Businesses urged to step up for disability inequality

Businesses have been urged to help close the gap between disabled and non-disabled Australians after a new report highlighted a sobering disparity in health and economic outcomes.

Australians living with a disability are three times more likely to die by suicide than their non-disabled peers, the Actuaries Institute paper found.

On average, they have about $24,000 less disposable income and are six times more likely to be a victim of violent crime and incarcerated.

The research paper examined a raft of survey data covering Australians aged 15 to 64 with moderate to severe disabilities.

Actuary Laura Dixie, from consulting firm Taylor Fry, said the gap widened to 50 per cent less disposable income for people with a severe disability.

She said recommendations from the Disability Royal Commission were promising but societal change was needed, with the data showing people with a disability are three times more likely to be unemployed.

“We need community attitudes to evolve to reduce discrimination and stigma, and companies to build disability awareness to create more inclusive workplaces that will help reduce barriers to employment,” she said.

“Given Australia’s current period of low unemployment rates, and with many businesses struggling to find workers, now is the ideal time for companies, and society more broadly, to step up and do their part.”

The research builds on a previous paper released by the institute in May that found inequality in Australia has worsened significantly since the 1980s.

Actuaries Institute CEO Elayne Grace said the establishment of the federal government’s disability strategy represented cause for hope that change could be achieved.

“We encourage the federal government, working with all key stakeholders, to seize this chance Australia has to make potentially profound change for people with disability and their families,” she said.

The researchers said a positive move forward was to view disability through a more inclusive social model instead of through medical definitions, which treat disability as a problem that needs to be fixed.

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Kathryn Magann
(Australian Associated Press)


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