Employment for people with disability in Australia - Forward Ability Support

Employment for people with disability in Australia

By Joel Sardi

The unemployment rate for Australians living with disability has not changed in 28 years, in comparison to those living without disability.


The landscape of this country has changed; so has our culture and our language. New industries have been born out of technological advancements and yet the unemployment rate for Australians living with disability hasn’t shifted! Mind blowing when 90% of employees with disability are either more or as productive as those without.

After having acquired my disability relatively early in life, I had little experience in the workforce around people with disability, working, or being employed as the person having disability. Straight out of hospital I was fortunate enough to be employed by somebody with a progressive mindset and the willingness to push me, hold me accountable and let me know when I was doing well or otherwise. This individual was also ready to accommodate if my spinal cord injury was to impede my ability to get to work (which was extremely rare). My mindset early on was that of ‘owing my employer the world’ purely because I had a disability, and he gave me a job. Realistically, he employed me because of my capability, my disability was not part of the equation. This train of thought (that I no longer have) that it is ‘charitable’ to give the guy with disability a job, is one of the reasons that unemployment rate hasn’t changed…Me! I subconsciously was a part of it!

I was happily employed within this workplace for just short of seven years, it was here that I grew personally & professionally. I helped in growing & developing the business to have a reputable name, it was here that I changed many people’s misconceptions around disability, and showed the valuable insight that follows, through my lived experience. It came as no surprise when I read that 61% of workplaces experience an increase of morale, when employing somebody with disability. There are currently 113,000 Australians living with disability who are unemployed!! People with disabilities have often developed resilience, adaptability, and resourcefulness over the course of their lives, which can be invaluable experience for any workplace. If you are an employer, you can tap into this untapped talent pool.

Photo credit: Joel Sardi

As I began my employment with ‘the Field’, it became evident that there are some absolutely incredible individuals in this country who, on account of common misconceptions and misunderstandings around disability, have not been given a fair crack at employment or have not been able to show their skills. When we developed ‘the Field’ some of the barriers that our consultants with disability had experienced when gaining access to employment, were identified, and measures were put in place to remove these barriers. By way of providing the ability to select how a job seeker interviews, providing flexible resumes, showcasing an individual’s skills beyond their employment history & much more. The Field also allows a job seeker to showcase their brand, be seen how they would like to be seen.

Something that shocked me was the inaccessibility of many of the major job sites. When they were being developed, the consideration for particular individuals was absolutely disregarded! In particular, for the people who use screen reader technology. The software used cannot relay the content on a job ad back to the user, immediately precluding them from applying/ being considered for the role. The Field has been tried and tested, adjusted and improved so scenarios such as this do not occur.  

The Field has been built by & for people with disability. Inclusivity and accessibility are at the core of everything we do.  

Organisations have started to develop policies such as “DIAP” (disability, inclusion, action plans). It is here where they celebrate and promote how driven they are to increasing diversity and inclusivity within their organisation. The by-product of this will see organisations actively employing a diverse work force, and incorporating initiatives to instil an inclusive culture. By law, this is not a must have, but it should be. In my opinion, a workplace should be a representation of the community. Diversity in race, gender, religion, disability & age. Alongside policies such as drug & alcohol, OH&S policy or the recruitment policy, should lie a DIAP. This will play a part in lowering the statistic that has not shifted in 28 years. Through greater representation of people with disabilities within our communities, voices will be heard and misconceptions will be challenged.