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Sri Lanka is rather slow placed when it comes to emancipating the rights of the differently-able. More so, they find it hard to find job opportunities in the local market.

Despite many a research being conducted into the potential job opportunities for the differently-able, not much change can be seen in the local job market.

The single biggest barrier to full employment for the differently-able is the “fear of the unknown” of hiring or working with someone different. Employers know and generally comply with the law, but little is being done to educate co-workers in effective strategies for coping with their apprehension.

I believe that hiring committees composed of co-workers, superiors and subordinates may often be the derailing factor in a differently-able person’s job search process. Peer committees may simply not know how working with a differently-able individual will work.

As differently-able job searchers go through the process of interviewing, a good strategy may be to address potential concerns directly. This strategy is not required on the searcher’s part, but in my professional opinion, it is a technique to counterbalance the prejudice that people may feel — whether or not they express it. Remember, technically, employers are limited by law to asking if the candidate can accomplish the job and in some cases ask the candidate for an illustration of how. What I would argue, however, is that the real questions are the ones that a co-worker would be afraid to ask. I think that the best defence, if you will, is an effective offense — putting people at ease.

Each job-seeker needs to evaluate his or her feelings about this issue. Many job-seekers don’t want to have to educate everyone with whom they come into contact. That’s okay. Many job-seekers don’t want to directly address their disability. That’s okay. Many job-seekers feel that it is incumbent upon co-workers to initiate their own learning process. All of these feelings and beliefs are valid. Ultimately, each job-seeker must decide if, when and in what manner similar strategies should be employed.
When working with a person who has a disability, keep in mind that we are all more alike than different. Each person comes to a new job with unique skills and abilities. Internships allow all students to build on current competencies while gaining new skills that relate to their academic and career goals.

People who interact with people who have disabilities have a great impact on their on-the-job success. Many employers use team work environments to maximize the potentials of their employees. This structure allows employees to work together to maximize individual strengths while compensating for weaknesses.

Expect that people with disabilities participating in a work-based learning experience are there to succeed. Keep your expectations high. Be positive and proactive in helping them achieve success. Career counsellors and employers who follow the succeeding suggestions can help students with disabilities accomplish just that.

Do not exhibit the dramatic “Oh my ___ if I was ___I wouldn’t be able to ___ “ syndrome! Most likely the participant with a disability has a full life and has learned to positively meet the challenges posed by the disability.

Avoid labels for groups of people with disabilities such as ‘the blind’ or ‘the deaf.’ Instead, say ‘people who are blind’ or ‘people who are deaf.’ Never use the terms ‘deaf and dumb.’
Avoid emotionally-charged descriptors such as ‘bedridden,’ ‘homebound,’ ‘crippled,’ ‘unfortunate,’ ‘pitiful,’ ‘stricken with,’ ‘wheelchair-bound,’ or ‘confined to a wheelchair.’ Instead, simply be descriptive such as ‘he uses a wheelchair.’

Avoid euphemisms to describe disabilities. Terms such as ‘handicapable,’ ‘differently-able’ ‘physically challenged,’ and ‘physically inconvenienced’ are considered by many to be condescending. They reinforce the idea that disabilities cannot be dealt with in a straight-forward manner.

Speak directly to a person and focus on her abilities rather than her disability.

People who have disabilities have the same range of likes and dislikes as those who do not. Not all blind people are musical; not all people who use wheelchairs play wheelchair basketball and not all deaf people read lips. Talk about things you talk about with other employees — weather, sports, politics and what you did today.

If you are feeling uncomfortable about a situation, let the person who has a disability know.

Be sure expectations such as job performance, behaviour and dress are clearly defined and that they are met.

Provide specific feedback on job performance. If you have concerns about performance, mention it. The person may not know he is doing something incorrectly.

If a person appears to be having difficulty at a task, he probably is. Ask if, and how, you may help.

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