In a leap forward for people with disabilities, a coalition of disabled persons organisations successfully launched an employment initiative yesterday.
The program — Include Disability – Employ this Ability (IDEA) — is aimed at securing decent employment for persons with disabilities by engaging with the public and private sectors.
Program chair Joshko Wakaniyasi called on employers, education providers and government representatives to consider how they could work together to support the program to meet its targets of increasing representation of persons with disabilities in work environments that were open, inclusive and accessible.
“One aim of the program is to highlight Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities, which states that persons with disabilities have a right to work on an equal basis to others,” Mr Wakaniyasi said.
“We estimate that in Fiji, 87 per cent of persons with disabilities are unemployed. To make this right a reality, we will work collaboratively with government, education providers and the community.”
The program recently received funding for two years through AusAID’s Human Rights Grants Scheme that will aid reps of the Spinal Injury Association, Fiji Disabled Persons Federation, Fiji Alliance for the Deaf, Psychiatric Survivors Association and United Blind Persons Association who have been volunteering since September last year.
Acting Australian High Commissioner Glen Miles, who was chief guest at the launch, lauded the initiative, saying it was about recognising the rights of people with disabilities and celebrating their skills and capacities.
“There is clear evidence that employees with disability make loyal and committed employees when the focus is on the person’s ability rather than disability,” Mr Miles said.
“And there are rewards of a diverse workforce, that it is better able to meet the skills and labour needs of business. Hiring someone from outside the tradition pool of workers isn’t about taking a risk or an act of charity.”
Mr Miles urged employers to consider IDEA when recruiting new staff.