The need to have employment for people with a disability

Riki Anya, AUWU member

Working at Vic Roads was one the best experiences I have had. It had many benefits, first and foremost there was earning money. This gave me value. The freedom to have money in my pocket to afford leisurely things like go to the football, go out for dinners, buy clothes without the stress of a restricted budget felt great. I even saved a small amount to use when I move out of home.

I also learned about workplace expectations. I at first was so hung up on doing the work; I forgot the social aspect and how to interact with my colleagues. I soon learned it was OK to be myself, and be friendly and personable and be able to get my work done too. I also developed my data entry, computer skills, admin skills and more.

With regret, this came to an abrupt end at the end of the 2013 financial year as the state government decided not to include casual workers in the budget. Vic Roads had the capacity to employ some staff, but they were unsuccessful of keeping me on due to no money allocation in the following financial year. My job lasted only 12 weeks.

This makes me feel really sad, I finally find an equal opportunity employer who was prepared to give me a go and they had to let me go due to government funding. This now puts me in a situation where, yes for 12 weeks I gained some more experience to put on my resume, but is 12 weeks really enough? I now find myself not just back on a $400 a week DSP blind pension, but competing against a large number of applicants, who mostly would not have a disability and would also have more experience than me.

I have a diploma, which means I can not to traineeships, and even in entry level positions, they often request one or two years previous experience. What do others do in that in between situation and need to get some more years of experience behind them?

I also feel it is necessary to educate the work/employer community on what the person with a disability can do. I have some experience in a variety of areas, advocacy, networking, data entry, computer, customer service public speaking to name a few, so why when I apply for positions is the feedback I am getting that other applicants had stronger applications than me? I feel I would be a perfect candidate for a traineeship, but due to my diploma making me ineligible to do one, it makes it harder for me to get those years of experience I would love to have.

Also when talking to Disability Employment Service (DES) providers they have openly told me they do not have the funding to have the adaptive technology on the computers for people with vision loss to use their computers. Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of being a DES provider? I believe it should be a federal policy that ALL DES providers make their services accessible by having the adaptations required for people of all abilities to be able to access their service. Although DES providers are technically open for all people with a disability to choose which one they wish to access, the truth is inaccessibility of technology and information prevents people with some disabilities to use their service. Now why should people with vision loss be restricted to Vision Australia or Sense Wide services and not the others because others don’t provide the accessibility that is required? Of which Vision Australia have now lost their DES contract. Further more if the DES providers are unable to set the example by having a fully accessible and inclusive environment, how do as a community expect the workplaces to accept diversity and create an accessible workplace? DES are also very understaffed and underfunded and under resourced to fulfil their role for their clients to a satisfactory level. Again Government fault.

I am in a situation where my parents are downsizing and very soon. They have retired and what to live their later years together as empty nesters. I want to move out of home and live with my partner. He also has a disability. I don’t see how this can happen when I am on a pension budget. The conflict this is causing at home is heartbreaking. I am not getting the required assistance I need to obtain and retain work. There is no reason I should not have a permanent ongoing full award wage job to make my life financially easier again. I am desperate.

I know from personal experience what a difference having a job can make to someone with a disability. It improved my quality of life no end. I learned more personal and work place skills, my confidence grew being able to have pride in myself talking to people about my work and not being on a poverty budget. People with a disability deserve the opportunity to work and have the quality of life anyone would expect to have, just to be able to live independently, pay bills, rent, have food on the table and be able to afford social outings, and enjoy life just as anyone else would should not be hindered by lack of education for employers, rules about education eligibility or other government funding restrictions.

So some things I would like you to think about from this article is how can you make a difference to someone with a disability’s life so they can get paid employment? Then action that difference out and pass it on for others to action something also.

Think about diversity and the valuable contribution someone with a disability could make in your work place and what if any prejudices there are that need to be overcome.

What solutions can you think of to overcome these barriers and prejudices? How can they be implemented so people like me can get a fair go?

I would also encourage employers to get in touch with Australian Unemployed Workers Union and give me a permanent ongoing full award wage job.