I can’t employ a disabled person because…

It may not be something you’ve said aloud for fear of offending, but it may be something you have thought before, and based on disability employment rates you’re not the only one to has this thought.

There are numerous benefits to businesses when hiring a diverse workforce. Disabled employees will stay in a job longer, take less sick leave, have fewer health and safety incidents, and perform better. Businesses with disabled employees will demonstrate greater innovation, enhanced reputation, improved performance and productivity, and increased profit margins.

How can your business employ a more diverse workforce?

Consider whether your recruitment process is accessible. Including a statement welcoming a diverse range of applicants can bring in more candidates. Instead of asking someone if they have a disability on a generic application form, ask every applicant if they require any accommodations to fully engage in the application process. Always include a contact person to avoid adding another barrier for applicants seeking additional information.

Now consider the roles in your business. Is there flexibility in these roles? Can the job be done remotely, on a part-time basis, or is there potential to job share? Think of the people you currently employ and ask yourself:

  • Is anyone a parent?
  • Does anyone participate in sport or training?
  • Is anyone studying?

During our careers, we often require some form of accommodation from an employer due to family, sports, education or a temporary or permanent disability. A business would not often dismiss employing a parent, athlete, or mature student, but it is sometimes the case when considering employing a disabled person.

Businesses have learned to adapt

Businesses were forced to adapt during COVID and lockdowns. In just two days, New Zealand workplaces had to re-think how they operated. Most people required workplace accommodations throughout the pandemic. Demonstrating that businesses and their employees could adapt quickly.

Many businesses experienced positive change and have continued providing alternative working arrangements for their employees. These changes have not led to negative outcomes. Instead, they’ve opened the door to change and further employment opportunities.

This provides confidence businesses can overcome other perceived barriers to employment; including people not considered because of the physical workplace, working hours, or role requirements. Perceived barriers now present opportunities for future employees from diverse backgrounds with different experiences benefiting businesses.

How employing disabled people changes perceptions

Amanda Lowry is a mother, partner, PhD student and tetraplegic. These roles and experiences, among others, all contribute to Amanda’s impact as the Disability Advisor at Tauranga City Council (TCC). Having a disabled employee has a broader effect on TCC employees and their work and, subsequently, an impact on our city. Working collectively towards the lofty goal to make Tauranga the most accessible city in New Zealand. 

Amanda Lowry, Disability Advisor at Tauranga City Council
Amanda Lowry, Disability Advisor at the Tauranga City Council (pouring the curb outside Burger Fuel).

Amanda recently teamed up with Garry Oakes, Roading Manager at TCC where they went for a roll together at the Mount CBD. In their short push, Garry watched Amanda struggle with the camber on footpaths and precarious curb cuts. Despite Garry being in the roading industry for over 30 years, he saw first-hand the current accessibility code was just not good enough.

“Council have to go above and beyond the minimum standard”. Amanda notes, “it’s all the unsexy stuff that makes disabled people’s lives better. If I can roll with my family side-by-side and not have to look at my feet for potential hazards, that is a win. I can truly be present – engage in conversations; enjoy the beautiful space without spending all my energy and focus negotiating an inaccessible environment”.

Garry organised for Amanda to meet the team doing the work, so that they could better understand. Now as the team makes their way around Tauranga upgrading and repairing pathways and roads they will be done with a different lens. A lens that moves our city toward accessibility for all. For Garry, many of the changes weren’t a big deal; they just weren’t thought of.

So, when you are next looking to recruit, instead of thinking you can’t employ a disabled person because there are too many obstacles to overcome, think about the positive benefits your business will gain if you do.

Momenta is hosting a Business @ Breakfast event on Wednesday, March 22. Click here to register. If you’d like to learn more about employing disabled people and how this can contribute to, and benefit, your company this will be a great opportunity to get in the room with the experts. In the meantime, if you’d like to contact Momenta to find out more, click here to get in touch.

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