Thursday, December 2, 2010

South Africa overlooks disabled workers

From The Daily Dispatch in S. Africa:

Every day that passes when Sthembele Nyembezi is not the breadwinner for his young family, it is harder for him to stay positive.

For every day Noluyolo Merile is not able to head off to work as an office assistant, her dreams of moving out of the family home with her two children becomes more of a distant goal.

And for Derick de Waal, every day he cannot communicate because his community doesn’t use sign language, he withdraws into his shell a little further.

These disabled East Londoners are just three of hundreds of employable but unemployed people with disabilities who are on Rehab’s database.

Rehab was established in 1997 when the Societies for the Blind, Mental Health and Association for Physically Disabled joined together to be an association for people with disabilities.

For Rehab staffers Judith Dirks and Michaela Lawrence, the situation is simple to solve.

“We must get the message out to employers that there are so many disabled people here who are more than capable of being employed,” Dirks said.
“We want local companies and businesses to know that there are people here who would be able to work for them.

‘Companies mustn’t think that it’s a huge expense or effort to take in a disabled person. Often, just a few small adjustments need to be made.
“And by having a disabled person in the workforce it helps people become more aware of these folk, who are as capable and as ‘normal’ as able-bodied people.”

Employers also benefit by employing a disabled person in terms of compliance with employment equity laws.

“We have a database of about 200 people who come to Rehab and submit their CVs and register with us. We assist them in finding employment opportunities or learnerships,” Lawrence explained.

“People with disability issues are acutely aware of how society treats and accepts them. As advocates of disabled people in society we want to tackle physical and social barriers.”

There have been successes in the past. Ten people were given the opportunity to work at the Department of Health for six months recently, and a local Spar took on four volunteers recently. One has been able to secure a permanent job.

“We want to change the face of society and make it more inclusive,” Dirks said.

“Young people with disabilities may get tertiary qualifications , but then it’s hard for them to just walk into a job. The gap needs to be addressed.
“Work is an important human occupation and everyone should enjoy it equally. Going to work every day creates a sense of belonging and purpose. The person can say, ‘I am just like everyone else. I have a role to play in society and I can contribute to society’. People fail to understand that people with disabilities can make a difference.”

“I think that if I could go to work every day I would feel like a real man, a real husband and a real father,” Nyembezi, who has qualifications in accounting and business management, said.

“My dream job? Any job, right now, would be my dream job.”