Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have struggled to embrace people with a disability according to recent research from the Australian Network on Disability (AND).
The 2017 Disability Confidence Survey of more than 500 SMEs found that there has been no change over the past two years in their ability to be more accessible and inclusive.
AND’s Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Colbert says the lack of understanding of people with a disability as customers and employees is “disappointing”.
“Disability discrimination receives the highest level of complaints across the board to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC),” she says.
“Our survey finds that 60 percent of SMEs aren’t considering the four million Australians with a disability.”
“They need to think about how they can be more welcoming and inclusive.”
AND is a national organisation that strives to make it easier for organisations to provide an accessible and inclusive environment for people with a disability in all aspects of business.
This includes employment, customer service, stakeholder relations and supply of goods.
About 58 percent of businesses surveyed identify that they have a positive attitude to employing skilled people with a disability, however only three in ten Australian SMEs actually do.
Ms Colbert says people with a disability represent a substantial opportunity to businesses and believes SMEs should not rule out their abilities.
“Employers cannot know with any certainty people with a disability are not relevant for their work or situation,” she says.
With AND already working in partnership with more than 200 large employers nationwide, Ms Colbert says SMEs must get onboard to help promote greater change.
“The economic model of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is predicated on increased employment outcomes for people with a disability,” she says.
“There needs to be significantly more investment if Australia is to deliver on the promise of an ordinary life for people with a disability and all businesses will need to be part of change.”