Misconceptions about disabled employees

Straits Times Forum, 27 November 2013 (print edition)

THE Disabled People’s Association agrees with the key points in Monday’s article (“Enabling the disabled employee at work”).

The apprehension of employers and non-disabled employees to engage those with disabilities in the workplace stems from three main factors: lack of opportunities to interact with the disabled person; the stereotype that the person is less productive or competent than a non-disabled one; and that any workplace adjustment to accommodate the person’s needs could potentially be expensive or substantial.

All these perceived challenges are either misconceptions or more easily resolved than anticipated.

Feedback given by disabled-friendly employers has indicated that, by and large, non-disabled employees and bosses are accommodating towards their disabled colleagues and are willing to assist whenever needed. The amount of adjustment or additional effort on the part of employers also tends to be minimal.

Businesses that need help in retrofitting workplaces, obtaining special equipment or purchasing technological devices for disabled employees can tap the Open Door Fund.

We conduct an inclusion fundamentals workshop for employers. This aims to promote understanding of the diverse needs of people with disabilities and how to accommodate them in practical, sustainable and reasonable ways.

In this particular aspect, the public sector should lead by example.

Public sector jobs require candidates to declare their disabilities. It would be helpful to clarify the rationale for this and how it affects the disabled candidate’s employment chances at the application stage.

Miss Chan Lishan (“A gradual ascent from madness”; Sunday) was reported as having faced much more difficulty finding work in the public sector than in the private sector, which tends not to ask for such personal details.

This disparity is especially glaring as her experience clearly shows that her mental illness did not have any bearing on her work performance, as would be the case for most people with such conditions.

In the long run, organisations that flourish are those with good employment, health and safety policies for their employees, disabled or otherwise. Foremost among them would be a fair recruitment process based on merit and ability, and which disregards irrelevant factors such as race, age, gender, religion and disability.

Alvan Yap Boon Sheng
Advocacy Executive
Disabled People’s Association

Read the reply from the Prime Minister’s Office.

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