Disabled people are becoming increasingly marginalised, with the state and civil society neglecting their basic needs (the right to employment, proper health care services and equal treatment in society).

 

With reference to the unemployment rate, people with disabilities are the most affected world wide and it’s alarming in low to medium income earning countries.

 

In Zimbabwe the unemployment rate for people with disabilities has held steadily at approximately double the rate of unemployment for their able-bodied counterparts. “Often, their background has been working in sheltered workshops or working in jobs that just get a paycheck, and not a career or anything they’re interested in. According to a study by the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH), only two percent of people with disabilities are employed in the public sector, and overall less than seven percent of them in Zimbabwe are employed.

 

Some of the main reasons for their unemployment have been suggested to be caused by their lack of qualifications, especially when considering that most of them are denied access to neither learn (get educated) nor receive informed career guidance to make them aware of the appropriate career opportunities.

 

However, if disabled people are employed most of them either suffer from discrimination and general negative perceptions from both their employers and co-workers, although some receive favourable treatment depending on who they work for, instead of getting constitutional treatment through human rights.

 

Such negative responses towards people with disabilities by society, in Zimbabwe to be specific is the reason why we are still backward as a country by marginalising 15% of the total population. It will be much more appreciable for us as a Nation to love and support them and make the world a better place.

 

Providing Disability Awareness Training Programmes for disabled people is a progressive step we can take as a society in both supporting them and capacitating development in the country.  These training programmes help them in participating economically and reducing social inequalities as well as making other people accept them and understand that they are also human and are capable of doing what any other able bodied person can do.

 

In Zimbabwe there are such training programmes such as the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Training Programme being conducted by Impairments International Trust for the next 5 years. It is a programme aimed at helping people with disabilities become entrepreneurs (business minded people who take any financial risks) and gain financial freedom thereby reducing adverse poverty, hunger and create employment.

 

The programme has become a great pillar for people with disabilities in Zimbabwe. It provides great opportunities and is a resource guide to help with resources such as funding, marketing, and business education to people with disabilities. Its aim is to assist and identify people with disabilities and other non communicable and rare disabilities inclusive of other impairments (Visual and hearing) that have business minds or that already own businesses, and capacitate them through business training, after training care and help with sourcing resources they need to develop their businesses.

 

The benefits accrued as a result of such training programs include:

 

Perceptions and myths around disability issues are dispelled

People’s perceptions and societal myths towards disabled people are changed. Disabled people are more likely to be discriminated against due to stigma, misinformation on disability etiquette and awareness and fear. For example employers might think they are slow and less incompetent while co-workers might find them strange to associate with yet people with disabilities are the most loyal and brand abiding people as long they feel they are part of the broad company family.

 

But during the training many commonly asked and unclear questions are answered. Workplace solutions for people with different conditions are offered during the training so that certain limitations seem less daunting and more manageable. People (employers and co-workers) gain a better understanding about the barriers that people with disabilities face. Allowing customer service teams to have a more confident approach to helping customers with a variety of needs and accessibility requirements. Thus, dispelling stereotypes that exist in order to help create a more positive narrative regarding disability.

 

Does mindset transformation

The training programme encourages workplace disclosure and allows people to learn. During the training, participants are able to speak frankly about disability, talk about different conditions and learn about the support available. Because of this, workplaces will create a more open environment where staff will feel more comfortable and confident to disclose any condition they may have to a manager, offering guidance on how businesses can be transparent about the support available within their respective workplace.

 

People will learn of the different kinds of conditions people with disabilities have so that they understand and accept them as they are. One of the exercises deployed during the training will stimulate what it’s like to, for example, be blind, deaf or crippled, so that people can experience what it feels like and the various obstacles it presents. That way people with disabilities will also feel accepted and appreciated, hence, boosting their self-esteem and transforming them into positive minded people. They are encouraged to join the business world and work with others without isolating themselves.

 

Provides disabled people with business practical skills

People with disabilities are taught more about business. For example, how to start, manage,  grow and maintain a business, as well as how to sell and promote the business successfully at the same time managing the income and profits sustainably.

 

For instance, in one of the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Training Programme sessions, where by the disabled were taught of the five levels in business starting from the ground level, existence level,survival level, success level up to the maturity level.

The disabled get a chance to  start their own businesses and get guidance on how to run them.

 

Learning what is legally required from your workplace and business premise

 

The training programme does not only benefit the disabled, but also employers. Employers get to know how they ought to treat their workers and the consequences that they ought to suffer from when they break the law. For example, in  Zimbabwe the labour law prohibits discrimination against disabled persons in employment in Section 9 of the Disabled Person Act .

 

The workshop provides information regarding requirements to follow in terms of hiring and supporting people with disabilities in zimbabwe.

 

In addition to the training program — which teaches entrepreneurial fundamentals along with issues that are specific to the disabled community like benefits counseling or handling attitudes and discrimination — the program is also developing  communites.

 

In the future, the Impairments International Trust hopes to establish a business planning competition for entrepreneurs with disabilities.

 

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