Monthly Archives: December 2015

An end and a beginning

In looking back on the past year I acknowledge that this blog has been rather neglected. That is not because I have lost interest; far from it. It simply means I have been concentrating on some other writing priorities. While I still have those same writing priorities I hope next year there will be more regular posts, maybe with a greater or slightly different range of topics.

Christmas seems to bring with it general insanity and a concentration on consuming food and drink, accompanied by frenetic commercial consumer activity. Everyone frantically tries to finish up all their work and leave everything tidy for the holidays, whether taking a few days or a few weeks away. Tempers are frayed and there is general exhaustion, especially for those who do the lion’s share of shopping and food preparation. Presents are wrapped and then unwrapped to the delight or at least polite acceptance of the recipients, and everyone collapses with a sigh of relief and repletion after a large meal followed by skirmishes over who will do the dishes, and after the children have been sent outside with noisy and destructive toys given to them by unwise relatives.

That is, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have the resources for such celebrations.

The minute the clock strikes midnight at the end of Christmas Day it is as if Christmas had never existed in the commercial world. On come the Boxing Day sales, and before you know it there are Easter eggs and hot cross buns in the shops.

Whether or not you celebrate the Christian religious significance of Christmas, or celebrate in a secular way a beautiful, life-affirming and meaningful festival deeply embedded in western cultural tradition, or don’t celebrate it at all, I wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas season, a safe and restful holiday, and may 2016 be a better year for disabled people and all of humanity.

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Filed under Disability Rights, Inclusion, Miscellaneous

Talking employment

On the International Day of Disabled People I ventured out unnaturally early for a discussion about disability and employment at my local Westpac Bank. I have to admit I heard little I hadn’t heard before, many times. Hearing the same, (perfectly valid) points again and again makes me a bit snippy. While many things have changed, humans and the systems we create have not.  My main takeaway points, along with subsequent reflections are:

It’s all about hearts and minds, but there are also persistent, deep-seated structural and systemic barriers, particularly in recruitment, that need more than good intentions and fine words to fix.

There is still wasteful and appallingly high unemployment among disabled people.

Those with tertiary qualifications still find it far more difficult to get work in comparison to their non-disabled peers.

Discrimination is widespread.

Universal design matters for customers and employees

Disabled people don’t need gatekeepers; we need collaboration, co-operation and equality. Disabled people are really good at problem solving. We do it every day.

More quality and comparative data is needed, as in most areas of disability.

This situation can change, but it will need more than feelgood effort. Since government departments and related public organisations are reluctant to lead the way, maybe corporates might like to have a go. The much-vaunted kiwi innovation skills could be usefully applied here.

But employers should no longer expect kudos and fulsome public praise for employing one disabled person and thinking they have done us a favour. It has to be the real deal. Kudos to employers who “get” that it is equally about disabled customers as it is about their disabled staff.

Enabling technology is available, compatible and useable, but it is useless if employers refuse to accept or won’t understand the value it adds, or implement it creatively, working with their disabled staff. It isn’t the whole solution either. Mostly it is about people.

Less talk, more action. Most disabled people want to contribute.

None of this is new.

Let’s turn the issue around. What is the cost of exclusion? Disabled people are an asset in the best sense. Talent should not be wasted. There is a cost to the economy – international research has found that exclusion costs between 3% and 6+% of GDP.


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Filed under Disability Issues, Disability Rights, Inclusion, Information Accessibility