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The disabled – a powerful untapped resource

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By Cosmas Okoli
I was discussing with a friend  who lives in China and has decided to relocate to Nigeria, and  has been upgrading his businesses in Nigeria in readiness for his relocation.

He complained bitterly about the dearth of skilled manpower, and I asked him if he had tried to source for skilled labour from the disabled, he said no and I told him to read my article on the benefits of employing the disabled  published on this column. Months later he confessed to me that it was an eye opener, hence I decided to serve you the article once more, enjoy it.

Every employer wants to employ the best hands to help achieve organizational goals, but not all of them know how to source for the best hands.

However,enormous benefits can accrue, directly or indirectly to an organization by employing people with disability.

Disabled people are unlikely to be employed as non-disabled people, and this is simply not because they are all lazy benefit scroungers, but due to certain myths or misconceptions preventing  people with disabilities in the workforce. For example, the perceived cost of employing a person with a disability; in terms of possible workplace adjustments, the perceived impact on their compensation and sick leave, the belief that people with disability will take up too much time to manage, the fear of other people in the workplace doing or saying the wrong thing, etc.

Eid-L-Fitr Sallah Prayers : Some disable and faithful pray at the Surulere Central Mosque at the National Stadium Surulere Lagos yesterday to mark the end of the Ramadan Fast Worldwide  Px  Biodun Ogunleye
Eid-L-Fitr Sallah Prayers : Some disable and faithful pray at the Surulere Central Mosque at the National Stadium Surulere Lagos yesterday to mark the end of the Ramadan Fast Worldwide Px Biodun Ogunleye

“The difference people find when they send in a ‘straight’, CV compared to when they declare a disability is quite significant. This level of prejudice is damaging to disabled applicants, but also damaging to employers, who may be missing out on the best talent” (From an online source).

To be employed means a great deal to the disabled, not just for the financial remuneration, but also for a deep sense of self-worth, dignity and independence.

As mentioned earlier, there are huge benefits that can accrue to an employer and an organization by employing persons with disabilities. And this is apart from the code of moral ethics.

Research findings have shown that disabled employees are on the average, at least as productive as their non-disabled colleagues. People with disability bring to the work place, a diverse range of skills and abilities and a new and valuable perspective to work issues. They are; reliable and trustworthy, have good work ethic, passionate, have a positive attitude towards life and work, have a can-do spirit, and are willing to go the extra mile.

Employing disabled people can open up new opportunities and improve market share. Good customer service requires people to think creatively about the needs of all their customers. Those with direct experience of living with a disability provide an invaluable perspective. This could be in the front line as customer service staff, signaling to clients that disabled people are welcome and that their needs will be met.

People with disability are a resource of abilities, and a pool of willpower — they are real economical and social actors, they stimulate a wide range of interest, and bring to the table their experiences and approach to problem solving, which if effectively managed will improve productivity.

And what about the business angle; employing disabled people makes good business sense, the benefits of which includes:attracting and retaining the best of the talent pool, including latent talent, improving customer service, strengthening workplace morale and productivity, being a good corporate citizen, complying with legislative requirements and meeting international standards.

The truth is, to possess a competitive and effective workplace, employers need to ensure they recruit the best person for the job while retaining and developing them. That being said, emphasis should be placed on the disabled worker’s skills and not their disability. If a section of people are excluded from the job market for reasons that do not relate to their ability to do the job, workplaces will inevitably miss out on skills, talent and energy.

Learning to respond creatively to life’s challenges means many disabled people develop good problem-solving skills, flexible and innovative ways of approaching issues. Yet, despite these positive qualities and work records at the disposal of prospective employers, the percentage of disabled people in the workforce is still largely insignificant, this and the perception that the disabled people in the country, aged between 20-50 years have the highest unemployment rate of any population group in Nigeria.These untapped talents  could help grow our Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

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