Many of you might have forgotten about the fact that our company, The Conscious Lifestyle Pte Ltd, is a social enterprise. Apart from there eco-friendly and ethical fair trade characteristics of our brand, the company aims to offer more to the society. As a social enterprise, we are looking at hiring the less advantaged community in the society. We want to offer them an opportunity to participate in the workforce, a chance to be treated fairly and not be discriminated because of their differences. Therefore, The Conscious Lifestyle had decided to participate in the “Introduction to Disability Management ” course organised by SG Enable.
Image adapted from SG Enable
SG Enable is an agency dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities.
Key functions of SG Enable include:
Information taken from: https://www.sgenable.sg/pages/content.aspx?path=/about-us/
At the course, we were taught how to optimise our relationships, be it professional or personal, with people with disabilities. First of all, we explored some of the barriers to hiring persons with disabilities(PWD). The main barrier identified were infrastructure and interpersonal communications. The course was extremely useful in providing us with information is helpful in helping organisations overcome the barriers. In terms of infrastructures, we have learnt of the multiple grants and fundings available for companies for reforming their facilities to better accommodate the PWDs. In terms of interpersonal communications, one important take-away is the understanding that the PWDs are just like everyone else. Treating them as “special” is not what that should be done.
Photo taken from TODAYonline
The course has also helped us in the understanding of the various kinds of disabilities and what we should take note of to most effectively work with the PWDs. Basically, disabilities lie on a spectrum and we should NEVER assume the capabilities of each individual. The best approach is to actually talk to the PWDs, understand what they can or cannot do, and to provide the optimal job fit for them on a case-by-case basis. If employers are concerned over the productivity of the PWDs, job fit is something that they should really consider about. A concise evaluation of the conditions of the PWDs will allow them to be placed into a job that is most suitable for them. In fact, some of the PWDs have been proven to be even more productive than all their other colleagues at work. For example, certain repetitive admin jobs can be carried out by people with autism. In UOB, they found that the autistic employees are 30-40% more productive than their colleagues, simply due to the fact that they are more task oriented and focused in nature.
Also, the course had provided some role play opportunities to allow participants to experience being a PWD. In order to give us a better understanding of how it is like to be blind, we were blind-folded and had to complete several tasks with the blind-folds on. It was extremely tough. The lack of certainty can make one feel extremely insecure. Even simple things like walking down the corridor became challenging and frightening. Also, we were allowed to try wheeling ourselves around in wheelchairs. It was much harder than we thought. It requires a lot of upper body strength the travel around with the wheelchair, especially when we are talking about upslope ramps!
Disability management is a whole set of necessary skills which we should all possess. It is only through understanding that we can provide the best environment to work with the PWDs in the society. The notion of inclusivity is vital and detrimental to the accessibility of jobs for the PWDs. Like everyone else, all PWDs have a skill set that can potentially contribute to the organisation, if not the society. It is true that we live in a face-paced society whereby productivity is highly valued and emphasised. However, it is absolutely untrue that hiring PWDs will jeopardise the very notion which we all value. It is all about understanding their strengths and putting it to good use.