One in five Australians has a disability. If you look in your own workplace, it’s likely there are already employees around you with disability who are thriving in their roles.

However, overall people with disability are far underrepresented in the Australian workforce. Among those aged 15 ­– 24, just 21% have a paid job, and this raises slightly over the age of 25 to 23% holding paid work. Overall, they’re four times more likely to be unemployed.

The National Disability Insurance Agency’s target is to see 30% of working-age people in paid work by June 2023. An ambitious, but achievable goal that’s supported by initiatives like the Inclusive Employment Movement, which looks to remove some of the barriers that are unnecessarily holding people back.

In support of this goal, we’re breaking down some of the main stigmas for employers when it comes to hiring people with disability.

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Myth 1: People with disability are not suited to skilled work

This couldn’t be further from the truth. People with disability embody many unique and specialised skills. Given the chance in an inclusive environment, they can easily thrive alongside their colleagues.

Maddie is one person with an intellectual disability who does just this, working at Endeavour Foundation in Cannon Hill, Brisbane.

I think everyone who has a disability should have a chance to work in open employment, because everyone has different strengths and different talents, says Maddie.

The strengths she mentions represent the full scope of those needed in skilled roles. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018 Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, reported that 22.5% of people with disability who are employed work as professionals and 10.8% as managers. The sky really is the limit on what is possible.

Myth 2: People with disability will cost their employer money or resources

Ben Clifton from Syndicate Valley Pineapples in Yeppoon, Queensland, knows this just isn’t true. Last growing season he employed two people with disability to work on his pineapple farm.

“I think there might be some misconception around losing efficiency in the workplace. That people with disability might not be able to achieve certain outcomes, but I certainly haven’t experienced this,” he says.

“I don’t look at it as employing someone with a disability, I look at it as employing someone who has a willingness to work.

You can teach anyone to do anything if they have a willingness to learn and a willingness to be a part of a team, says Ben.

And it turns out his observations are supported by research, which shows that people with disability have lower workers’ compensation costs, take fewer days off, and stay loyal to an organisation longer than other employees.

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Myth 3: People with disability don’t perform at the same level as their colleagues

When they find the right job, people with disability can perform as well if not better than their colleagues. Something that Ben witnessed firsthand with the two workers he employed.

“We had Jamie and Chris working on the farm with us for about seven months after we took on a big influx of staff. They turned out to be some of the best staff we had over the summer crop,” he says

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Myth 4: People with disability aren’t a good cultural fit

Bringing people with disability into a workplace offers immense benefits beyond just adding to the culture of the team. They can help boost staff morale and a sense of teamwork, while also fostering strong connections with customers.

Ben says, “The guys who came to our farm from Community Solutions are the guys who are here every day. They are smiling when they get to work and they are smiling when they leave.

“Everyone around them is having a good time as well.”

If you would like to learn more about employing people with disability, you can read about the benefits and the process here.

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