Data on persons with disabilities are hard to come by in almost every country. Specific data on their employment situation are even harder to find. Yet persons with disabilities face the same predicament everywhere. These data, culled from the media and from reports, provide an anecdotal picture of the current situation. In developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialized countries the figure is between 50% and 70%.
‘Disabled still face hurdles in job market’, The Washington Times, 5 December 2005
In most developed countries the official unemployment rate for persons with disabilities of working age is at least twice that for those who have no disability.
Persons with disabilities are frequently not considered potential members of the workforce. Perception, fear, myth and prejudice continue to limit understanding and acceptance of disability in workplaces everywhere. Myths abound, including that persons with disabilities are unable to work and that accommodating a person with a disability in the workplace is expensive. Contrary to these notions, many companies have found that persons with disabilities are more than capable. This sheet provides anecdotal examples of the reasons given for not employing persons with disabilities, and the benefits to companies that have.
“The real obstacle lies with employers. Many are still hesitant to take on employees with disabilities because they believe they may create problems in the workplace. There is also the assumption that this type of appointment will incur cost as the workplace is changed to become disability-friendly.” — Gillian Marescia, an associate in the disability division for Drake Recruitment.
‘Disabled hiring still in its infancy’, Business Day South Africa, 14 October 2003
Here in Kenya, the Kenya National Survey for Persons with
Disabilities (KNSPWD) The accessibility of the immediate surroundings plays an important role in PWDs’ participation in various activities. The survey shows that about 15% of PWDs are likely to be affected by environmental factors on a daily basis and 3% on a weekly basis. Three out of five (65%) PWDs mentioned the environment as major problem
in their daily lives. The age range of 25–34 had the highest proportion of PWDs who found disability without the use of assistive devices a big problem (93%); while the 15–24 bracket had the lowest proportion (90%). Sex differences were minimal; 92% of females against 91% of males found disability without use of assistive devices a big problem.
More often than not, People With Disabilities will tell you how they have had to go to offices looking for work opportunities only to be dined them not for any valid reasons but rather mundane ones. Reasons that do not necessarily hold water as such.
Why tax exempt me if I can’t even get a job that allows me to enjoy being tax exempted?”
Is the question I once asked both employers and KRA officials in a meeting my boss Mercy had sent me to and I remember the heated debate and blame game that ensued shortly after.
It’s not enough to say that we (PWDs) are able. It’s not enough to hold rallies and awareness campaigns saying PWDs deserve this or that. At some point, we have to; you have to pro-actively accompany an action with those words in that document. There are stereotypes associated with disability in the work place that in all honesty, are preposterous. Just because I’m a wheelchair user doesn’t mean I cannot work and having a disabled employee is not expensive.
“How do you know I can’t work when you won’t even let me prove that I can?”
Give PWDs a chance to work and if one PWD failed to meet the cut, stop using a blanket statement to say PWDs cannot work. The GDP overall or otherwise cannot effectively grow absent the disability populous. We ALL need each other in EVERY sense of the word. In the many years I have worked with and for this publication, I’ve had the chance to interact with so many talented individuals with disability, but one of my saddest interviews was with an individual who was visually impaired, exceptionally gifted, vast with knowledge and experience in their field, well traveled and exposed but was not able to get employment simply because they were blind. I was so disappointed in my leaders, my country and just humanity as a whole. I was heartbroken; I still am.
We need to change and not just our outlook but our mindsets too. We need leadership that is not afraid to use a demographic because of myths and stereotypes. We need a wiser President; one that is unashamed and brave enough to reach across the isle despite damning voices and old traditions.
If you are like me and you have a disability (like me) don’t give up and don’t give in. Fight for your place in this world. The world owes you nothing sir/ma’am.
But even as you fight do not do so physically. Let your work speak for you. Use your brain rather than your fists.
If you do get an opportunity to work as a PWD, make it your mission to work twice as hard, raise above the ranks and create more openings for those that are behind you. Do not let yourself be derailed or dismayed by the society simply because they do not understand you or what you are about.
Also, pick your battles wisely. Not every battle deserves to be fought.