I had the opportunity this week to attend the meeting on a proposed pilot program by the government of Ontario to increase the opportunities for disabled people to enter and be active in the workforce. The details of it are not important for this blog, but one of the points raised did get me thinking. When something gets me thinking, it is usually a pretty good sign that it is a worthy blog topic.
The point raised was this: a lot of companies want to hire people with disabilities but don't know how to find them. In other words, the desire is there but the know-how and recruitment strategies are not. This got me thinking about my own struggles of employment, struggles that eventually led me to take the leap xxwq as an entrepreneur. Did a lot of companies actually want to hire me and yet not know how to access me? If I had been connected with a high-end recruiter would that have made all the difference? Is the will there to lower the shamefully high unemployment rate for disabled people? These are just a few of the questions that have been circling my brain on the topic since the meeting.
I am not entirely sure, being perfectly honest, whether I agree or disagree with this statement that the will to hire people with disabilities is present. The bottom line is that, in the age of LinkedIn and Workopolis and a multitude of other platforms that exist, I find it hard to believe that it is simply a question of not being able to locate the right talent. I certainly think that plays a part in the discussion, but it is in no way the be-all and end-all. I believe that even if you had a master database of everyone in Canada looking for work, a database that identified those of us with disabilities, you would still see a disproportionate number of people in the community on the outside looking in.
It is because there is still a dominant perception out there that disability is a bad thing. Yes, the perception still exists that a disabled employee will create more work than a nondisabled one and maybe more problematic in the long run. I will admit that this is not an easy thing to change, and in eight months of operating my business, I know I am nowhere close to sparking a paradigm shift. The problem is that until that shift happens, disabled people will be stuck in a very nasty trap. Society sees us as potentially talented employees that talent is often overridden by the dominant view of disability as a challenge.
Do I believe that being able to recruit appropriate talent is part of the problem? Absolutely! Do I think it is the whole problem? Absolutely not! We need to change what having a disability means to society and until we do that unemployment is going to reign supreme in our community. I am ready to change those attitudes and invite you along for the ride!