What is Disability Discrimination?
Disability is a broad and often misunderstood concept. Currently, 1 in 5 Australians’ are affected by a disability. However, because disabilities are not easily defined or always visible, there are misconceptions about them in society. These biases are known as disability discrimination. Even if the prejudices are unintentional, it is important to recognise and learn how we can help break them.
What is disability discrimination?
What comes to mind when you think of a disability? Remember, disabilities can be physical, intellectual, learning, psychological, medical, sensory, neurological or a disease. They can be obvious, or hidden, stable or episodic, permanent or temporary. Disabilities vary on a broad spectrum and affect everyone individually.
Disability discrimination is when our prejudices or misconceptions lead to the unjust treatment of people living with a disability. For example, assuming someone who lives with anxiety would not enjoy working with people. Instead, ask the individual about their preferred job setting, providing an opportunity for them to thrive.
How can we stop disability discrimination?
Awareness, education and understanding are the best ways to protect people from disability discrimination. Often it is not a person’s disability which is disabling, but societies perceptions, attitudes and the physical environment that creates barriers for the individual.
This perspective can change when we focus on what people are capable of and ask them when we are unsure. People know their disabilities, their limitations and what they are capable of. Instead of guessing what someone needs, ask how you can support them and provide changes to make situations more comfortable. Aim to treat everyone as an individual.
Disability discrimination in the workplace
Creating a diverse workplace where everyone feels included will benefit all staff, past and present. WISE believes if the customer has all the skills for the role, their disability should not be a barrier to employment. Discrimination towards people with a disability in the workplace often occurs when employers fail to look past the disability to see a person’s ability.
For employers, it is essential to be flexible to adjust working conditions to accommodate a disability where needed. Being flexible can include working part-time, working from home or adjusting an office environment to help people feel comfortable. Let people tell you what they need.
If you have a disability, be transparent when you feel comfortable to do so. Be proud of who you are and the skill sets you have to offer. If you are interviewing for positions and wish to tell the employers of any changes you may need, wait for the end of the interview. After you have promoted why you are the right candidate for the job, you can suggest any additional support you may need to thrive in the role. However, you do not have to disclose your disability and are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992.
How can WISE help?
WISE Employment has over 25 years of experience connecting people living with disabilities with inclusive employers. Focusing on empowerment and inclusivity, we help educate both job seekers and employers on disability employment, supporting them through every step of the hiring process and into work.
To achieve the best results for both parties, we treat every employer and job seeker uniquely as we know no two cases are the same. Our support services include, but are not limited to:
- Educating employers and existing employees on disability
- Provide job seekers with additional training to successfully meet the job requirements or up-skill
- Provide required licensing, equipment and clothing for job seekers
- Conducting workplace assessments
- Offering recommendations and adjustments needed to accommodate job seekers
- Ongoing support for job seekers and employers for the duration of employment.