CL: Disability is often positioned as a sensitive topic. How do you think we can alleviate some of those barriers?
DA: When people talk about disability it’s really reactive. People think straight away ‘that guy’s in a wheelchair, what do I do, does he have a carer?’
People can get so awkward around disability and it’s not their fault, they’ve probably just not been exposed to anybody with a disability.
When you see things on TV about disability and it all seems a bit scary and taboo you put it in the too-hard basket or you don’t want to offend people. Let me tell you - you’re not going to offend people!
I call it normalising disability: trying to make people comfortable around disability. That and accessing jobs is probably one of the hardest things.
CL: Speaking of, why is it important to bring events like these to regional communities? What’s important and what are you trying to do?
DA: People with disabilities in the city struggle, but they struggle a lot more in regional towns - there’s less support, hospitals, care and job opportunities. There’s high unemployment for people here in Mildura between the ages of 15-24.
Imagine if you have a disability. You’ve got no chance to get out there and do anything. I want to spread my message and lead the cultural shift around disability and the economic participation around people with disabilities.
I want them to want to get out there and study and get a job, because if they do hopefully we can change people’s perceptions. They can work and spend their money, go on a holiday go out for dinner - they can do those types of things.
At the moment, if you can’t, what’s the point of getting a job? You can just sit at home, live off your pension and play video games –that’s not a life I want people to be living.
CL: Is there anything you’d like the business community to do more of?
DA: There are some incredible statistics around people with disability in the workplace – 65 per cent are more likely to be more productive than an able-bodied person because they appreciate their job.
Something like 40 per cent are likely to be retained because they appreciate the role they’ve been given.
But do not give anybody a role because it’s token. Just give it on merit. If you give people the opportunity, present them as a worker - I promise you they’ll be great workers.
If people become a little more open-minded there’s great opportunity for organisations to get a better return on investment because these people will work really hard for you.
Dylan is not only passionate about changing the perception of disability but is pro-active as well. He recently co-founded Get Skilled Access where he and his fellow Paralympian’s plan to deliver customer service training both face-to-face and online to organisations and governments looking to improve their interaction and inclusion for Australians facing accessibility and disability challenges.
Christine Linden is General Manager, Regional Business Banking at ANZ Australia