Transforming Lives: Employers missing out

Companies not benefitting from employing persons with disabilities 19 Dec 2018 By IPC

“We are human beings, so we can all meet the same benchmarks, we just do it in different ways. People need to stop hiding at home behind closed doors and get out there. The world has to change.”

Companies who do not employ persons with disabilities are missing out.

This is the clear message of the third “Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone” film, a joint campaign between the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and United Nations Human Right Office to showcase the employment legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Although the London 2012 Paralympics contributed to seismic shifts in attitudes and greater employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, a gulf in the employment rates of those with and without impairments still exists. Latest statistics for Great Britain show that 51.3 per cent of persons with disabilities are in employment, compared to 81.4 of the wider population. According to Scope, a leading British disability charity, employers are missing out.

“One in five of us are disabled,” said James Taylor, Scope’s Head of Policy and Campaigns. “There is a huge amount of disabled people who are unemployed, who can work and want to work. That’s a huge untapped talent pool and resource that employers should be drawing on.

“Having more disabled people in your workforce at every level could really benefit the bottom line of a company and improve productivity as well.”

Creating opportunities

After hanging up her swimming goggles, Beijing 2008 Paralympic swimming champion Liz Johnson co-founded The Ability People, an ethical recruitment agency staffed entirely by people with impairments. The organisation is driven by the belief that a person’s achievement should only be determined by their ability. Johnson believes the Paralympics can act as a catalyst for positive change and that wider society must do more to drive inclusion.

“Since retiring, I’ve realised that actually there are a lot of limitations and barriers that are not placed on you by yourself but actually placed on you by society,” said Johnson, who was named on the prestigious BBC 100 Women list for 2018.

“Persons with disabilities, they are some of the most resourceful, resilient, dedicated and motivated people on the planet.

“I think the Paralympics and the Paralympic Movement are the perfect vehicles to initiate and prompt change.”

In 2017, Scope launched “Work With Me”, a three-year campaign in partnership with Virgin Media to support one million people with a disability to get into and stay in work.

“It’s really about disability employment and to challenge employer attitudes,” said Taylor. “We have been going for the last 12 months. We’re also looking at how we can bring more employers on board with the campaign to support more disabled people into work.”

Ongoing challenges

The number of persons with disabilities in employment in Great Britain currently stands at 3.85 million, nearly one million more than five years ago . Despite this record high, a number of major challenges, including encouraging persons with an impairment to look for jobs, still remain.

“As someone with disability, when you are employed people expect much more of you,” said Adil Ghani, a recruitment consultant at The Ability People. “We are human beings, so we can all meet the same benchmarks, we just do it in different ways.

“People need to stop hiding at home behind closed doors and get out there. The world has to change.”

“A lot of the time disabled people will be sat at home looking at roles and not knowing if they can apply for them,” agreed Johnson.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games took place between 29 August and 9 September attracting 4,237 Para athletes from 164 countries. A record 2.7 million tickets were sold while a cumulative TV audience of 3.8 billion people watched in over 100 countries.

In 2019, the IPC and UN Human Rights Office will focus on the legacies of other Paralympic Games.