PODCAST: busting disability myths

Almost 20 per cent of Australians live with a disability and this number is growing. People with a disability are also 30 per cent less likely to be participating in the workforce – a statistic that is not necessarily out of choice.

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In the latest podcast from Diversity Council Australia’s The Art of Inclusion series (co-published on bluenotes), Gwynnyth Llewelleyn, Director of the Center of Disability Research and Policy at the University of Sydney discusses the myths and misconceptions of hiring people with a disability.  

"You won't do it in the same way that able bodied people do, but you'll figure out another way of doing it, which will be absolutely fine.” - Williams

“We know, in relation to employment, Australia is a long way down in the [list] of employing people with a disability. We've had a lot of different initiatives but we're not yet making a difference and this is really important because often we see big initiatives and think that will fix the problem.”

Llewelleyn explains many misconceptions of disability stem from a lack of contact with people with a disability. “Lots of people have never met a person with a disability [and] what that leads to is being totally unaware of how [they] might be in their everyday life, how they might be at work [and] how they face the world.”

People with a ‘hidden’ disability – or one that is not visually apparent – sometimes face further misunderstanding. “If that's what your experience of disability [is] then you are missing the majority of people with disability,” says Llewelleyn.

Another major misconception is that hiring people with a disability will cost the business extra – one which Llewelleyn firmly refutes and adds that businesses can receive financial assistance for any potential added costs.

“Setting employees up for success is actually setting up the workplace for success,” she says. “Often what we see with Disability Action Plans is a document on a shelf - a recipe for failure. The major challenge is to bring it right through the organisation.”

For Annabelle Williams, Legal Counsel for the Australian Olympic Committee and former gold medal winning Paralympic swimmer, determination and resilience have been themes throughout her life however she is conscious of the under-representation of people with a disability.

“I've been a lawyer for about seven years now and I've never come across another person with a disability in my line of work. It's a hugely missed opportunity for employers but companies don't make themselves attractive to people with a disability.”

“My sense is that the disability community is still one where their voice is not heard loudly,” she explains.  

Williams says people with a disability may not feel confident to speak up so it’s important for them to know there is hope. “You can do anything you want. You won't do it in the same way that able bodied people do but you'll figure out another way of doing it which will be absolutely fine.”

You can listen to the whole conversation in the podcast above.

Andrew Maxwell is host of the Art of Inclusion podcast and is Knowledge and Development Manager at Diversity Council Australia. 

This podcast was originally published by the Diversity Council Australia and was co-published by bluenotes. Subscribe on your preferred player: iTunesGoogle PodcastsSpotify and Whooshkaa

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The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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