Disability Awareness Week 2017

IT’S a disgrace that one in two Australians living with a disability are unemployed compared to the national average of 5.4 per cent, says Greens disability spokesperson, senator Jordon Steele-John.

On the eve of national Disability Awareness Week, Mr Steele-John called on the Turnbull government to be more proactive in helping disabled people find work.

“It is abundantly clear from Senator Fifield’s lacklustre response in question time today that the Turnbull government has no plans to seriously address high rates of unemployment amongst the disability community,” he says.

“There has been no suggestion that the government take up proactive public sector targets for people with a disability and no suggestion of an innovation fund to enable the employment of people with a disability.

• Scott Ludlam with Greens disability spokesperson senator Jordon Steele-John.

Safety nets

“I find this so concerning because our own human rights commission has indicated that discrimination in relation to disability comprises 37 per cent of all complaints received annually.

“Given these statistics, the government must make a concerted effort to ensure that employers act in a non-discriminatory way towards people with a disability and understand their obligations under the law.

“It is time this parliament took proactive steps to address the entrenched discrimination felt by those with a lived experience of disability in relation to employment, and I will make it my mission along with the Australian Greens to bring about positive change in this sector.”

Mr Steele-John, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, recently became a WA senator, and found out first hand the problems disabled people face when they finally land a job, scraping his skin on the narrow corridors of Parliament House trying to get to his first press conference last week.

He also quickly discovered the toilets for MPs’ offices did not provide access, with the nearest loo a long trek away on a carpet unsuited to wheelchairs.

“It’s the most pre-eminent building in Canberra, and while the public areas are accessible, nobody thought that there might be staffers or MPs or ministers that might have a disability,” Mr Steele-John says.

“There must be full accessibility built into both chambers of government, but there must be a broader discussion had about our built environment everywhere.

“Our cities, our towns, our transport systems and our legislative infrastructure have not been built to accommodate those with issues of mobility, those who are frail and elderly, mothers with children or pushing prams, for bicycles or for those with other, less visible disabilities.

“It is my hope that in time, now that attention has been drawn to it, Parliament House can be adapted to ensure that is accessible to all Australians and we can start to change the conversation about accessibility in our society more broadly.”

Mr Steele-John added he would like to see public sector targets for people with a disability, and an innovation fund set up to enable greater employment of people with a disability.

“It is my humble hope that I can be a voice for people living with a disability who feel left out,” he says.

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