By Nik Nur Athirah binti Nik and Azra Khalisa binti Azhar,
Department of English, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya
Malaysia is one of the countries with a very low percentage of disabled workers. The rate of employment of People With Disabilities (PWDs) in companies here is less than one percent.
Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun said the number of PWDs employed by the public sector is very small at 0.23%. Likewise, private sectors have the same proximity of percentage of PWDs as employees.
Currently, the government is urging more companies to hire PWDs in order to achieve the ultimate target of one percent PWDs in employment by 2020. This is to ensure that Malaysia would succeed in building a wholesome nation, innovative and also benign, by the time we are acknowledged as a developed country.
However, before companies can open their doors fully to accept PWDs as employees, the problems related to hiring them must be first identified.
Many companies refuse to hire PWDs because they claim that hiring them would risk the future of their company. They believe that hiring PWDs would lessen the productivity of the company. They are not consistent in their work, they would not be able to perform decently, the quality of their work is not up to the company’s standard which would cause a decrease of efficiency in the company.
Apart from that, employers also believe that hiring a worker with disability is costly. The need to opt for special care-takers, to provide PWD-friendly facilities as well as environment and the need to pay for workers’ compensation insurance rates. Companies decides against hiring PWDs because, for them, the cost they would need to invest into their welfare is not worth it. Another problem known is that PWDs have legal liabilities that company refuse to deal with. They think PWDs would somehow use it against them if any disagreement is to surface one day.
Not only that, PWDs face problems even after they are hired. The biggest problem they face in their workplace is discrimination. There are some other minor problems but discrimination is at the top of the list. Not everyone is fair or kind. There are many workers who are ignorant. Discrimination of treatment in the work place is the number one reason why PWDs choose to quit their jobs.
Common reasons provided were: their colleagues treat them unfairly and take advantage of them just because of their condition. Even worse, some does not even acknowledge their existence.
These proves that PWDs do put in effort to get a job but society is the one shoving them aside. Apart from discrimination, PWDs also face a lack of amenities in the workplace. Some companies hire PWDs but decide against creating disabled-friendly accommodation. There are many more problems faced by PWDs after being hired but there is no sufficient number of PWDs working to conduct a proper survey currently. Nevertheless, these problems should not be taken lightly as it could put a stop to the effort of achieving the target of one percent of PWDs in employment by 2020. Therefore, the government should ensure proper research to get to the cause of these problems and form proper solutions.
In accordance to Goal number 10 (Reduced Inequalities). of the Sustainable Development Goals, there have been lots of improvement that allows jobseekers with disabilities to seek employment globally.
One of the approach is to create a job fair specifically for the disability community. The companies that are registered are all prepared to receive these employees and are well aware of the conditions to make such placement successful.
Although existing legislation may not seem to be followed, it is effective when properly implemented especially with understanding, support and collaboration from society.
Another part that contributes to the employability rate of PWDs is the ICT competency with the help of education. That is why it is vital to ensure persons with disabilities are equally competent in ICT as their non-disabled peers, as ICT competency is a major factor when it come to having employable skills. These are a few of the options to improve their quest to find suitable employment.
In short, improving employability and the rate of suitable employment for PWDs will take time no doubt, but it is not impossible.
There are a lot of benefits in building an inclusive environment. Other than building a good company image, having worker with disabilitiy as one of the employees will definitely create a more diverse and inclusive space for the whole company workforce.
They can strive for themselves as well.
They work twice as hard to become independent in their own way. Like Robert M. Hensel has said “I have a disability, yes that’s true, but all it means is that I have to take a slightly different than you”.
*The authors of this article took part in the Buddy College Programme under Challenges Foundation. One of their assignment is to write an article about an issue in disability advocacy.