There are many well-trained Barbadians with disabilities, some university graduates with honours degrees, who are having difficulty finding employment within the mainstream economy, according to the head of the Barbados National Organization of the Disabled (BARNOD).
“Frustration has really come among disabled members who think that they have reached tertiary level education and the only thing that stands between them and employment is their disability,” President Colbert Ashby told Barbados Today. He was speaking on the sidelines of the World of Work (WOW) programme yesterday.
This latest round of WOW, starting later this month, will provide opportunities for a number of people with special needs to receive valuable on-the-job training, said Peter Downes, chief executive officer of Profiles Caribbean Inc. and one of the principals behind the WOW.
Downes said about 130 students from secondary schools and the University of the West Indies (UWI) had received training over the past two months. “We plan to do another 70 or more on a first come basis over the next few weeks. Included in those 70 persons will be people with special needs who we believe can make an important contribution to the business community, once given the opportunity,” he said.
The aim of the WOW programme, which was developed about two years ago by Profiles Caribbean Inc. in association with the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the Ministry of Labour, is to offer valuable and relevant work experience to school leavers and tertiary level students through active participation in training initiatives and on the job activities.
Ashby said while he welcomed the training opportunity for members of the disabled community, he was concerned that after training and retraining, some disabled individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 were still not gainfully employed. He said this continued to be a concern for BARNOD.
“With the different types of illegal activities going on, we don’t want our members or persons within the disabled community to be caught up in these devious behaviours,” said Ashby, appealing to public and private sector employers to give them a chance.
“Yes, we know we are going through harsh economic times, but there is still scope and avenues I believe that persons with disabilities can be gainfully employed or put in a position where they can showcase their ability,” he said. “Give them that opportunity that they have been longing for and don’t let them wilt away in despair thinking that no one seems to care.”
Ashby said some employers believed that to retrofit their property to accommodate people with disabilities would be too expensive and they would not readily see the benefits, but that was a myth.
“Records have shown that when people with disabilities are employed, they give of their best because all eyes are on them,”
Acknowledging that there was “not yet an even playing field” when it comes to job opportunities for people living with disability in Barbados, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer said her ministry was committed to creating more opportunities.