Here is the link describing a newly published IFA report on best practise guidelines for employing people with disabilities
IFA – ‘Employing People With Disabilities: Good Practise Guidance For Archaeologists’ by Tim Phillips & John Creighton.
I have read most of this report, and it gives me great joy. The comments on disability in the workplace were mostly positive, and highlighted that if people talked a bit more openly about various disabilities then compromises can be reached. The report covers areas such as the guidelines for good practise, disability and professional archaeology, alongside personal stories at the end. One of the summary comments is that a ‘lack of awareness and understanding was…a major problem, especially with hidden disabilities’. An environment in which it is ‘okay to explain your disability’, ‘discuss the options open’ and for ‘compromises to be made’ where cited as critically important steps in the archaeological world to include those with disabilities enter the working world.
This report makes clear the different models that disability can take. Firstly there is the slightly dated view that disability is an illness; a person with a disability is a subject purely for treatment and cure. This is the Medical Model. Next is the Charitable Model. This view sees the individual as a tragic individual, an object of pity who needs care and to be protected from the everyday rigours of life. So far, these models hardly seem charitable to the disabled person themselves!
The final model, and the one which sets the tone for the IFA report, is the Social Model. This model shifts the emphasis away from the view that there is something wrong with the person; that they are excluded from social, economic, physical and attitudinal behaviours of society because of their disability. This focuses instead on the need for society to change its attitude. That reasonable adjustments can be made.
The report has provided a safeguard in the fact that although I’m trying hard to break into archaeology, I know that at least a good portion of interested disabled people already have succeeded.
I also came across this blog, a small online community dealing with various issues of being disabled and available disability aids. This post in particular caught my eye, as it details finding work, and disclosing a disability on your CV. The fact that the writer mentions archaeology and heritage only helped to intensify my interest.
“I’ve also been turned down from many jobs – from the archaeologists who never called me back to the museum curator who was happy for me to volunteer at his living history museum but wouldn’t hire me because he was afraid I would “fall in the well”. This was the large, obvious well I walked past every day, the well that was covered over with a steel grating.
But I’m not bitter, not at all. I’ve always taken the attitude that if an employer is that close-minded when it comes to hiring a person with a disability, then I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway“.
As a disabled person currently trying to find work, it is a staggering number to read that the author notes up to 70% adults who identify themselves as disabled are not currently employed. I’m not sure how verifiable that number is, but it makes me think for a moment. The decision to make public the acknowledgement of having a disability can be a very personal one, and no doubt turns many employees off. As unfair as this, it certainly isn’t helped by the media at large, who often portray Equality laws as divisive barriers to ‘ordinary people’, whoever ordinary people are. It is my hope that reports such as the IFA one can help to increase knowledge about disability, the many guises it can take, and the determination disabled people often have.
This brings me to my main point.
Disability acceptance into the workforce, and into society at large, is not a one way process. We can be a part of that change as much as anyone else. We should not leave it up to others when we can have a positive say, and help change society for the better. Equally it is also up to other sectors of society to embrace the disabled community.