Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We recently attended a forum on choosing employment for youth with intellectual
disability. This forum was put on by The National Council on Intellectual Disability
(NCID) and NSW Council on Intellectual Disability.

The forum was initiated by the mother of a young man, frustrated with the lack
of opportunities available for people with disability to be employed in open
employment. We heard of some great experiences of people with moderate
intellectual disability being employed in mainstream or open employment, such as
Jane who now works at an Office Works store in Melbourne.

However, we also heard some not so great experiences of how hard it is for people
with an intellectual or learning disability to find a job, yet alone keep it.
And this seems to be a problem not just limited to intellectual disability. In Australia
the employment of people with a disability is 2.9 per cent, yet they make up 15 per
cent of the working-age population.

Usually people with disability who are seeking work might use a Disability
Employment Services (DES) to help them find a job. Some people have had great
experiences, whilst others might have had not so great experiences.
So how do you choose the right service for you? In the last 12 months the
Government has been keeping a record of the performance of these services
right around the country. The great news is that this information is available to
you. What’s even better is that the information can be filtered to give you a better
understanding of which service might be better at helping you get a job.

You can look up the providers in your area - and for instance if you have a physical
disability you can see which services have had the best record of helping people
with physical disability get a job and keep it.

The same goes if you have an intellectual or any other disability. This is really
important when choosing a DES as one service may have a great understanding
and experience in one type of disability and perhaps not much understanding or
success with another.


So what if you feel you don’t need an employment service to assist you find a job?
Usually if you have the skills and experience there shouldn’t be a problem getting
an interview. But what happens then when you’re face to face? As an employee or
prospective employee you do not have a legal obligation to disclose your disability to
an employer however disclosure may be practical in some situations.

An employer is allowed to ask you as a prospective employee if you have a disability
which would affect how you do the job. If your disability doesn’t then it’s not really
relevant. However, if you think it might and you choose to disclose your disability,
the way in which you do it can actually help people understand and not really see it
as an issue.

For instance if you choose to disclose the disability at an interview, you might bring
a letter from your doctor stating how it affects (or doesn’t) your capacity for work and
you might also provide your prospective employer a ‘fact sheet’ on your disability or
something similar. You’ve become an expert at disability, but remember that many
people may have no idea on disability, so helping them understand really helps in
making it become a non issue.

You may also like to let a prospective employer know about the Employment
Assistance Fund. This fund is available to provide financial assistance for work
related equipment, modifications and services. The types of services can include
Auslan interpreters, specialist support for employees with learning disability or
mental health condition as well as disability awareness training. The Fund may also
provide a free workplace assessment to help identify required modifications.

Then as any other candidate would do, tell them about your abilities, skills and what
you can bring and add to the organisation. Sometimes your experience of having
a disability can be a great way to sell your planning, negotiation and organisational
skills for instance. And of course you have skills which are just as good or better
than the next person, so make sure you tell your prospective employer about them.

There are a number or organisations and corporate entities that have made it a
priority to offer employment opportunities to people with disability. These come in
the way of open employment, mentorship and paid internships. You can find out
more about some of these programs by visiting Australian Network on Disability’s
website at www.and.org.au

These are just some of the many ideas and resources available to you to assist in finding that job.