Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Anne Kavanagh, Professor and Head, Gender and Women’s Health Unit, Centre for Health Equity, University of Melbourne

Nathan is a young man who enjoys his life and is doing well by anybody’s standards. He studied drama, ancient history and English at school. He is a motivational speaker and has a part-time job at a radio station. He is buying his own home.

Nathan also has Down syndrome. While his life may seem relatively “ordinary” when compared to most people, it seems extraordinary when compared to those with Down syndrome. This is because people with disabilities in Australia don’t get the right opportunities to develop their skills. And it shouldn’t be this way.

Australia has some of the poorest labour market outcomes for people with disability in the OECD. A 2010 report found employment rates of people with health problems or disability were at 40%, and falling. Almost one in two (45%) lived in poverty, compared to an OECD average of 22%.

Australia needs policies that capitalise on the strengths of people with disability rather than simply helping them “overcome” limitations.

A lifetime of disadvantage

The cards are stacked against people with disability from the get go. People with any disabilities – not just those with intellectual disability – are less likely to finish high school.

Roughly 15% of children with disability are educated in segregated “special” schools and 19% in a special classroom in a mainstream school. This happens despite evidence showing that on the whole, children with disability are more likely to prosper in mainstream settings.

image Acquiring a disability can shift someone into socioeconomic disadvantage. from shutterstock.com

We know being included is critical for the health and well-being of all children. But children and teenagers with a disability are more likely to be bullied at school, less likely to participate in team sports and have fewer intimate friendships.

Poorer educational outcomes such as these have lifelong ramifications. They reduce the possibility of making a successful transition out of school to further education and training, or employment. This lack of participation in the economy constrains the potential to form meaningful relationships and leads to poverty, housing stress and homelessness. The scene is set for a lifetime of disadvantage.

Being disadvantaged is, of course, bad for your health. Disadvantage increases your risk of pretty much everything including most cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health.

Read more: Social determinants – how class and wealth affect our health

Disadvantaged economically

Research shows economic inactivity and under-employment are detrimental to people’s mental health. While factors such as being wealthy, and having affordable housing and social support help reduce the negative mental health effects of disability.

People with disability are more likely to be unemployed or economically inactive. And even if they are employed, they are more likely to be underemployed and have poor quality jobs including lower perceived fairness of pay.

While many disabilities, such as Nathan’s, begin at birth, most are acquired later in life through accidents or injury. Some chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, also tend to present later in life.

When adults acquire a disability, they may already have completed education and training and be employed. But even then, the diagnosis can shift someone into socioeconomic disadvantage. People might lose their job, reduce their work hours or move into a lower skilled job.

Some reductions in economic participation may be due to limitations related to people’s impairments. But it’s clear many people with disability experience discrimination in getting and maintaining meaningful employment and career progression.

image Work environments should be made to enable participation. www.shutterstock.com

Capitalising on abilities

Most policy documents and strategies to improve the lives of people with disability, such as the National Disability Strategy, focus on “adaptions” to enable mainstream participation such as ramps, captioning on visual materials, and hearing loops on public transport. These are important, but radical, transformational change is also needed.

We need to see opportunities that disability brings. For instance, companies such as Microsoft are deliberately recruiting people with autism who have enhanced abilities to see patterns and pick up mistakes faster and more accurately than their peers.

Read more: Why employing autistic people makes good business sense

Human rights lawyer Elise Roy, who has been deaf since the age of ten, says losing her hearing “was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received”. It enabled her to create design solutions others literally couldn’t see. It also made her a great soccer goalie as her highly developed visual senses meant she could “see” and read the pitch in ways hearing goalies could not.

We need to see possibilities, not only barriers. We need to think creatively about how the skills, expertise and abilities of people with disability can be capitalised on. This won’t eliminate the problems people with disability face but it will help take them out of the cycle of disadvantage.

Authors: Anne Kavanagh, Professor and Head, Gender and Women’s Health Unit, Centre for Health Equity, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/people-with-disability-have-a-lot-to-offer-employers-86480


The Conversation


Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Prime Minister Bridget McKenzie press conference

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon everybody. The good news is that the Qantas flight is on its way to Wuhan and I want to thank everybody for their cooperation, particularly the Chinese Government as...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Choosing the Right Coworking Space For Your Business

As the capital of Victoria in Australia, Melbourne is inhabited by millions of people and is known as one of the most liveable cities in the world. The latter is due to the city’s diverse community...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

What Should You Expect from A Carpentry Apprenticeship?

Those wanting to pursue a career in woodwork, whether it be to make furniture, construct buildings or repair existing wooden structures, will have to first commence a carpentry apprenticeship. This ...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Tips To Choosing A Reliable SEO Company For Your Digital Marketing Agency

Working with a digital marketing agency Perth is the best bet in ensuring that your business is promoted well in the online space. If you are an app developer Perth, you may have to work closely wit...

News Company - avatar News Company


How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company


Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company

A Travel Guide for Vacations Overseas

There are two types of tourists. Of course, that's a sweeping generalization, and we could be talking about any possible part of traveling.  In this case, we're discussing those who stick to the ma...

News Company - avatar News Company