How To Avoid Disability Discrimination in the Workplace
With the recent onslaught of Person With Disability (PwD) mocking videos that has been making waves across our local social media, it comes as no surprise that many of us are unaware of the plight a PwD goes through every single day of their lives.
From mobility challenges to social discimination, PwDs have had to live with the fact that having a disability means some form of prejudice (either direct or indirectly) against them regardless from people they know and strangers they come across.
However, with the dawn of a new era, things are slowly but surely changing for the better. Albeit with a few obstacles here and there.
A paper published by Disability Studies Quarterly, (written by Suet Leng Khoo, Ling Ta Tiun, Lay Wah Lee who are senior faculty members of Universiti Sains Malaysia) mentions “It is heartening to note that anti-discrimination laws and employment rights for PWDs are beginning to garner importance in the socio-development agenda of developed and developing countries alike. The growing awareness and recognition of the function, contribution and future of PWDs in society are necessitated by a paradigm shift from a ‘charity’ to a ‘human rights’ approach. Guided by more egalitarian and altruistic principles, the ‘human rights’ approach advocates that the universal (human) rights to a better quality of life and equal opportunity should include PWDs too; and not merely the exclusive privilege of able-bodied people (ILO 2006).”
Here in Malaysia, the country acknowledges the need of including PwDs into the workforce without any form of discimination in order to fully utilize the nation’s vast talent pool and become a properly developed country. This however is an ongoing challenge and everyday presents itself with new obstacles on our journey to becoming an all inclusive Malaysian society.
A milestone in ensuring PwDs are treated equally in the workforce came under Section 29 of the Malaysian Laws under Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 – the allocations and provisions for access to employment shall encompass the following:
- 29. (1) Persons with disabilities shall have the right to access to employment on equal basis with persons without disabilities.
- 29. (2) The employer shall protect the rights of persons with disabilities, on equal basis with persons without disabilities, on equal basis with persons without disabilities, to just and favourable conditions of work, including equal opportunities and equal remuneration for work of equal value, safe and healthy working conditions, protection from harassment and the redress of grievances.
- 29. (3) The employer shall in performing their social obligation endeavour to promote stable employment of person with disabilities by properly evaluating their abilities, providing suitable places of employment and conducting proper employment management.
- 29. (4) The Council shall, in order to promote employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector, formulate appropriate policies and measures which may include affirmative action programmes and other measures.
- 29. (5) The Council shall promote opportunities for training for persons with disabilities in the labour market as well as opportunities for self employment, entrepreneurship, the development of cooperatives, starting one’s own business and creating opportunities to work from home.
- 29. (6) For the purpose of this section, “employer” includes the Government.
Therefore it is now a PwD’s legal right to gain employment without any form of discrimination.
So how can we create a comprehensive work environment that ensures no one feels excluded? Easy! Read on and let Traitily guide you.
Embracing Remote Working
One of the things the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us is that conventional offices are no longer a need for today’s work force. Working remotely and adapting new technologies that make mobile working a success is now fast becoming the new norm.
The availability of working from home will create more jobs for PwDs since it is definitely a preferred environment as each individual will be able to accommodate their own needs.
Companies also need to embrace initiatives that create an accessible future of work led by emerging technologies. AI and VR, for example, can help companies better integrate people with disabilities into the workplace and support job skills training. And online recruitment platforms, like Traitily can provide PwDs with direct access to employers.
Companies should also get with the programme and build supportive communities within the organization. These HR runned communities can then be set to implement Company wide training that covers EVERYONE from the CEO right down to the cleaning staff.
The leaders need to walk the talk and the employees need to learn about disability inclusion and awareness, though it doesn’t have to be as in-depth. Letting co-workers know what to expect and answering their questions can make them feel more comfortable and willing to engage.
At the same time, engage with external support groups to exchange ideas and create initiatives that help strengthen a harmonious working environment.
The key word here is CHANGE. Everyone needs to realize that the world is constantly changing and evolving. What used to be considered the norm 10 years ago may no longer be applicable today. Therefore, a thorough audit on company policies that support unconscious biases needs to be done and changed accordingly.
The same applies for company infrastructure. It’s not only about having disable friendly toilets. It’s also about having ramps where necessary, braille codes and handrails in public areas, accessible cafeteria facilities and so much more.
If you’re unsure about this, seek help from a professional who will be able to guide you on setting up a great conducive working environment.
Remember, the most important thing here is not making anyone feel left out. Don’t single out anyone or any group in particular. We’re all in this together and empowering each other to be tolerant and inclusive is the main goal towards ensuring a productive work environment.