As one of the guest panellists on the African Women Leadership Summit 2017 that was held recently, GET-U-NOTICED client, Lesa Bradshaw, a Partner at Bradshaw Le Roux recruitment and assessment specialists and disability integration consultants, explained to the audience that the problem with dealing with people with disabilities is that a very low benchmark is set for people with a disability (PWD). “The perceived value that PWD can contribute as employees is very low. We tend to earmark entry level positions for PWD that are not too stressful or cognitively demanding, or even worse, we decide which positions in our company are suitable for “PWD”. The receptionist and call centre positions being two popular choices as they are wheelchair accessible usually being cited as the key reason.”
Continued Lesa “Here’s the thing though – firstly, disability does not only refer to people who are blind, deaf or in a wheelchair. It includes a wide range of impairments which could disable a person in a particular environment. It also includes a wide range of abilities amongst different individuals who fall into this classification of having a ‘disability’. So identifying which jobs are suitable for the disabled is the equivalent of identifying which jobs are suitable for black people. – I hear gasps from audience when I say this – and yet it follows exactly the same stereotype based judgement. We cannot match a disability to a role based on what we think a person with a particular disability can do … each person is unique with differing circumstances. Let’s use an example … deaf … now we can see that if companies don’t evaluate a person’s fit on a case by case basis, then discriminatory judgements are going to occur.
Up to now in many South African companies, the approach has been to try to source PWD who fit in to our existing structures and processes already – so a missing finger or a slight hearing impairment in one ear will do nicely. Other than the token designated parking bay and larger toilet for wheelchairs, very little reasonable accommodation is actually being applied. Let’s take the matric certificate as a minimum qualification for most companies, regardless of the role… our logic is that we want the choice to develop our employees further so a matric is an essential starting point. Well here’s the trouble with that … our special needs education system is grossly under equipped and resourced … the reality is that attaining a matric as a learner in special needs school is often not even an option. So if you have a disability as a learner … how on earth do you get this elusive matric? What is needed is a new take on this minimum requirement … if the job does not actually require a matric, and the applicant has the right attitude and potential … why put it there as a barrier? Why don’t you start your training programme a step back – help the person obtain their matric through a bridging programme etc? You do not have to change your company policies across the board – as reasonable accommodation can apply only to those specific cases where this is relevant.”
Other panellists at the event included Ms. Silindile Mncube, President of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Cape Town, South Africa; Dr. Shakira Cassim and Ms Refilwe Matenche, Chief Executive Officer, African Women’s Movement.