In order to create an enabling environment that fosters and promotes equal opportunities in employment, what does the society need to work on?
The local society in general considers that Western communities have taken a more proactive attitude towards equality in employment. Yet, expatriates with disabilities in Hong Kong even stand a slimmer chance of finding employment here, given the language barrier and lack of social ties with the local community.
A group of expatriates in Hong Kong has set up a volunteer body and opened a coffee shop in the form of a social enterprise to create employment opportunities for expatriates with disabilities. The cafe has eight young employees with learning difficulties due to various reasons, including intellectual disabilities, spasticity and Down’s Syndrome. The coffee shop provides the employees with comprehensive on-the-job training, offers an open, inclusive and barrier-free working environment, and let them work in different positions. They understand that in order for people with disabilities to be accepted in the job market, they have to equip them with basic working skills and a proper working attitude through training. Only then will employers in general be more willing to employ people with disabilities. The ultimate of their plan is not limited to enable the employees to acquire a skill for them to get a job in the market, but to prepare them to integrate to be accepted by the society as capable individuals.
A British youngster, Alex, and a Japanese young lady, Mihiro, both with learning disabilities, have worked at the coffee shop for several months. The two have mastered the skills of brewing coffee and preparing meals. They have gradually gained recognition from their work and set their goals in the future plans.
The Hong Kong subsidiary of a multi-national cosmetics and beauty corporation follows the policy of its parent company in pursuing diversity of employment. Not only is it actively involved in the employment of people with disabilities (among the 300 staff, there are ten employees with disabilities working in different departments), it also has a preference for engaging organisations which employ people with disabilities in its procurements or in forming business partnerships with a view to taking forward equality in employment.
While the company’s concept of advocating diversity and equality in employment is embraced by all of the staff, it expands the support beyond the corporate level. The company sponsors a local volunteer organisation, by providing facilities, material resources and teachers for training people with intellectual disabilities to be hair stylist assistants. Upon completing their training, the trainees will receive corporate brand endorsements as references for their job searches. The scheme not only supports the concept of equal employment opportunities, but also explores new job sectors for people with disabilities.
While the society offers trainings to get them equipped, a chance for them to show their competent and win the society recognitions is what they need most.