SPEC­TRUM OF SO­LU­TIONS

These work­ers are now be­ing seen in a new light, Melanie Burgess writes

NT News - - CLASSIFIEDS -

AUS­TRALIANS with dis­abil­i­ties are twice as likely to be un­em­ployed than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, but the fu­ture is look­ing up as or­gan­i­sa­tions and new tech­nolo­gies change the way peo­ple work and hire.

In 2015, the un­em­ploy­ment rate for peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity was 10 per cent, com­pared with 5.3 per cent for the work­force over­all, ABS data shows. This fig­ure was 31.6 per cent for peo­ple with autism, specif­i­cally.

Mi­crosoft chief ac­ces­si­bil­ity of­fi­cer Jenny Lay-Flur­rie says peo­ple with autism are of­ten work­ing in jobs that do not take ad­van­tage of their skills.

To ad­dress this, the tech com­pany launched a hir­ing pro­gram in the US that it plans to roll out in­ter­na­tion­ally, which is dif­fer­ent to a tra­di­tional job in­ter­view.

“We set you tasks, and we as­sess your skills based on how you de­liver on those tasks,” she says.

Lay-Flur­rie re­calls a de­vel­oper writ­ing code so fast the hir­ing man­ager had to ask him to slow down.

“Ul­ti­mately, the hir­ing man­agers are like ‘we need this code, we need to see what the hell this kid’s done’,” she says. “It turned out he was just an ut­ter ge­nius, but that was never show­ing through in our in­ter­views.”

Mean­while, re­search from Vi­sion Aus­tralia shows just 24 per cent of blind and par­tially-sighted adults are in full-time work and 43 per cent say work­place in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity is a bar­rier.

To re­duce bar­ri­ers, Mi­crosoft is de­vel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies such as its See­ing AI app, which turns text, cur­rency, hand­writ­ing and sur­round­ings into spo­ken de­scrip­tions, and its Sound­scape soft­ware, which uses au­dio cues to pro­vide nav­i­ga­tion.

Work­skil Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Ni­cole Dwyer says un­em­ploy­ment rates for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties is un­ac­cept­able but is be­ing ad­dressed.

“Pro­gres­sive em­ploy­ers un­der­stand the wide-rang­ing ben­e­fits a di­verse work­place brings,” she says.

“(It) brings new skills and ex­pe­ri­ence to an or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“Peo­ple with dis­abil­ity are some of the most ded­i­cated, skilled and hard­work­ing em­ploy­ees in the work­force.”

BIG FU­TURE: Lach­lan Grindrod re­ceived help from dis­abil­ity ser­vices provider Myle­stones Em­ploy­ment to land a job at Kmart.

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