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May 14, 2024

Myth busting disability in the workplace - a lived experience story

Let me ask you a question: do you think any of the people in the above image have a disability?

This content has a custom transcript:

Let me ask you a question: do you think any of the people in the above image have a disability?

How you answer that question may say a lot about some common stereotypes, or misunderstandings, about disability. As we know people come in all forms, shapes and sizes. As a result, there are many generalisations developed over the years, leading to an array of misconceptions and outdated information about people with disability.

As I sat in my office, surrounded by the usual hustle and bustle, the persistent misconceptions about disabilities in my industry weighed heavily on my mind. When tasked with finding filling a new position I jumped at the opportunity to challenge these myths. I was determined. This was my opportunity to rewrite the script.

I embarked on the talent hunt armed with connections to local disability employment providers.

But when I shared this initiative with a senior colleague, the atmosphere in the room shifted. His brow furrowed, and a sceptical look crossed his face, as if my words were casting doubt on the very fabric of our workplace.

"But will they be safe?"
"Isn't that expensive?"
"What if they can't do the job?"

Each question felt like a blow. A rejection of not just the candidates I was championing, but of me and my capabilities as well. In that moment, I felt a knot tighten in my stomach. It was time to reveal my truth—I am a professional woman with a disability.

As I spoke, the air seemed to thicken with tension. Would my disclosure be met with acceptance or judgment? Did he have a problem with my work or me? Despite the unease, I pressed on, driven by the hope of opening doors for others like me.

With a drumroll in my heart, I shared my secret, the weight of it heavy in the room. But I was armed not just with my personal truth, but with facts and determination. I was ready to myth bust with style.

Myth - "They need so much help, it’s just too hard"
Facts - The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that 80% of people with disabilities living in households are not restricted in their daily activities. Research from the U.S. based National Organization on Disability (NOD) found that 82% of people with disabilities who are employed do not need any accommodation at all. MYTH BUSTED! “I am Independent.”

Myth - "We just don't have room for unskilled people".
Facts - The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2020, 19.3% of people with disabilities held a bachelor's degree or higher, demonstrating their qualifications for a wide range of jobs. Data from The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that the proportion of people with disabilities aged 15 to 64 with non-school qualifications increased from 29% in 2009 to 44% in 2018. MYTH BUSTED! “I hold a master’s and I'm studying my Second Masters now.”

Myth - "But the changes, they all need so much special stuff" – Facts - According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the majority of workplace adjustments for employees with disabilities in Australia cost less than $500. The Australian Human Rights Commission has also stated, 77% of employers who made workplace adjustments for employees with disabilities reported that the process was "very" or "quite" easy. MYTH BUSTED! “Guess my anti-glare screen and flexible working hours aren't a big deal.”

It seems that dashing myths one disclosure at a time is going to be my contribution to breaking down barriers and fostering inclusivity in the workplace. My disclosure makes me uncomfortable, but if it opens the doors of opportunity for others, it's worth it.

When it comes to denying opportunities based on some old-fashioned clichés, I want to ask -

"Are you comfortable?"

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