International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is a United Nations (UN) day observed internationally on the 3rd of December every year. It aims to promote community awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability. IDPwD is an opportunity to create an inclusive and diverse community for the 4.4 million Australians with disability. It is a joint effort between government, schools, organisations, community groups, businesses and individuals to share, create, and include and raise awareness.
The theme for IDPwD 2023 is ‘United in action to rescue and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for, with and by persons with disabilities.’ The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The 17 Goals are all interconnected, and to leave no one behind, we must achieve them all by 2030.
1. No Poverty
2. Zero Hunger
3. Good Health and Well-Being
4. Quality of Education
5. Gender Equality
6. Clean Water and Sanitation
7. Affordable and Clean Energy
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduce Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
13. Climate Action
14. Life Below Water
15. Life on Land
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17 is a lot of goals, but we are focusing on just one this year, number 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth. Everyone, regardless of ability, has the right to employment. The employment of people with disability was the first service Pathways to Care offered in 2014 before the NDIS was established, so it is very important to us.
80% of Australian adults without disability are in jobs, and only 48% of those with disability were in work in the most recent Survey of Disability (https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia/contents/employment), Ageing and Carers. Employment rates for young people with disability have been persistently low for the past two decades despite considerable investment in employment services and programs. Young adults with disability are also much less likely to be in jobs than their peers without disability.
We know employment gives people a sense of purpose and belonging. Research has shown people with disability in employment have better mental health than those not in a job. In the past 28 years, employment equality has not improved, according to The Field (https://www.thefield.jobs/Job/Home), a purpose-built online platform connecting people with disabilities seeking employment with businesses ready to hire. The recovery after COVID has been slow for some industries, with 85% of Australian businesses reporting that staff shortages are holding back their ability to operate at full capacity. Comparing this statistic with the statistic that only 48% of people with a disability are in employment, leaving so many more looking for employment, leads to the feeling that something isn’t working then in the disability employment space.
There are so many reasons to employ people with a disability. Below are just some of many benefits.
1.Specialised skills. The focus is so often on what people with disability can’t do, not what they can do. People with disability have strengths that others may not, giving the employer a considerable edge over the competition. The amount of untapped potential is huge. It is about giving people the chance to show you what they can do, not you assuming what they can’t.
2.Loyalty. Research has shown that people with a disability are more likely to stay in a job and have higher retention rates.
3.Problem Solvers. People with disability have been solving problems their whole lives, being forced to come up with different ways of getting things done. A problem-solving mindset is very advantageous across all industries.
4.Diversity. Having a team with a wide range of differing experiences, cultural backgrounds, and abilities leads to a broader range of perspectives. Our decisions are often molded by unconscious bias. If we have a diverse range of people working in a team, the differences in people's perspectives mean there isn’t one narrow lens being applied to decision-making.
Some great organisations link people with disability looking for work with employers; The Field Jobs is one of these. The Field is designed, led and driven by people with disability, allowing them to create a platform that is user-friendly and effective. Jigsaw Australia is a social enterprise that trains and transitions people with disability into mainstream employment. The combination of comprehensive skills-based training within a real workplace allows Jigsaw to give the best chance of success to those seeking employment.
Participants on the NDIS transitioning from school into the workplace, looking to find work, need support to keep their current position or move to a different job can have funding included to achieve these goals. Find more information on these supports through the NDIS website, here for School Leaver Employment Supports and here for Finding, keeping and changing jobs.
Improving the pathways for people with disability to gain meaningful employment is essential for so many reasons: equality and inclusion, economic benefits, and social cohesion, just to name a few. Employment is powerful; it allows one to gain financial freedom, provides a sense of purpose and belonging. International Day of People with Disability puts disability issues into the spotlight and to a broader audience that might not have been as informed of the challenges facing people with disability. We hope this IDPwD people take the time to engage with the stories of Australians living with disability.