12 May

Employers must see the person, not the disability

first_img Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. With thelaunch of the Disability Rights Commission campaign this week, Prime MinisterTony Blair, writing exclusively for Personnel Today, argues that disabledemployees benefit businessHumanresources professionals need little convincing about the contribution peoplewith disabilities make in the workplace. They know that the talent and commitmentof disabled workers will compensate for the small costs of any necessaryequipment or adaptations many times over.In this, HRmanagers and the Government are in agreement – disabled people face enoughchallenges without society creating new ones. The shared challenge for us is toconvince employers and managers that providing disabled people with a fairchance in the workplace is not a burden or even just an opportunity to do theright thing, but can also benefit business performance.The heartof this challenge is tackling prejudice and preconceptions – often held bydecent, well-meaning people who make assumptions based on ignorance. In a way,they too are trapped in a cycle where disabled people are assumed to beincapable of taking up work, and are therefore excluded from the workplace asthey are from so many other parts of society. This, in turn, denies disabledpeople the chance to show what they can achieve, so perpetuating thestereotypes that hold them back in the first place.TheGovernment is working to create the right economic and social conditions sothat everyone can fulfil their potential. As part of this, we are committed tohelping disabled people break down the barriers they face – from school onwards– and challenging preconceptions. Where necessary, this is backed by law toensure that civil rights are enjoyed by all. But it is also providing practicalhelp both to disabled people and prospective employers to ensure that disabledpeople can compete for jobs on equal terms.So,alongside full implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act, and bigincreases in benefits for those who need them most, we have set up the New Dealfor Disabled People, which will be extended nationally next July. This willcapitalise on the excellent work it has done already in helping more than 5,000disabled people into jobs.We havealso provided more practical advice and assistance to help employers recruitand retain disabled people, and ensure their existing employees can stay inwork if they develop a disability or long-term illness. The Access to Workscheme provides practical advice and support to disabled people and theiremployers to help overcome work-related obstacles resulting from disability. The newDisability Rights Commission is an example of this comprehensive approach. Itprovides advice as well as ensuring rights are understood on all sides and, ifnecessary, can be enforced. I want the commission to come to be seen – and Iknow the commission agrees about this – not as a police force for a set oflegal obligations but as a resource to help firms make the changes they need tobring more disabled people into the workforce. It is certainly a resource whichwe in government need to use fully. Although there have been advances –including in my own office – government as a whole is still behind where weshould be. Often thesechanges are so minor that they are a drop in the ocean compared to the widercosts of recruitment. The average cost of adaptations in the workplace is about£50 for each disabled employee. And with a million more people in work thanthree years ago, and the Government committed to the long-term aim of fullemployment, meeting the needs of disabled people will, I believe, become a moreimportant way for companies to attract quality employees.In the end,all that disabled people want is the chance to show what they can do. Allemployers need to do is to see the person, not their disability, and thendecide if they have the skills for the job. And forgovernment – as for HR professionals – the task is to convince employers andmanagers that it is often that easy. And when it is more difficult, there ishelp at hand. Related posts:No related photos. Employers must see the person, not the disabilityOn 12 Dec 2000 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more