Disability Is Not Inability

Disability is part of the human condition; almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life. There are currently more than a billion people with disabilities around the world – that’s around 15% of the population of the planet.

Although the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the right to work on an equal basis with others, too many persons with disabilities of working age do not have the opportunity to get a decent job. In developing countries up to 90% of this group are unemployed, with significant consequence: The International Labour Organization (ILO) has found that excluding persons with disabilities from the labour market in some low- and middle-income countries costs economies as much as 7% of GDP.

Many of the challenges to accessing work and career for persons with disabilities are obvious, such as physical obstacles in the work place. But a major challenge is one that may be unseen and can, at times, seem almost insurmountable: the ignorance and misconception about disability that fuels stigma and discrimination.

While employers may comply with applicable laws that promote the hiring of disabled employees or protect their rights on the job, many do the bare minimum out of obligation, without fully grasping the huge benefits that hiring persons with disabilities can bring to their business.

It is widely accepted that a diverse labour force can make companies more innovative, competitive and successful. Yet, while striving to achieve diversity, employers may not consider persons with disabilities – surprising, when you contemplate what, according to the ILO, many businesses have discovered through concerted efforts to hire from this untapped pool of talent.

First and foremost, companies have found that persons with disabilities make good, dependable employees. They are loyal and more likely to remain on the job. And they are good for morale – many employers report that teamwork improves when disabled workers are on staff. Moreover, consumers are likely to look favourably upon businesses that employ people with disabilities.

Of course, reaping the benefits of a truly diverse workforce requires more than just recruiting people with all abilities and disabilities. Companies need to make workplaces – be they offices or factories or stores – accessible. And in addition to a well-designed physical space, the tools needed to successfully do a job, such as web sites and documentation, also have to be accessible.

This week, I am proud to be able to launch the new Accessibility Centre at UN Headquarters in New York.

From wheelchair-charging stations to Braille printers to hearing devices, the Centre will provide practical tools and services so that persons with disabilities can better access UN infrastructures and participate in UN meetings, conferences and other events. Made possible thanks to the generous donation of the Republic of Korea, it will be a landmark achievement in creating an inclusive and accessible UN for all. I urge other organizations to follow suit.

As we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, let’s focus on what many employers already know –that hiring persons with disabilities is not charity, just good sense. Let’s stress that they have equal rights and are valuable resources that are good for the bottom line. Above all, let’s spread the word – that disability is NOT inability.

Find out more about the UN’s work for persons with disabilities.

Sourced: LinkedIn.com