People with disability rebuffed when looking for jobs
Although significant efforts have been made to accord people with disabilities their fundamental rights, a lot remains to be done to be done to protect them against discrimination in the job market.
“People refuse hiring us saying, saying ‘how will I speak to you if I employ you’?” one deaf woman says.
Over the last few years, changes toward achieving universal education have been priority for the government. This political will did not leave behind physically impaired people who sometimes require specialized education. However, now that some of them have been graduating, access to employment has become a nightmare for them.
Jeanne d’Arc Ntigulirwa, 26, is a deaf woman who graduated from the School of Financing and Banking in human resources management in 2010. Yet no company would hire her simply because of her physical disability.
“I and my colleagues once applied for a job in a company that was looking for brilliant people who had passed with distinction, but I was surprised to find only my application rejected without any notice while all of my colleagues were employed,” Ntigulirwa says. She declined to name the company.
Yet the struggle to convince the community that she could excel in anything was not easy at all. “After I finished my studies, an institution came to the school looking for an outstanding student who had had over 70% and SFB recommended me, but the institution refused and took others who had even scored lower than me,” Ntigulirwa says.
Now, after many attempts to apply for a job like any other competent person and as much disappointments, Ntigulirwa, who became a deaf at the age of 5, has ended up getting a job in July at the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD) where she is the executive director.
In spite of the hardship she went through before she got a job, she finds herself lucky. Statistics show that she is among only 5 known deaf people who are employed in formal sector countrywide. Among them, one is working with a public institution, another hired by a private company while 3 others are working with disability based organizations, she remarks.
Access to employment is not only a big fight for deaf people, but also to all people with disabilities. “We don’t easily find employment because many people feel that if they hire us we would be a problem to them in terms of transportation and other special facilities we would need,” points out Victor Zinda, a wheel chair user and father of 3.
This kind of discrimination does not only affect these people while job hunting, but also in many social activities due to stereotypes that still exist.
“In various social events, people do not welcome us, they do not treat us as human beings,” Ntigulirwa remarks. “They think that deaf persons can’t do anything, but we can.”
And Zinda points out that he became desperate when looking for a wife.
“It was another stressful experience; because of my disability, many girls rejected my proposal simply because of appearance. And whenever they rejected me, I felt so desperate.”
At least in the workplace, laws and regulations exist to protect the disabled against discrimination. For instance, the labor law in its article 12 on non-discrimination says: “It shall be forbidden to directly or indirectly make any discrimination aiming at denying the worker the right to equal opportunity or to the salary especially when the discrimination is based upon disability.”
In addition, there is the law N° 01/2007 OF 20/01/2007 relating to protection of disabled persons. The law says: “No discrimination of any form shall be subjected upon a disabled person in matters related to employment. However, a disabled person shall be given greater access to employment opportunities than any other citizen in case of equal capacities or in case of equal marks in competition.”
All this is encouraging, but more is still required, according to Silas Ngayaboshya, head of the inclusive education project at the Handicap International Program Rwanda. He says that inclusive education should be a good preparation to employment. “For instance, the more deaf people interact with the physically fit ones, the more they get familiar with each other and develop their ways of communication which can even serve at the work place without the need for an interpreter,” explains Ngayaboshya.
Referring to other countries’ experiences, Ngayaboshya suggests that the discrimination could be minimized if organizations put in place systems which give an official responsibility for the integration of disabled people at the workplace.
“It’s not the disabled who have to come and match the environment, instead there should be an environment that favors the disabled,” explains Ngayaboshya.
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