WITH unemployment rising in Jamaica, the job market is becoming extremely competitive, and among those who continue to have difficulty finding jobs are the disabled.
"Persons living with a disability are going to be among the unemployed in large numbers, because people within the society still have negative attitudes towards persons with disability. They believe that a person with a disability cannot do anything at all," explained government senator Floyd Morris.
Morris is the first blind person to ever be appointed to the upper house in the Jamaican parliament and is all too aware of the level of discrimination meted out to those who try to seek jobs that can also be filled by able-bodied individuals.
"That is why as someone with some sort of prominence within the society, I try to get myself actively involved in a lot of activities, to show that persons with disabilities can do a whole lot of stuff. In doing so, whilst I am marketing myself, I am showing that persons with disabilities can do things that able bodied can do," said the senator who ran in last week's staging of the Sagicor SIGMA corporate run which had over 20,000 participants.
If you are living with a physical or mental disability, all hope is not lost. You can still secure a job by networking with the right individuals and taking hold of every opportunity you are presented with to improve your marketability. Here are some tips that can help you secure your dream job despite your limitations.
1. Qualify yourself.
"First and foremost, as a person with a disability, you have to make sure you gain either a skill or you get some academic qualifications," said Morris, who currently holds a bachelor of arts degree in mass communication, a master of philosophy in government, and who is now in the process of pursuing his doctorate.
"The academic qualifications can't just be your CXC subjects, you have to get some form of academic certification, like a first degree or a second degree or something to that effect, to demonstrate that you are competent in that particular area, or if you are doing computer repairs, you have to get a certification from HEART/NTA to show that you are certified in that area," he said.
2. Make friends with able-bodied individuals. "Once you are in an academic institution, you have to make sure that as a person with a disability, you don't confine yourself amongst your peers," advised Morris. "Don't confine yourself to just being among persons with disabilities, you have to make sure that you get involved with service clubs where you can meet individuals, who when they leave that academic institution, they are going to become captains of industries, and if you are associated with them from your university days, they will remember you when you go out there to seek some form of employment."
3. Get involved.
Get involved and volunteer with clubs, so that people will get to know you and you can increase your chances of learning about job offerings. "That sort of networking is what persons with disabilities should do so that people will know them and know what their skill sets are. They have to become a part of service clubs," the senator pointed out.
4. Don't be fearful of reaching out.
The prospect of being interviewed by individuals who don't understand your challenges might be scary. But don't fall into the trap of failing to reach out to get that job you desire. Morris said this is something that some people with a disabilities are guilty of. "With some of them, that is the situation, because they think that 'if I apply, I am not going to get it, because I am disabled'; but they cannot adopt that sort of approach. They have to keep on pressing, they have to keep on knocking on the door and ask that they be given a chance to demonstrate their true potential."
5. Connect with agencies that advocates for those with disabilities.
These agencies would have a better idea of where you can seek job opportunities and could possibly refer you when job openings come up. The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities is one such government agency that is responsible for the vocational training and placement of persons with disabilities in Jamaica.