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The Real Employment Picture For Disabled People Remains Grim

If the disability community is to expect the highest of results for its people, then it needs to stop celebrating mediocrity and positively re-enforcing token approaches to employment. 

What kind of jobs are disabled people really in? Are they getting paid the minimum wage or above it? Are they skilled enough to have growth within the organisation they work for?

If you’re going by the general opinion of most disabled New Zealanders, access to employment is still difficult, sometimes even impossible. Stigma’s still exist, as do stereotypical ideologies towards how little benefit hiring a disabled person has for a business. Yes it’s getting better, as proved by Fairfax Media who won big at the 2017 Attitude Awards for its employment of people with disabilities.

Why Are We Celebrating Such A Small Number Of Positive Results?

A grand total of 11 people who identify as disabled are employed by the news giant. The majority of those employments came from the “Creative Spirit” scheme. In an organisation where 1800 people are employed, this is a token addition that wouldn’t derail the general day-to-day progress at all. For those 11 people, it’s awesome, and Fairfax should be congratulated for at least making the effort.

But there are several questions that need answering before a clearer picture of the actual reality of what’s happening can be seen.

Are these people employed in roles that are visible to the wider community? Is their role giving anything back to the wider community? Are they included in all social events of the organisation they work for? Are they being paid as much as their non-disabled peers working in similar roles?

Being employed in a way that’s visible to the wider community is important. Nobody is attempting to belittle the employment that these people have within Fairfax. Nor is anyone trying belittle the roles that dozens of disabled people have in the workforce outside of Fairfax. Many businesses around the country hire people with disabilities.

I’m simply telling you to look at the bigger picture, because there is nothing worth celebrating right now. Don’t believe me? Look at the financial poverty that thousands of disabled people are living in right now, and while you’re at it, take a look at how they’ve been discriminated against when trying to get a job, simply because of a disability.

“Creative Spirit” did little to help them… much like the DPO’s and the Service Providers who are supposed to raise these issues have done little to help the everyday disabled New Zealander. And before you tell me to not centralise this to disability – there are already advocates working on behalf of other marginalised communities.

The Road To 1000 Disabled People In The Workforce

Perhaps there can be cause for celebration when we can say that 1000 disabled people are in New Zealand’s workforce. Not only that, they’d all be paid the minimum wage, or above, and have realistic room for genuine growth in whatever role they were working in.

When you take into account 24% of the population identifying as having a disability, which by the way was the estimation back in 2013, you’re talking about 1.1million people. How significant is 1000 people in paid employment when you compare? Little, nothing more than a drop in the ocean really.

But it’s a significant improvement on what is being over-celebrated in the wake of the Fairfax Media award.

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