This week an article came across my desk about how people with learning disability need increased work opportunities. My blog this week highlights the challenges people with learning disability face in the work place and some possible solutions to these challenges.
The article that captured my interest by Saba Salman illustrates the employment situation in the United Kingdom for people with a learning disability. In the UK, just 5.8% of people with a learning disability are employed compared to 74% of people without a disability.
The employment situation for people with a learning disability in Australia is also quite poor. Down Syndrome Victoria confirming that in 2015 only 6 per cent of people with a learning disability were employed, and unfortunately these figures haven’t changed much since then.
Anthony Knight fulfilled a childhood dream when he became an arboretum horticulturalist at Kew Gardens. But it took him nine attempts over five years before finally landing the job in November, despite having done work experience and an apprenticeship at the world-renowned botanical gardens in south-west London.
What is a learning disability?
A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to process information. This can impact on a person ability to process information: listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities.
In spite of the above figures, people with learning disability make extremely valuable workers.
The Learning Disabilities Association of America wrote that people with learning disability have be known to be creative, persistent, loyal, and good problem-solvers. They can achieve a high degree of success in the workplace when the disability is accommodated. Some successful people who have learning disabilities include Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates.
As shown above, people with learning disability can be successful when their disability is accommodated. However often it’s not, especially if people don’t disclose their learning disability. A learning disability may be invisible. Due to this people can have a dilemma regarding whether to disclose their disability to employers.
Journalist Eli Epson discussed the anxiety people feel about disclosing their learning disability. When college graduate Tom Reed secured a position he was faced with the anxiety of whether or not to disclose his learning disability. Due to fear of being stigmatized he decided not to disclose. If employees don’t disclose this information, they can’t get the support they may need.
Accommodations can be simple
In an article by Clive Hopkins, he shows a case where an employer took positive steps to accommodate a workers dyslexia. The employee found making bookings challenging, but had strong verbal communication. The employer changed this persons duties to focus on greeting customers.
The University of Western Sydney showed some of the challenges people with a learning disability may face at work. It may take more effort and time for people with a learning disability to read through written materials and process numbers. They sometimes have problems receiving and processing new and a lot of information orally. They can have trouble adapting to changes in processes and duties.
Some solutions to these problems could be to give instructions both in written formats and orally. Workplaces could allow workers to have regular breaks, especially in meetings or group sessions.
Although this may look daunting for employer’s, Disability Employment Services (DES) can help employees and employers overcome these challenges. They can provide support such as mentoring or financial assistance.
My blog piece certainly wasn’t written to provide all the solutions to the employment situation for people with a learning disability. However, what I’ve tried to convey that people with learning disabilities, like all other disabilities can make highly valuable employees.
If employers overlook this, they could be missing out. There can be challenges but these can be overcome.
Let’s start the discussion to include people with learning disability in the workforce.