Friday, July 16, 2010

The often-overlooked value of employing someone with a disability

Have you ever worked with someone with a disability?

Have you ever employed someone with a disability?

Have you ever deliberately searched for a disabled (or differently-abled) staff member to fill a vacancy?

Some time ago our local suburban supermarket employed a lad with Downs Syndrome to collect and return the trolleys from the car park to the mall. He was a friendly, outgoing lad, and applied himself to his task with an engaging enthusiasm.

He was quite clearly delighted to have a job, and I am sure his parents were pleased as well. The shoppers were happy because there were always trolleys waiting at the supermarket doors. And without doubt it was a win-win for the supermarket’s management – they had a happy and willing employee, and satisfied customers.

Similarly I worked at a company who employed a young woman with social ease and limited intellectual aptitude to empty the dishwashers, stack and restock the cupboards, fridges and stationery. She could punch holes, fill envelopes, and follow simple instructions.

She couldn’t bind manuals as she had no idea of chronology – pages would end up all over the place. But she could do many things that needed to be done to keep the office running smoothly.

By 1pm each day she was exhausted and went home content. And like most of us, she was delighted to have been able to make a valuable contribution, and to have been paid for it.

Next time you are recruiting – think about the abilities you need for tasks to be done within your organisation, and give some thought to defining and offering a role to someone with a disability.

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