Podcast host Pete Timbs (middle) with Jo Lynam (right), Karene Gravener (middle bottom) and Erica Hahn (not pictured). Podcast recorded in Townsville featuring participants and carers from Townsville and Mackay. 

For years, there has been a misconception that people with a disability are not the best choice as employees.

This, coupled with accessibility challenges in many workplaces, can make it especially tricky for people with disability to find employment.

Our latest episode of the Grow Bold with Disability podcast unravels this very issue with a panel of experts in the field of disability and employment – and busts some myths along the way!

At Feros Care, we do a lot of work in the employment space for people with disability – including employment expos and support for various projects such as the Chances Café. We also have a number of key resources in this space for support, including our 'Your Disability Your Way' Guide and 'Step 2 Education and Employment'. 

Listen to our full podcast here and keep reading to find out why people with a disability are better than just good employees – they’re exceptional employees.

It encourages retention and inspires other employees

Jo Lynam has a daughter, Emma, who lives with Down Syndrome. Jo had a lot of trouble supporting Emma to find work, despite firmly believing that she should be connected to the community through employment.

“No one has a good life in their bedroom,” Jo explains. “That's not where a good life is. But I was flatly told, ‘look, Mrs Lanham, it's not going to be possible for your daughter to work. You need to accept that.”

And so in 2015, Emma started her own business, Master Shredder, disposing of confidential documents for local businesses. She now has more than 30 customers.

“There are so many statistics in Australia that show employers who take on a person with a disability improve the workplace exponentially,” Jo explains. “Their retention rates are high. And when Emma is in a workplace, what I hear repeatedly was from other employees was how good they felt every Wednesday to see her come. That they felt good working for an organisation that was giving Emma an opportunity. That had a huge impact on morale.”

They are enthusiastic, on-time and driven

Erica Hahn is the owner of Coffee Club in Mackay, where she employs people with disability and is a strong advocate for people with disability in the workplace.

One of her employees is Georgia, who has Down Syndrome. Georgia has worked there for two years – starting out with polishing cutlery, she now makes cold drinks, wipes down tables and occasionally takes orders.

“Georgia actually wants to work here,” Erica points out. “She will outshine a lot of staff members that I see come through these doors. She is here on time every single day. She's happy to be here just as much as we're happy for her to be.”

The customers are also overjoyed to see inclusivity in action.

“I get so much feedback from customers saying that she's doing such a wonderful job and it's they’re glad to see how happy she is and part of our team,” Erica adds. “Her work ethic, her willingness, her eagerness to learn – I wish I could bottle it sometimes!”

They can provide the best insights on how to make workplaces more inclusive

Karene Gravener lives with cerebral palsy and has worked for a lot of different organisations. She has had to overcome many struggles along the way.

“I have found that inclusion can very often mean, for example, a ramp to drive up or a door that opens automatically. And yes, they are important. They are significant in the physical access domain of employment,” Karene says.

However – she also points out that inclusivity covers so many different things. “It's about looking at the skills and capacities of a person with a disability and saying, how can we look at what you've got and incorporate that into our frame of reference? It it might look a little bit different than what we're used to.”

Karene has experienced situations where she could do the job well but could not always keep up with the able-bodied world. It requires reflection on the proper equipment, space or support to be able to execute the role.

“The reason why people with disabilities are perceived as not being equipped or able to do a job, or as capable in doing a job, has nothing to do with ability or inability,” Karene sums up. “It has everything to do with reshaping and revisiting what it truly means to include a person with a disability in a working environment.”

Click here to listen to the full podcast, which is full of powerful stories about why people with disability make wonderful employees, and actionable tips for businesses to take steps towards inclusivity and accessibility.  

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