As the Caribbean looks for more ways to become competitive in the Free Trade Market, it’s important not to overlook people society labels as disabled. Disabled people possess valuable skills that can be utilized by almost any employer, but the key is to breakdown the negative barriers and misconceptions that have dominated the minds of mainstream culture.
Quite frankly, the word disabled conjures up distorted images of people not able to function and that is inaccurate. That image is compounded by the fact that children are not educated and sensitized about these issues so they grow up thinking it’s O. K to make fun of or refer to the disabled with derogatory terms. That mindset does not change as that child becomes an adult and enters the workforce.
Communities worldwide have had to figure out, over the decades, how to incorporate disabled individuals into the general workforce. The solution for some societies has been to create products or services that are made exclusively by a group of disabled people. While that is a great idea, it should not be the only type of employment available.
People with disabilities have different abilities that make them capable, qualified workers, depending on the position and industry. Employers must begin to address the prejudices and the apprehension that has kept so many from opening their doors to people with disabilities. In order to do that there are a few myths that must be debunked so progress can begin.
Myth. People with disabilities are not good workers.
Truth. That statement is not true, a person who has a disability wants to be treated “normal” and they tend to work harder to gain approval and meet and even exceed the expectations of the employer.
Myth. People with disabilities need extra help from fellow employees and that is a time waster.
Truth. Again that statement is false. People with disabilities are capable of caring for themselves and would prefer not to be given preferential treatment. In fact, it’s often the able body onlooker who feels sympathy for the individual and wants to offer assistance. They do not need sympathy, just a fair shot at earning a living.
Myth. People with disabilities should be given easy work.
Truth. A person’s physical disability does not mean that their mind is not sharp. Challenge the worker as they have feelings and will get bored or feel disrespected if their colleagues go out of their way to offer easy tasks.
Myth. When people with disabilities make a mistake you should go easy on them.
Truth. When errors are made they should be corrected and the same standard should be used across the board for the able bodied and the disabled. The goal is to incorporate the disabled and treat them as humans with dignity and respect, not scorn and indifference
KAREN S. HINDS is an author, consultant, and founder of Karen Hinds Seminars, an international company with operations in the Caribbean and the USA that combines her American business savvy with Caribbean hospitality and British style and grace. Karen's acclaimed seminars give her audiences a competitive edge in their businesses and careers by teaching management and staff how to improve their behavior and interactions with others to build more productive relationships - in and out of the workplace. You can reach Karen at http://www.workplacesuccess.com