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WITH MARCH BEING the month to celebrate achievements in the disabled community, the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) is pleased to enable discussion on the employment of people who are disabled.

As the employers’ representatives, we at the BEC encourage our members to hire people with disabilities so long as the applicant’s capabilities fit the role to be undertaken.

People in the disabled community have the right to not be discriminated against and as such equal opportunity should be extended to them.

So why does the BEC encourage the employment of the disabled and how could this be good for business? It can help increase the number of high-quality applicants available, create a workforce that reflects the diverse range of customers the business serves and the community in which it is based, bring additional skills to the business such as the ability to use sign language.

Individuals may posit that the costs of making adjustments are high, however, it has been proven that the costs of making reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled employees are often low. Moreover, benefits are derived from such accommodation that sometimes far outweigh the initial expenses.

Additionally, the benefits of retaining an experienced, skilled employee who has an acquired impairment are usually greater than recruiting and training new staff. This is also food for the individual.

Research has proven that employees with disabilities meet or exceed productivity, quality, and the attendance standards of employees without disabilities.

Hiring people with disabilities leads to diversity, diversity promotes business and organisational innovation, and innovation adds value and creates wealth or savings for any business or organisation.

Hiring a disabled person is not an adhoc process, it is a well thought out procedure that extends into a practice. This process must be guided by a policy and follows set steps. These steps include:

Analyse the needs for the job – this can be done by having discussion with the supervisor of the specific task and also liaising with line staff. Here an assessment can be made as to what physical and mental capabilities are necessary for the role.

List of jobs

Once this is completed it is easy to decipher what roles can be accomplished by persons with varying disabilities. Such an assessment can be done across the organisation for all roles.

This would help in providing a comprehensive list of jobs that can be open to the disabled community which will help in the recruitment process. From this process, a complete job description and thorough explanation of performance expectations can be derived. This description will also include the nature of work, pay, benefits, and special criteria.bec-logo

Plan – organisations must proceed in a deliberate fashion to define the steps for moving forward, develop a schedule for each step, and identify the key people involved.

The walk, jog, run approach of incremental successes is effective. Select a department in which to launch your initiative – such as distribution – and evaluate your near and mid term workforce targets.

Decipher what resources and accommodations need to be made – here, organisations may access the assistance of the Barbados Council for the Disabled to provide insight on the various general accommodations. Sometimes the specifics cannot be made until the hire is executed.

Prepare the company – this phase involves effectively preparing your existing workforce and work sites for disabled employees.

This typically includes:

Assessing and mitigating potential risks, preparing and implementing a communications plan or strategy evaluating and possibly fine tuning your current application and interviewing processes, sensitivity training (includes workplace bullying and discrimination policy), adjusting the orientation process, creating the capabilities for various types of communication (sign language), preparation of an all-inclusive type of training and other company events.

Hiring people with disabilities is good business. These candidates are keenly dedicated, hardworking, and have a great appreciation for the opportunity to work. With an ageing workforce and projected shortfall in the overall workforce, we are fortunate to have a largely untapped resource pool, ready and able to work.

Major employers have demonstrated the benefits of employed people with disabilities. The best way to begin to understand the opportunity and potential is to visit a company that has developed a successful people with disabilities talent acquisition workforce initiative.

Melony James, research/occupational safety and health coordinator.