89% of people who took part in Fuller Democracy 2016 voted in favour of increasing working opportunities for people living with disability.

In order to look into this more deeply, I attended the “Making It Work: Employment and People with Disabilities” conference run by the Disability Federation of Ireland in November 2016.

I wrote about some of the things that struck me at the conference on my blog at the time. However, for the purposes of policy, there are three main points that came out of the conference as needing to be addressed in order to facilitate people living with disabilities to work:

  • the need to provide equipment to enable people to perform their jobs
  • due to the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the various forms of benefit, many people are afraid that that they will lose their benefits if they begin working and not be able to get them back if the work proves too much for them or their condition deteriorates
  • when one works one often loses medical aid and this can prove unaffordable due to the high medical costs in this country.

It also surfaced that, in a society where steady work is becoming less common for everyone, it is harder and harder for people with disabilities to retain employment.

These are issues that are entwined with many other strands of policy, and it is noticeable that fixing some of the basic issues in our society will go a long way to helping people living with disability, too.

For one thing providing a basic social income (something supported by 76% of Fingal participants in Fuller Democracy 2016) would provide people with disabilities much more flexibility in searching out work that works for them, as they would no longer need to worry about benefit eligibility or deal with the associated bureaucracy.

Furthermore, switching our healthcare system over to a universal model (something supported by 94% of Fingal participants in Fuller Democracy 2016) would ensure that people are not held back from applying for a job over medical cost worries.

That’s two points down, and in laying this out, you can’t help but notice that the building blocks of our society are not in order and that getting those fundamentals right would benefit many different people in many different ways. This is central to my strategy: rather than playing the whack-a-mole politics so many parties seem fond of, it is much more efficient to get the basics right. Once that is accomplished the remaining challenges become more manageable.

In this case, basic social income and universal healthcare deal with two of the main worries faced by people with disabilities when seeking employment, while simultaneously dealing with the worries of a great many other people as well.

That leaves us with issue three: equipment that enables people with disabilities to do their jobs, like converting a conversation to text for people with hearing difficulties or braille computer adaptations for visually impaired people. In the grand scheme of things, this equipment is not very expensive. Indeed, the Workplace Equipment/Adaptation Grant already provides some assistance in this regard.

Of course, that still leaves the issue that it can be difficult for people with disabilities to get through an interview process and into a job, due to prejudices against them. This is something I look forward to pursuing primarily with multinationals, as, for all of their faults, they are generally committed to diversity in their hiring processes.