People with disabilities are being left behind with two out of three unemployed, a disability conference has heard.
The Irish Wheelchair Association’s WorkAbility 2019 Summit heard that over 63% of people with disabilities are “caught in a permanent recession”.
The conference, which took place in Croke Park, highlighted the benefits of firms employing people with disabilities.
Rosemary Keogh, CEO of the Irish Wheelchair Association, said that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is around four times as high as Ireland’s worst unemployment rate at the peak of the recession in 2012.
“People with disabilities are caught in a permanent recession, when it comes to finding work,” she said.
“What’s more, although the Government has introduced a Make Work Pay policy for people with disabilities, which allows them to retain benefits while taking up employment, they are not included in any unemployment statistics.
“As economic prosperity has returned to our country, people with disabilities have been left behind when it comes to employment.
“Yet, people with disabilities have a right to work, want to work and have a huge amount of skills to offer.
“It is time to build workplaces that welcome and reflect the rich diversity of life experiences and abilities that are at the heart of our country.
“Diversity and inclusion initiatives are positive, but greater investment from government and employers is needed to carve out routes for people with disabilities into the workforce.”
Ms Keogh called for firms to hire a diverse and inclusive workforce.
“For employees, supportive work environments, flexible work arrangements and accessible workplaces can be key,” she added.
It’s shocking the limits that other people put on people with disabilities, how opportunities shrink in other people’s mindsDaraine Mulvihill
TV presenter Daraine Mulvihill said it is challenging for people with disabilities to find work.
“It’s shocking the limits that other people put on people with disabilities, how opportunities shrink in other people’s minds,” she added.
“When I started working in media, there were some challenges, but people were open and inclusive for the most part and I managed to work my way up from there. There are ups and downs and highs and lows but it soon gets easier.”
The sports broadcaster, who began her career as a runner in RTE, has presented the London 2012 Paralympics and 2014 Winter Paralympics for Channel 4, 2016 Paralympics for RTE Two Television and the Invictus Games for the BBC.
Noel Joyce has been in a wheelchair after a mountain bike accident in 2006 ended his five-year career in the military.
Mr Joyce returned to education and developed an international career in design.
He said that people with disabilities have “superpowers”.
“They have a unique insight into problem solving that is at a multiple of what most people go through in a day,” he added.
“The average person does not engage in problem solving and forward planning to the same extent.
“People with disabilities are hard-wired to problem solve, as they do it every single day. This makes them the best problem solvers and forward planners in society.
“The biggest minority group in the world is people with disabilities at over 1 billion people and the biggest group within this is the elderly.
“If you’re lucky enough to live a long life, you have a 100% chance of having a disability.”