People living with disabilities face many challenges in finding work and in training as well, particularly regarding access. This is often as a result of misconceptions about disabilities. There are many types of disabilities, but most do not prevent a person from taking up employment, and there are ways to get around the obstacles associated with disabilities.

A disability is something that prevents a person from doing something/s or functioning in the usual way that other people do. One may often find that people with disabilities (PWDs) learn to work around their disability, and it need not prevent them from entering the workplace provided they have opportunities and are not discriminated against.

The SADC nations have collaboratively developed the Southern Africa Inclusive Education Strategy 2017-2021 (SAIES) for ensuring disabled children’s access to the education system. This is great news because, in the future, it will translate into adults with disabilities being better educated and more active in the economy. However, there are currently many adults with disabilities who are ready and able to enter learning and workplaces, but they do not get the chance. The SAIES prioritises inclusive quality education. It was developed directly as a result of concerns over research showing that it is economically irrational not to invest in educating PWDs and not to employ them.

The challenges that a person faces should never prevent them from creating value in the way they can. It is critical for individual wellbeing as well as society’s wellbeing. We must never think that PWDs are incapable or helpless. Instead, we must adopt the attitude that PWDs, like everyone else, need employment opportunities and support.

A growing number of companies offer learnerships to PWDs, which can be a highly successful means of ensuring their access to employment and financial security. Many PWDs struggle to secure permanent work, but accredited training providers are available to upskill and ensure workplace readiness for PWDs.

A number of South African training providers, such as ICHAF Training Institute, take a particular interest in PWDs, striving to empower individuals by matching them with prospective employers who are looking for candidates for learnerships. There are also dedicated employment agencies and NPOs to assist companies in recruiting PWDs.

Considering South Africa’s skills shortage and the competitive marketplace, employers and government organisations cannot afford to leave out the disabled community. In fact, the cost of training and employing PWDs is far less than the cost of leaving them in a dependant or vulnerable position.

Training PWDs and employing them have many more benefits than some would realise. These benefits include a healthy corporate culture and CSR portfolio, improved morale, reliable employees with a better retention rate, increased diversity, and improved B-BBEE score. In the workplace, the only disadvantage is in failing to train and employ PWDs. With this in mind, some training companies ensure their courses and qualifications are suited to PWDs’ specific needs.

Depending on the type of disability, it is possible for PWDs to do much the same type of work as others. All types of office work may be open to them as well as careers in creative and manufacturing industries, in consulting and advisory capacities on various issues (including in relation to disabilities), and in helping others with disabilities through awareness-raising projects and other initiatives. Some also become athletes and motivational speakers. There are many more possible occupations for PWDs, depending on abilities and skills, but mostly on career aspirations, because abilities and skills can be developed.

PWDs are encouraged to upload their details and CVs to the ICHAF database, a service available on the website. The database is used to match individuals with prospective employers who are recruiting candidates from among PWDs for learnerships.