Disability advocate encourages ECEC employers to hire more people with disabilities
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Disability advocate encourages ECEC employers to hire more people with disabilities

Disability advocate encourages ECEC employers to hire more people with disabilities

by Freya Lucas

March 17, 2023

Recent statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) relating to employment outcomes for people with disabilities indicate that people living with disability, who are of working age (15-64 years of age), are more than twice as likely to experience unemployment than those Australians living without a disability.


The statistics have prompted advocates in the disability space to encourage employers in all sectors and industries, including early childhood education and care (ECEC) to look more broadly at the pool of prospective employees, and not overlook those with disabilities. 


“In a time where many businesses are struggling with labour shortages, there is a massive pool of talented people who are ready and willing to work,” said Shaun Pianta, Australian Paralympian and atWork Australia Disability Employment Services (DES) Ambassador and Disability Awareness Trainer.


“People living with disability aren’t looking for a hand-out or to be given a job because they have a disability. All they want is a fair opportunity in the recruitment process, for employers to have an open mind towards how a task can be done, and to be considered according to their skill set and experiences they can bring, not their personal situation.”


One in six people in Australia are estimated to be living with disability, which have a combination of direct, indirect, large, and small impacts on their day to day lives. This research shows, in the previous 12 months, people living with disability of working-age, between 15 and 64 years old, have experienced discrimination due to their disability, including:


  • One in five experiencing some form of discrimination compared with one in seven without a disability
  • More than two thirds (44 per cent) have avoided situations because of their disability
  • Nearly half (48 per cent) are currently unemployed; 32 per cent lower than those living without a disability
  • One third (30 per cent) have had challenges with mobility, communicating or accessing buildings or facilities including for employment opportunities.


Mr Piant believes these statistics demonstrate in part “the existing stigma relating to employees living with disability and the work that still needs to be done to close this employment gap”, and is encouraging employers to change their way of thinking when it comes to people living with disability.


In 2008, while holidaying in Bali, Mr Piant contracted a superbug virus that attacked his optic nerve, resulting in losing 90 per cent of his vision. Now, he is a B3 classified visually impaired Para-alpine skier who represented Australia at the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games. 

“As an avid snowboarder I turned to sport, with my mind set on becoming a Paralympian. And that’s exactly what I did. But after several injuries, I retired from the sport. That’s when all my previous uncertainties about employment came flooding back”, he added.


Based on his experiences, Mr Piant is passionate about breaking down the perceived barriers and challenges facing those living with disability to find meaningful employment.


“Through my work, I’ve seen first-hand that fear of the unknown can lead employers to overlook employing people living with disability,” he continued. 


“But there is a motivated group of individuals, able and willing to prove them wrong. It’s time to challenge the way we think about disability when it comes to employment in Australia, to grow a more inclusive workforce.”

Businesses that embrace equality attract a broad range of talent to their business, with different perspectives, ideas and thinking patterns which can only add value to the business and help relate to a more diverse client base.  


A number of service providers exist to connect more people and businesses so both can thrive. Together with their clients, these agencies are working to break down stigma relating to people living with disability, rebuild people’s confidence and work collaboratively with clients to find creative employment solutions so everyone is able to find employment that is right for them. 


The quotes and information in this piece were provided by atWork Australia, who placed 18,400 Australians into meaningful and sustainable employment in 2022, across a diverse range of industries and occupations. 


Learn more about atWork Australia here

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