My name is Mei Lin Yap, I’m 29 and I am more “like” than “unlike” everyone else. I am a citizen just like any other, I just happen to have Down Syndrome.
I have been working for over 11 years but many people with disabilities are not as “lucky” as I am. In fact, 66% of people with disabilities are unemployed.
I am one of just 33% of people in Ireland with a disability who has a career. I struggled to secure a permanent, paid job so as one of the lucky few, I want to change people’s perceptions of hiring someone with a disability.
Sadly many people with a disability will never get a job. People with disabilities tend to take a role that is unpaid, an internship or volunteer to try and get the necessary skills needed for proper employment.
Personally, I applied online for jobs due to a fear of rejection. Imagine not having the courage to come face to face with an employer. This is a reality for people with disabilities. While I was looking for work, I had no sense of purpose and no routine. I felt isolated. Without support, it really is an uphill struggle to get a job as a person with a disability.
After attending an event hosted by Bank of Ireland in May 2015 I eventually overcame my fear of rejection. The event was set up to encourage businesses to be more open-minded about employing someone with a disability. If these kinds of events didn’t exist many of the 33% of people in Ireland with a disability who are employed would still be unemployed, including me.
It is really comforting to see initiatives such as Open Doors working to promote more diverse and inclusive work environments.
My own connections eventually led me to find 3 jobs. I got a job as a Clerical Officer in a Dublin hospital, as a Lecturer in Trinity College Dublin and I’m now very happy to be employed in a permanent job as a HR Assistant in Cpl.
My job in Cpl is very clearly defined. I belong to a team and I work in an environment that allows me to reach my full potential.
Like a lot of others, I’ve had positive and negative experiences at work. I’ve felt like I am not properly supported and overwhelmed by being thrown in at the deep end and not knowing what was expected of me. Mostly, I feared that I wasn’t treated like other employees.
In the beginning, employers often don’t know how to support a person with a disability. They can be unsure of how to set out a programme of work because they just don’t know the limitations of the disability, seen/unseen, inherited or acquired.
With this in mind, I’ve put together the do’s and don’ts of hiring someone with a disability, based on my own personal experiences:
When hiring someone with a disability, do…
When hiring someone with a disability, don’t…
People with a disability bring different skills, a unique perspective, passion, positivity and goodwill to an organisation. They know what’s it is like to struggle and are willing to work hard but may need some additional support.
Employers should understand that it may take a bit longer for the individual to adjust but should always focus on the ability rather than the disability. Like any hire, planning is key to success – having the right facilities, a buddy system, clear explanation of the job and timely introductions is crucial.
I am aware that when we (people with disabilities) dream big and others dream big for us (providing real opportunities), then we can achieve our full potential. I urge every employer to focus on the ability and not the disability.
Diverse talent is essential to creating effective solutions and processes for any business. At Cpl our diversity pillars are Multicultural, Disability, LGBT, Generations, Working Parents & Carers and Gender Balance. If you would like advice on creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace please get in touch.