More action needed to create employment for disabled

A facility - - built and termed a “palace for the disabled” by the Bağcılar Municipality - - provides seminars and work for the disabled residents of the Bağcılar district of İstanbul as part of a socialization project. (PHOTO Sunday’s Zaman,Üsame Arı)

April 15, 2012, Sunday/ 14:44:00

To encourage companies to hire more disabled people, the state pays half of the insurance premiums for every disabled employee hired above the required number.

Despite this law, the number of the disabled in the workforce is still below expectations. Many companies are reluctant to hire disabled persons due to prejudice and negative perceptions.

The problems of disabled persons don’t end after they are hired because companies fail to provide appropriate working conditions for them; generally, they are discriminated against by their employers, are given manual and low-skilled occupations and are less likely to work in managerial, professional and high-skilled occupations. The first-ever state personnel exams for the disabled, the Disability Officer Selection Exam (ÖMSS), which will be held on April 29, will enable the government to employ about 20,000 disabled citizens in public institutions.

Aid and Solidarity Association for All Disabilities and Their Families (TEDAY) President İlimdar Boztaş told Sunday’s Zaman TEDAY finds the government’s recent steps very useful, but some problems still remain regarding the implementation of these steps. He added: “Although there have been many steps in favor of disabled persons in recent years, the government has been unsuccessful in implementing them. Disabled persons have difficulties taking advantage of recent improvements. Considering all the difficulties disabled people experience, we think that the steps taken so far might be perfunctory.”

Boztaş said although the government endeavors to solve the employment problems of disabled persons, it has not as of yet accomplished what it planned to do. About the ÖMSS examination, Boztaş said the issue of employment of disabled persons is a very delicate one and added that the government has promised to recruit about 41,000 disabled persons, then decreased this number to 38,000, then 30,000 and 20,000 and at last 3,000, which disappointed disabled individuals, who had been excited about the opportunity and started to work hard to earn a position in a public institution.

Boztaş further noted that some people collect money from the public allegedly on behalf of the disabled, which offends disabled persons because such activities make the public feel that handicapped people are indigent, miserable individuals.

With regard to the problems of the visually handicapped, Altı Nokta Association for the Blind Deputy Chairman Hasan Yıldırıcı told Sunday’s Zaman that private sector companies do not want to employ visually handicapped people although they have professional competence for the work because they are prejudiced, and added: “Therefore, we should raise the awareness of private sector companies about visually disabled persons. By doing this, we believe new employment opportunities will be provided for people who are blind or with low vision.”

A new project titled “Raising Awareness & Corporate Employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Turkey [RACE Turkey]” is being coordinated by CRM Consulting to increase the participation of disabled persons in the workforce in Turkey.

According to its official website, the project’s overall aim is to help vocational employment training (VET) trainers, counselors, managers, line managers and also policy makers facilitate the active participation of people with disabilities (PWD) in the open primary labor market focusing on lifelong learning opportunities, training and their integration in inclusive employment. The RACE project brought together partners from five countries in the endeavor to enable persons with disabilities to enter the open labor market and thus gain more independence and confidence. The project implementation dates are from November 2011 till October 2013.

Project coordinator Kamile Canbay told Sunday’s Zaman that they decided to start this project because they believe that there is much to do in the area of employment of disabled individuals in Turkey.

Listing other project partners of CRM Consultancy, Canbay said, “Our partners in the project are the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities [EASPD], the Dolunay Association of Adult Handicapped, the Fondazione ASPHI onlus [an Italian non-profit organization], the Adecco Group in France and the Multidisciplinary European Research Institute Graz [MERIG][an Austrian organization].” Stating that the handicapped employment quota system, which came into effect due to the Law on the Disabled in 2005, has not met expectations so far, Canbay added that instead of this current system, the project proposes a supported employment model for creating more employment opportunities for handicapped persons.

“The supported employment model offers a suitable model to avoid segregation of persons with disabilities and is much more inclusive than sheltered workplaces. The model is ‘place-train-maintain.’ The benefits of increased independence and inclusion are not limited just to people with disabilities; employers benefit as well and so does society. Still, it is very rare in practice; thus, the main project’s aim is to promote and increase it.” CRM Consultancy defines the supported employment model on the project website.

Canbay said that in the first stage of the project, they are examining similar projects conducted regarding the issue around the world, primarily in the EU, and that the second stage of the project will be the implementation stage in which determined policies will be brought into effect.

“Because the supported employment model is new in Turkey, we include giving training courses to introduce and extend this new system in Turkey. After we decided to introduce this new system, we found that the labor market actors are not very aware of departments in which they can employ the disabled and how to make the best use of them while employing these people; so first of all, we should raise awareness of employers with regard to the issue of disabled persons participating in the workforce.” Canbay noted.

Stating that vocational training courses should be provided for unemployed persons with disabilities, Canbay noted that disabled individuals want to participate in social life and want to feel useful, and that the public should support these people in their efforts.

Canbay further noted that the Turkish Employment Organization (İŞKUR) and the Ministry of Family and Social Policy are providing such courses in Turkey to some degree, but that their number should be increased throughout the country.

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