exchange.”
Martinez said he hoped employers would understand that by hiring a person with disability, they will change people’s lives for the better.
“Just give us the opportunity,” he said.
“It’s the only thing that we require to demonstrate our skills. Give us a chance — we only need one opportunity.”