It is a sad fact that in today’s society, disabled people still find it difficult to find and maintain employment, with adequate pay and good working conditions. This is despite incentives to employers to hire disabled people. Disabled people should not of course be given jobs out of charity or tokenism but because employer recognizes their rights and their capabilities. Perhaps these schemes would have been better received if there was evidence that the government itself employed substantial disabled people, to lead by example.
Breaking Limits believes that a lot of the problems disabled people face stem from the way they are treated by society. An impairment is innate to the individual, but the way society views the impairment has a more disabling effect on the disabled person than the impairment itself. It is convenient for governments to perpetuate the view that it is the impairment that is the issue, as this excuses it from framing policy and take adequate measures to allow full inclusion for disabled people especially in the workplace.
Education of employers on disability is key. Employers need to understand that disabled people pose no additional risks to a business and productivity, and with some flexible adaptations (including attitude), can accommodate everyone. The government and disability NGOs have a role to play in educating employers so that they feel more relaxed around disabled people, and understand that they have wide ranging capabilities and a lot to offer. This could be done through information campaigns, or business seminars, where employed disabled people could relate their experiences.
What disabled people want is the ability to participate on a level playing field. ETC could also contribute by offering additional courses to disabled people to enhance skills they need in the workplace. Employment laws regarding discrimination in recruitment should be carefully monitored with a board which can look into cases of discrimination on the basis of disability if required.
Breaking Limits believes that when MPs start consulting and listening to disabled people about issues that affect their full inclusion in the workplace and society, then decisions will be made that will have a profound impact on the way disabled people live their lives. There is no better time for this consultation than now, as we move towards the general elections, debate and start planning priorities for the next 5 years.