Despite the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) long-held view that the disabled community has equal rights to decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity, Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, laments that many are still unable to make a decent living.
She made this observation recently while addressing the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Association’s Midterm Delegates’ Conference at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel.
Senator Byer Suckoo said that there were many disabled persons who can work and wish to work, but were unable to do so, because of the mistaken assumptions made with regard to their work capability and capacity.
She added: “This includes not only those persons born with physical issues, but frequently I hear from persons who were injured, [at work], a few years ago, and now have sufficiently improved function that they can work – with some allowances – but are not allowed the chance. This could be any one of us.”
The Labour Minister cited an article by the ILO which listed uncertainty about the skills and needs of the disabled worker; uncertainty about the cost of any adjustments needed to the workplace; and fear of the disabled workers’ impact on the company’s performance, as some of the reasons advanced for not hiring this category of worker. She said similar perceptions were expressed in France and the United States.
She argued: “This type of discrimination is based on ignorance: ignorance of the potential which exists within persons with disabilities and a lack of understanding of basic human resource principles in relation to the identification of individual talents, strengths and weaknesses.”
The Senator continued: “It is, therefore, my view, that we can no longer bury our heads in the sand or operate in a vacuum when it comes to acknowledging and accepting that disabled persons represent a valuable segment of our working community. Our education system is embracing our disabled brothers, sisters and children. Our workplaces must do so too.”
Dr. Byer Suckoo reminded the audience that as Minister, she would do all in her power to ensure that all employees have access to decent employment.