On Tuesday 15 September, Inclusion Europe organised the second online event as part of the project “My Talents. For Diversity”. The aim of this online event was to talk about the existing legal and policy instruments that can be used to foster employment of people with intellectual disabilities.
Three speakers jointed the call: Timothy Ghilain, Policy Officer at the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities; Mark Bell, Head of the School of Law of Trinity College Dublin; and Anouk Van Hoofstadt, Senior Researcher at Antwerp Management School.
What legal frameworks exist to foster employment of people with intellectual disabilities in Europe? How to ensure companies support workers with intellectual disabilities? Our guests provided interesting answers to these questions.
Policy instruments to promote employment of people with intellectual disabilities
As Timothy Ghilain underlined, “work is part of everyone’s identity”. However, people with intellectual disabilities faced barriers to participating in employment. Yet they have the right to have a job like everyone else. They also have the right to get help from their community. The EU Employment Equality Directive prohibits “discrimination on ground of disability in the fields of employment” and requires that “employers take appropriate measures to enable a person with disability to have access to and participate in employment, or to undergo training”.
The European Disability Strategy and the European Pilar of Social Rights represent EU overarching policies that can be used to foster employment of people with disabilities. The European Disability Strategy describes objectives and actions for the EU to implement in different areas, including employment, to make sure people with disabilities can participate fully in society and economy. The European Pilar of Social Rights expresses principles and rights essential for fair working conditions as well as equal opportunities and access to the labour market in Europe.
Timothy Ghilain highlighted that to foster employment of people with intellectual disabilities, we also need to make other areas of society (education, housing, transports) more accessible. For example, creating education programmes inclusive and tailored; ensuring transition from school to employment; reducing digital divide; making transports accessible for all; promoting positive attitudes towards disability. “We can have a better holistic environment for people with intellectual disabilities in working on all these elements”, said Timothy Ghilain.
Practical measures to remove barriers to participating in employment
Employment needs to be made accessible for all people with intellectual disabilities. And, as Mark Bell explained, “denial of reasonable accommodations is a form of discrimination”.
How could employers assist people with intellectual disabilities? Mark Bell pointed out that “reasonable accommodation is not only about making the workplace physically accessible (…). Employers can also provide additional training and support, adjust the tasks of the job, provide information in easy-to-read format” to enable employees to do their job despite their disability.
Employees with intellectual disabilities are the best companies’ ambassadors
Anouk Van Hoofstadt took part to the European research coordinated by the Antwerp Management School on employment possibilities for people with intellectual disabilities. They worked with 204 companies that are inclusive. Three questions were at start of this project: What are the benefits of diversity management with workers with intellectual disabilities? How to ensure companies support workers with intellectual disabilities? How do people with intellectual disabilities contribute to diversity management?
As noted by Anouk, the “My Talents For Diversity” project emphasizes the voices of people with intellectual disabilities themselves. Therefore, Thibeau’s work in the European research made the whole difference, as she expressed “the project gets better and richer, thanks to the involvement of Thibeau”. (Watch Thibeau’s full story here).
To ensure companies support workers with intellectual disabilities, employers need to adapt their recruitment process to make sure they have accessible information and provide reasonable accommodations to job seekers with intellectual disabilities. They also need to discover the potential of people with intellectual disabilities. For Anouk Van Hoofstadt, “jobs should be re-though to give all people with intellectual disabilities a chance to work”.
People with intellectual disabilities add value to any company. “They add a new vision and represent the best companies’ ambassadors”, said Anouk Van Hoofstadt.
Watch the online event:
More information about the MTFD project here.