Regional Manager of Training Programs Billie Lewis-Cassidy is no stranger to the barriers people with disabilities face finding meaningful employment. We sat down with Billie to discuss ways to challenge misconceptions about people with disability in the workplace, and advice for being a more inclusive colleague and employer.
In your role as Regional Manager, what are the most common barriers you see people with a disability experience when looking for employment?
The main themes revolve around the misconception that a person with disability can’t do the work at the same level or is less productive than someone with the same qualifications but without disabilities. This stigma can then extend to colleagues who may feel awkward or uncomfortable about how they should interact with a co-worker with disability. There is also a lack of knowledge around how businesses that create diverse and inclusive workforces are stronger and more cohesive than a traditional workplace.
I think we can all agree that gaining employment gives you a sense of belonging and independence. What other benefits stand out to you?
It’s a chance to learn new skills, connect with new people and communities, improve your financial situation and—most importantly—it positively contributes to your wellbeing and sense of self. I always say - if meaningful work means so much to you and me, why would it be different for people with disability?
I can imagine you have seen so many success stories over the years. Does one stand out in particular?
Throughout my time at CPL there have been so many fantastic outcomes for people with disability. I recently met Scott who gained employment in garden maintenance. Scott’s Mum Michelle called and told me how the family celebrated the news over dinner and how he bounces out of bed each morning to get to work. She told me how his confidence had improved and about the friendships and camaraderie he has formed with his colleagues. This is what it’s all about.
The last few years must have been incredibly challenging for both employees and employers. What changes did you see?
For the past two years, we’ve seen workplaces evolve in response to the pandemic. They’ve transformed how they operate, how they communicate, and even the spaces in which they work on a day to day basis. They’ve invested in training and equipment to support and set up employees within this new environment. There is no reason this adaptability couldn’t be applied to hiring people with a disability.
What kind of adaptions do people with a disability require?
Simply offering flexible working arrangements, working from home, or making modest (Government-funded) workplace modifications. Misinformed attitudes about disability and discrimination can be addressed with disability awareness training, adjusting acceptable language around disability within the workplace, and adjusting traditional role responsibilities to amplify strengths of employees within teams. These barriers to employment can be removed with your support.
If people have questions about how to be a more inclusive workplace, how to hire a person with a disability or read more about workplace modifications – where do they start?
I would start by reaching out to a Disability Employment Agency like Mylestones Employment. They can talk you through the process step by step, and provide resources to support both you, your workplace, and your employees.
There are many benefits to hiring a person with a disability. If you would like to speak with Mylestones appointment about diversifying your workplace, click here.