No viewer of ABC’s current show “Employable Me” on Tuesdays at 8.30pm could fail to be impressed at the commitment and courage of the stars of the program: six Australians with disabilities, searching for a job.

These people share their frustrations and triumphs, while job coaches help them find jobs.

Take Kiah, for example. He has Tourette Syndrome and his uncontrollable swearing has proved a barrier to employment despite his skills and enthusiasm.

Or Jake who has epilepsy and wants a job where he can use his considerable mechanical skills.

And Kathleen has to overcome misunderstanding about her autism to find the job that capitalises on her phenomenal memory (and meets singer Jimmy Barnes in the process).

While these new stars find opportunities in Sydney, where the program is filmed, there are probably similar job seekers who can reach their potential with a leg up from a local employer.

“Employable Me” is sending the clear message that employers need to open their minds to hiring people with disability and look at what can be done, rather than at potential barriers.

Tracey McGeehan, Disability Team Leader, Northeast Health in Wangaratta, Victoria, who is profoundly deaf, says that hiring a diverse range of staff, including those with disability has benefits for the employer and employee.

“People with disabilities generally have a strong work ethic,” Tracey says.

“These people are usually keen to work and only ask for small modifications to the workplace.

“A sense of empowerment comes from being employed. It gives these people another circle to their identity and goes a long way to diminishing the effects of negative impacts (to the disability).

“Diversity helps equity practice to occur. It gives individuals the freedom to be themselves and be celebrated for it.  It also helps the client base to grow because more needs can be met.”

But despite representing 20% of the population, people with disability are still significantly under-represented in the Australian workforce.

According to The University of Melbourne, people with disability who wish to work are twice as likely to be unemployed as those without disability. In Australia, the workforce participation rate among the working age population is around 83 per cent, yet this drops to around 50 per cent for people with disability.

Long term change starts at grassroots level.

Do you know an employer who is looking for staff? Perhaps they could become a local Employable Me success story!

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