News and opinions on disability
and inclusion

If you tolerate this….

In previous research, disabled people have said that the biggest barrier to finding a job is not getting an interview. People thought this was due to them saying they had an impairment. Clint talked about this in his blog. A person in the research said:

“Only interviews I have had are the ones where I have not mentioned on the application form that I have MS and a subsequent sight impairment which does not stop me working. As soon as that comes up the attitude changes and I can guarantee that I won’t get the job (Check out page 12 of the full report).”

Even if people could get an interview, the next biggest problem was the attitude of interviewers. People felt that if they acknowledged their impairment, the focus of the interview became their impairment. Both Brendan and Clint talked about this.

In other research, a majority of employers, themselves, have said that disabled people are discriminated against. The most common employment complaint to the Human Rights Commission is about disability discrimination.

The end result is that disabled people generally have an unemployment rate two times higher than non-disabled people. Disabled people hunting for jobs are having the door slammed in their face, far more than non-disabled people.

Government and non-government organisations have responded with a host of measure, including trying to improve employer attitudes. Often organisations attempt to improve employer attitudes through disability awareness or responsiveness training.

Is it enough?

The Social Model of Disability argues that the discrimination and disadvantage disabled people face comes from the way society is set up. Society is set up for the maximum benefit of the majority able-bodied population. Some people talk about Ableism as the discrimination equivalent for disabled people of racism and sexism.

It seems unlikely that the majority of employers get up every morning and decide independently to discriminate against disabled people. Culture clearly plays a role in shaping people’s ideas about groups of people. Culture can also set the boundaries of what is considered acceptable behaviour.

In most large organisations, hiring decisions are made by multiple people. So why are people participating in and tolerating discrimination against disabled job seekers? Are people questioning why well qualified candidates are being put on the reject pile, just because they acknowledge their disability?

Thinking about the legacy of people like Nelson Mandela and Dr Martin Luther King as well as the hard questions being asked about sexism and sexual abuse in New Zealand, why are we tolerating discrimination against disabled job seekers, especially at what seems to be such high levels?

Beyond disability awareness, do we need to take a far harder line against discrimination?

Sam Murray

Policy and Advocacy