BY Menachem Rephun – Creative Spirit Communications Manager, Self Advocate
Overview Disabilities Worldwide:
One of the most important facts to bear in mind when advocating for the disabilities community is that disabilities are universal. Whether it’s cerebral palsy, ADHD, dyslexia, and autism spectrum condition, or something different, every person faces some form of disability at some point in their lifetime, and this is especially the case in economically disadvantaged countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that an estimated 1 billion people (15% of the global population) live with disabilities, and 80% of those individuals live in struggling countries. Global Citizen.org explains that having a disability increases the risk of poverty, and vice versa. In the U.S., a 2004 survey found that only 35% of working-age people with disabilities were employed, in contrast to 78% of those without disabilities. The fact that people with disabilities represent such a massive demographic, combined with World Bank data showing that 20% of the world’s poorest people are estimated to have some form of disability, drives home the significance of this crisis and how urgently it needs to be addressed.
At Creative Spirit, we’re striving to be a part of the solution in the United States by pushing back against stigma, misconceptions, and discrimination, all of which present the greatest employment barriers for people with disabilities both in the U.S. and abroad. In countries struggling economically, disabilities are stigmatized even more severely than they are in the United States. Scidev.net notes that “mental health problems are especially likely to go unreported as sufferers and their families attempt to hide what they see as a shameful affliction. This is particularly true in areas where beliefs in witchcraft are common. Physical disabilities are harder to hide, but still considered disgraceful in many countries across the world.” Only 45 countries in the world (including Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S.) have anti-discrimination laws to protect people with disabilities at work and in other spheres of public life. As former UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening said, in the U.S., the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has undoubtedly been the most important piece of legislation expanding civil liberties and protecting the rights of people with disabilities, but more than three decades later, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is still extremely high, discrimination and stigma are still barriers to employment, and overall, despite the best efforts of activists and organizations, not enough has been done to move the needle forward.
The Solutions Disabilities Worldwide
These challenges demand an even more concerted effort to make a difference, and Creative Spirit and our partners are proud to be a part of that change. In its comprehensive report on disability, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also proposed various strategies to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. These include supporting people to live and participate in our communities, rather than in residential institutions or segregated environments; developing and reallocating resources to build community support services; supporting the development of the state, nonprofit, for-profit, and individual providers; and developing sound disability assessment criteria and procedures. These solutions align 100% with our own guiding philosophy at Creative Spirit, which involves supporting our candidates through one-on-one coaching, mentoring, job training, and interview preparation. Our goal as an organization is to dramatically broaden awareness of our services, becoming the go-to destination for businesses seeking to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion.
2022 will mark the fifth anniversary of Creative Spirit. Since our founding in 2017, we’ve made incredible progress in collaborating with our candidates to find competitive, fair-wage employment, with an almost 100% retention rate in their current roles. While our outreach is currently exclusive to the U.S., we’re constantly seeking to grow, and are fully aware of the challenges faced by people with disabilities worldwide. The U.N. reports that 80 – 90% of the [global] population with disabilities are unemployed, and accessibility and inclusion are not only severely limited, in some cases non-existent. Part of our mission involves expanding our geographic reach. Employers everywhere need to recognize that individuals with disabilities contribute bold, outside-the-box innovation and unique perspectives that are essential for growth and progress. We believe that by encouraging business leaders and organizations to appreciate and recognize the incredible talent and capabilities of individuals with disabilities, we can inspire a permanent paradigm shift towards a more inclusive world, achieving a ripple effect that will be truly transformative for people with disabilities around the world.
How Can Corporations Help? Disabilities Worldwide
Thankfully, companies have numerous options at their disposal to solve this problem. In its report, HBS recommends that employers shift from a system that emphasizes expense minimization, to one that emphasizes human asset maximization, i.e, focusing on the value of an employee and their contribution, rather than the expense and amount of time it takes to find them. Job descriptions should also be revamped to zero in on essential skills and experiences, rather than simply overloading pre-existing job descriptions with new experience preferences and skills. Filters in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and Recruiting Management Systems (RMS) can be shifted from “negative” logic to “affirmative,” focusing on the skills and experiences connected with the role in question, rather than what applicants don’t have. Finally, reaching out to nonprofits that specialize in working with the disabilities community can also go a long way in bringing employees with disabilities on board.
Creative Spirit is proud to be among the nonprofits mentioned above. During a time of unprecedented demand for innovative, bold talent, Creative Spirit is serving as the bridge between employers and the disabilities community, providing first-rate resources and an extensive pipeline of candidates ready and able to start working. Visit us at https://www.creativespirit-us.org/ to learn more about who we are and how you can utilize our services today.