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Is your company guilty of these PWDs career advancement obstacles?

by , 27 June 2013
People with disabilities (PWDs) are a historically disadvantaged group. They're confronted with many practical difficulties and attitudinal barriers. For these reasons, when PWDs enter the labour market, they often start in lower level positions. But you can take important steps to avoid PWDs becoming trapped in low level positions and failing to reach their full potential. Here are the six obstacles to the career advancement of PWDs that your company must avoid.

While your company may have a diverse workforce which includes PWDs, it's also important to strive to have PWDs equitably represented in different occupational categories and levels in your workplace.

So make it your aim to remove any factors that may hinder PWDs from advancing in their careers.

Avoid these six obstacles to the career advancement of PWDs

Obstacle #1: Tokenism

Don't hire PWDs just to 'look good'. 'Employers who have this kind of 'charity mentality' miss the potential of PWDs and give little thought to long-term career plans for them,' says Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

Obstacle #2: Inaccessible physical environments

Very few South African organisations have fully accessible workplaces in relation to the different disabilities. While old buildings can be hard to adapt, even new buildings forget the basics, for example:

  • A locked wheelchair toilet;
  • Objects stored in passages, causing tripping hazards for crutch-users; or
  • Poor lift service scheduling so people who can't climb stairs are trapped on a particular floor.

Obstacle #3: Misconceptions and ignorance

Employers are seldom experts on disability and they often lack basic knowledge of certain disabilities.

For instance, they may think a particular disability makes the disabled person ideally suited to a specific type of job. Misconceptions like these can lead to inappropriate decision-making when it comes to promotions.

Obstacle #4: Acceptance of the status quo

Don't follow the same procedures only because it's been done like that for years.

Obstacle #5: Us-them thinking

Don't segregate your workforce by gender, race, culture and language. The best business results come from teamwork. 'When it comes to disability, a non-disabled person could become disabled at any time as a result of a medical condition or injury.

Us-them thinking can make it difficult for employees who become disabled to reenter the workplace,' says the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

Obstacle #6: Inaccessible company communication strategies

Make all communication accessible to PWDs. If they don't have access to intranets, newsletters, poster boards and other strategies, they may miss out on promotional opportunities.

Ensuring that your company avoids obstacles to the career advancement of PWDs will help ensure that you're not discriminating against PWDs and that you get the most of what they have to offer.

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