Ausnew Home Care | Learning how to make your workplace more disability

Learning how to make your workplace more disability friendly — from people who live with a disability

disability Disability Employment Services disability law disability stereotypes intellectual disability Living With a Disability NDIS no ‘dis’ in disability. Seeing the ability in disability umbrella of disability

Andrew Meddings will never forget the look he was met with when he arrived to a job with a new client.

The pair had spoken over the phone, but this would be their first in-person encounter.

"Someone had recommended me and [the client] had heard great things about my work," the 53-year-old said.

"When I turned up he said: 'Jeez, John said your work was amazing, but he didn't say anything about you being in a wheelchair'."

Andrew in an wheelchair helping load up a pool on to a crane. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, disability
Andrew helping load up a pool on to a crane at his workshop in Sydney's west.(

ABC News: Brendan Esposito


The Sydney resident, who designs and installs swimming pools, employs four staff plus a number of contractors and his work has taken him across Australia.

He's been living with a spinal cord injury since a motorbike accident in 2000 — and the look of astonishment he encountered as he lowered himself from his truck that day has since become a part of life.

"You know, let's face it, most people would have mentioned the wheelchair and I thought that was a really great wrap [for me] that the only thing that mattered [was] my work."

Mr Meddings said there had been times when people aware he was in a wheelchair have suggested he send someone else because their place was not accessible.

Andrew Meddings in a wheelchair looking through some material with a work colleague, who is wearing a gas mask
Andrew Meddings with a work colleague.(

ABC News: Brendan Esposito


But he said often he just started "turning up" to a place and working with whatever was there because "if people see you getting out of the truck, they're less likely to have expectations that you can't do the job."

"It takes a bit of work but we always find a way," he said.

And despite its challenges, Andrew is one of many finding a way to make a living for himself.

An organisation employing people with lived experiences of disability is working to change those negative perceptions and make businesses more inclusive.

Introducing 'May'

Using conversational artificial intelligence, Adelaide-based company Maven has designed the content for a virtual agent, or bot, called May.

May takes businesses through questions and scenarios to test their inclusion and accessibility.

Eva Purvis, who lives with learning disabilities, is one of the designers.

Eva Purvis on a couch and her service dog, Elvi by her side.
Eva Purvis said trying to find a job was "really tough".(



"It gets people thinking differently because it covers things like the physical environment, attitudes people have and cultural issues," she said.

"It's a way of checking in and then [the employer] can decide how to go about getting additional assistance."

During the process, users are given tips and tricks on how to improve their inclusion and accessibility as well as information about where to seek further advice and links to appropriate legislation.

Eva hoped the online tool would show businesses that they needed to be more than just inclusive "on paper".

"Many organisations will have a disability action plan and pay lip service to it saying that the support is going to be there, but when you actually try to access it then you are discriminated against or dismissed," she said.

"I found trying to find a job really tough. I need a flexible workplace where I can work part-time and take leave to attend medical appointments.

"That seems to be a really difficult thing even if you are honest about needing that."

'Bullied out of their jobs'

A report published last week by the University of Technology Sydney Business School looked at the experiences of people living with a disability who were self-employed, finding many went into their own businesses after negative experiences

The University's Simon Darcy, who lives with a spinal cord injury, co-authored the research.

Simon Darcy, in a wheelchair, near wooden wall
Simon Darcy from the University of Technology Sydney(

UTS Business School


"I've had disabled people tell me they've sent their resumes around hundreds of times but they never get interviewed and then there are people who don't mention the disability on their resume but they can see the disappointment on people's faces when they turn up," Professor Darcy said.

"There's also that other form of discrimination where people with disability aren't considered for career progression and situations where someone who's acquired a disability and are then bullied out of their jobs."

And for Andrew Meddings, it goes beyond business.

Andrew Meddings in front of a pool in his workplace
Andrew Meddings said having a more inclusive workplace only took a few easy steps.(

ABC News: Brendan Esposito


"I go into people's homes and I find they often haven't thought about their elderly relatives or someone who has access issues getting around their place," he said.

"Making the job easier in the end for me makes it easier for so many others."

Maven's virtual tool May went live last week.

Source: ABC

Older Post Newer Post