Australia’s former disability discrimination commissioner, Graeme Innes (featured image), has called for disability quotas in TV advertisements.
The quota would help shift attitudes and lift the “abysmal” employment rate of people with disabilities, according to Innes.
“You can’t be what you can’t see, so we need to see people with disabilities employed in jobs,” Innes told the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability on Monday.
“We need to see people with disabilities on our television screens, in our advertising.”
Innis called for advertisers to include disabled people “at the level of 15 or 20 per cent of the faces we see in advertising.” He pointed to 2014 research that found disabilities represented on television were “woefully lower than the average in the population.”
A Screen Australia study of 199 television dramas found that only four per cent of characters had an identified disability, compared to an estimated 18 per cent of Aussies.
Innes acknowledged the publics familiarity with people like Dylan Alcott or Hannah Gadsby (who has autism) as a sign of positive change and said “we need to continue that momentum.”
The philosophy behind including more people with disabilities in advertisements is that it normalises these disabilities and allows people to be more open about them.
Innes said that many people are afraid to be open with bosses about their disability, making it harder to collect accurate data or ensure appropriate supports are in place.
“People will only declare they have disabilities to employers when they see at a micro level with a particular employer or at the macro level in the general community people with disabilities being included and accepted as part of the Australian community.”
“If we change attitudes amongst Australian society (and) people making recruitment decisions in employers large and small, then we will actually start to deliver on some of those policies.
“The whole fabric of society needs to change.”
Despite comprising 18 per cent of the population, people with disabilities only make up 1 per cent of the workforce and have a labour force participation rate of only 53 per cent, compared to 84 per cent for those without a disability.
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