People with disabilities (PwDs) can play an invaluable role in South Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), while carving out a rewarding career in the country’s thriving ICT sector.
“People living with a disability should not be excluded from participating equally in our economy. If you have the right attitude, aptitude and skill, there is no reason why you should not be able to excel in this booming sector,” says Prudence Mabitsela, co-founder and MD of Dynamic DNA.
Mabitsela says she is passionate about empowering young people with the right skills for the future and is focused on getting more people with disabilities and black women into the ICT sector while at the helm of Dynamic DNA.
The ICT sector is one of the sectors in the job market with the potential to bring inclusivity, allowing PwDs to participate in the economy and society and provide value to businesses.
“Disability inclusion is about creating an all-encompassing workplace where people feel welcome, comfortable, seen and appreciated for what they bring to the table,” says Mabitsela.
“While some impairments like blindness for example are not at the level of inclusion that we would like, there are plenty of great opportunities for both the deaf, speech or mobility impaired.
“While there are still some barriers for people with disabilities in the workplace this is constantly changing thanks to innovative advances in technology, the support of South African companies who appreciate the value of becoming more inclusive, and the opportunity created by a growing IT skills gap.”
Research from the City of Johannesburg suggests that South Africa currently has approximately 3.5-million PwDs, making up 6.6% of the total population. This means there is a substantial untapped market for businesses to plug into for scarce skills.
Mabitsela says that those with disabilities are often early technology adopters, using it to help empower them to do more, so it makes sense that they would enjoy developing expertise in areas like cybersecurity, AI, and cloud computing which are in such high demand.
“It is important to make clear that providing training for and employing PwDs does not make businesses charitable. It is more of an intentional part of the skills development process.”
In addition to addressing their future skills shortage, prioritising learnership programmes for PwDs can significantly bolster an organisation’s B-BBEE compliance mandate, making it eligible for levies and grants provided by the Skills Development Act and the Skills Development Levies Act. This includes mandatory and discretionary SETA funding and even SARS rebates.
Mabitsela says her top five reasons why ICT could be a great career for people with physical disabilities and how businesses can market to PwDs are:
1. ICT is not Physically Strenuous
Apart from telecommunications installers and technicians, most jobs in the ICT industry don’t tend to be physically strenuous – making it perfect for those who experience mobility challenges. The use of assistive technologies like speech to text means those living with a mobility disability or the hearing impaired can communicate with relative ease on email, WhatsApp, and through work applications.
It may require some getting used to and access to these technologies but there is nothing else stopping those who experience mobility challenges, speech impairments or hearing loss to enjoy a career as a programmer, systems analyst, business analyst or software engineer.
2. There is Plenty of Inclusive Training Institutions
Training companies, like Dynamic DNA have adapted their learning environment to cater for people with a mobility impairment. Campuses for example are more accessible and inclusive, with flexible learning rolled out at a pace and level that suits the individual. For those with a hearing impairment, learning materials can be accessed in a visual format and our online platforms allow them to learn at their own pace in the comfort of their own home.
3. Remote Working is an Option
Remote working is increasingly accepted which is great because it effectively removes the physical barrier of access to the workplace. Those with a physical disability can work from home, with many companies providing internet access as well as voice apps which allow them to make and receive calls through the company’s PABX from a mobile device.
Working from home is especially beneficial because young people in South Africa do not have access to a specialised vehicle for travel and many workplaces are difficult to access. This way the barriers for people living with a disability are removed even further.
4. Workplace Readiness and Mentorship Availability
People with disabilities may be nervous to integrate into the work environment, however companies like Dynamic DNA are on hand to provide learnerships with full learner management. This includes training, hiring, workplace mentorship to successful employment, and complete administrative management of the skills development process to ensure a company investing in PwD’s also benefits from tax credits and levy reimbursements.
5. Enjoy the Flexibility of a Call Centre Job
If a person with a physical disability does not have an aptitude for a technical ICT qualification, working in a call centre will provide them with flexibility and they don’t need a specific qualification to enter this field. All they need is a personal computer, telephone, and headset. There are call centre jobs available in South Africa, and there are already several people living with a disability doing them.
Prudence concludes by urging everyone to join together this Disability Awareness Month and help create more opportunities and inspire learners with a disability to reach for their dreams and know that a better future is possible.