I want to be very clear on one point: people with disability want to work. People with disability just want the same from their lives as their able-bodied mates. We want to be successful, we want to travel, have families and maintain fulfilling relationships, live independently, be healthy, and to be financially sufficient.
That means we need a job. A total of 18.3 per cent of Australians have some form of disability. However, most of us are completely ignored by potential employers. Australia ranks 21st out of 29 OECD nations in regard to the employment of people with disability. To put it another way, we are eighth-last out of those 29 countries, and that is simply not good enough.
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work Report highlights the widespread nature of discrimination against people with disability in employment.
In 2015, 53.4 per cent of people with disability were in the labour force, compared with 83.2 per cent of people without disability. This figure has changed little over the past 20 years.
People with disability are less likely to be employed full-time (27 per cent) than people without disability (53.8 per cent) and Australians with disability are more likely to be unemployed (10 per cent compared with 5.3 per cent for those without disability) and face longer periods of unemployment than people without disability. The report also shows employers assume that hiring somebody with a disability will be expensive and complex. However, it has been proven that to employ somebody with a disability will cost the employer, on average, $500.
My message this International Day of People with Disability is open your doors to employ us and treat us equally. Because that’s all we want.
Karni Liddell is 2016 patron of International Day of People with Disability (December 3). The National Disability Awards will be held on Monday.