In an ideal world, the workforce should be fairly representative of the economically active population. But this is not always the case, and as such, the government has implemented various legislative tools to ensure the equitable recruitment of South Africa’s population. Legislation, including B-BBEE Act not only encourages businesses to employ Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), but it also sets concrete targets for businesses for the employment of Black PWDs.
Who is considered as living ‘with disabilities’? The Employment Equity Act defines ‘people with disabilities as people who have long-term or recurring physical or mental impairments with sustainability limits their prospect of entry into or advancement in employment. In other words, a person with a disability has a long-term impairment that puts them at a disadvantage when compared to people without a disability. A key criterion is that no assisted device is able to create a sense of equality.
Challenges faced by People with Disabilities:
Implementing a genuine transformation plan ought to include a sound understanding of the definition of disability in order to understand what reasonable accommodation this implies in the workplace. Without this level of understanding and support, PWDs face numerous challenges in the workplace. While some issues may depend on their specific disability, other issues related to the co-worker’s attitudes.
- Lack of education. Statistics show that fewer people with disabilities complete basic education than those who do not have disabilities
- Difficulty with transport: Most PWDs have to rely on public transport which in turn is difficult for them to navigate; e.g. a person using a wheelchair would not be able to use public transport
- Poverty: Many PWDs may live well below the poverty line and thus unable to pay for transport or professional wardrobe to get to interviews/jobs
- Infrastructure: PWDs require ramps, lifts, and ablution facilities.
- Timekeeping: If reliant on another person for help, PWDs may come to work a little later
- Health care needs: depending on the nature of their disability, PWDs may have health issues that require periodic time off work to seek healthcare, and if they are reliant on government healthcare this can mean an entire day
- Long-held biases: Biases do not disappear simply because the constitution has been changed.
- People with disabilities are often thought of as too much trouble or not capable in other ways and passed over for employment opportunities or, once in a job, passed over for development opportunities.
- Employers consider the cost of modifying equipment to accommodated PWDs makes it expensive to employ them
- Negative attitudes: The stigma associated with disabilities of any kind – especially visible disabilities – still exist. Negative attitudes lead to the social exclusion and marginalisation of PWDs.
Taken together, these challenges significantly decrease the employability of PWD. Employers need to ensure that their policies in place to address these challenges and accommodate PWDs in a sensitive manner that preserves dignity. Furthermore, the balance employers need to find is to do all this without disadvantaging able-bodies employees, to avoid exacerbating any negative attitudes.
Research shows that training and equipping persons living with a disability for the workplace is an ongoing challenge, both globally and locally. COVID-19 along with relevant social-distancing protocols has presented further challenges, that makes it even more difficult to train as well as integrate persons living with disability into the workplace.
At Transcend, we view training and capacity building not simply as a technical intervention, but as a crucial and empowering element to ensuring that marginalised and socially excluded groups such as PWDs
- build confidence and acquire a tool to develop and maintain their self-esteem
are included and empowered to contribute meaningfully to the workplace and the community at large; especially because of the unique set of challenges that they face.
Over the past 10 years, Transcend has invested in research, programmes, and interactions with learners as well as corporates, to truly unpack the challenges of upskilling, integrating, and preparing persons living with a disability, for success in the workplace. The outcome of this body of knowledge and experience is a ground-breaking SETA accredited work readiness programme designed to :
- build confidence and self-esteem
- bridge the facilitate both learner and corporate success in the journey of sustainable and meaningful employment of persons living with a disability.
- empower PWDs, increase their employability and equip them with skills to transition into the workplace.