“Able not disabled. Employing people with disabilities in the formal sector”
By Isaacs Mwale
It is estimated that 386 million of the world’s working age are people with disabilities. These people have the potential to make a valuable contribution in the workforce, as employees, entrepreneurs or employers of others. Some employers have started to tap into this potential (In South Africa).
Many governments have introduced legislation, policies and programmes to promote employment opportunities for job-seekers with disabilities, job retention by people who acquire a disability while in employment, and return to work by those who have left their jobs due to their disability. But many people with disabilities who are willing and able to work are unemployed – as many as 80 % in some countries.
In Zimbabwe most people with disabilities are not afforded equal access to job opportunities. According to a study by the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH), only 2 % of people with disabilities are employed in the public sector, and overall less than 7 % of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe are in employment. A further 8 % are self-employed (many of which are vendors), while 29 % are involved in farming activities for sustenance. 19 % are said to be studying.
The high rate of unemployment among people with disabilities in Zimbabwe is due mainly to their lack of qualifications and outright discrimination by employers. Lack of qualifications for women with disabilities is a direct consequence of them not being afforded an educational foundation as most of them are denied access to education. Those who do attend school do not receive informed career guidance, and are not aware of appropriate career opportunities. There is a general perception that employing people with disabilities is costly and in turn employers are reluctant to employ them. In general employers do not take measures to facilitate a working environment appropriate for people with disabilities, such as wheelchair-friendly spaces, for example, as this will cost them.
What is now needed in Zimbabwe is for people with disabilities to be provided with career guidance at all levels of education, from primary to tertiary level. The discrimination against people with disabilities in workplaces must be addressed by educating employers on appropriate workplace environments. Affirmative action and compulsory quotas must be put in place to encourage employers to consider qualified people with disabilities.
Supporting parents of children with disabilities
By Tinotenda Chikunya
Having a child with a disability can have profound effects on the family. Parents of children with disabilities experience different emotions as the situation can be draining emotionally, physically and mentally.
Parents may go through feelings of denial, guilt, shock and sometimes even anger after having a child with a disability. Due to this, parents need emotional and physical support to help them cope with the disability. Lack of understanding on disability by the public and communities create attitudinal barriers which end up subjecting parents to emotional roller coasters over the circumstances. They may go through feelings of guilt that they may be directly responsible for the disability through genetics, alcohol abuse or stress. Feelings of fear over the child’s future and parenting experience may also trigger anxiety.
As the world continues to fight against COVID-19, Governments all over the world have implemented lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. Parents are spending more time with children and because of lack of interactions with others they may experience isolation leading to anxiety, loneliness and fatigue. Due to the pressure and the stress associated with caring for a child with a disability , parents or caregiver may sometimes end up resorting to physical violence towards a Deaf child as a way to discipline the child because of frustration of what they may perceive as intentional failure to respond.
A study found that mothers of adolescents and adults with autism had high levels of stress hormones comparable to soldiers in combat. Financial challenges associated with caring for a child with a disability often become overwhelming for parents in disadvantaged backgrounds resulting in depression and severe stress.
A great support structure goes a long way in easing the lives of parents of children with disabilities and the children themselves. It is important for family and community members to offer emotional and physical support to parents as they constantly have the need to refuel in order to care for their children fully. Emotional support through talking to other parents in similar situations or talking to someone else will help ease the stress they will be going through , Even though experiences may differ , having someone to share with is very helpful.
Partners may assist by talking to their partner about how they feel about the situation and being able to notice when one is overwhelmed and helping is important. Partners should avoid blaming each other for the disability and get as much information as possible on the disability and how to care for their child. When necessary, couples should ask family or friends to help care for the child so that they can spend time together as a couple.
Siblings must also be able to help their parents. They must be given information about their brother or sister’s disability and parents must be able to answer the question the siblings may have and also teach the siblings how they can be able to assist. That way everyone within the family will have a role to play in the child’s life and it will ease the burden of caring for the child on the mother.
It is also important for parents to provide self-care for themselves by relaxing whenever they can, reading a book, watching TV , taking a walk as a way to manage stress and to rest.