ICT – The career option for people with disabilities

People with disabilities (PwDs) can play an invaluable role in South Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) whilst carving out a rewarding career for themselves in the country’s thriving ICT sector.

That’s according to Prudence Mabitsela, co-founder and managing director of Dynamic DNA, a 51% black female-owned, B-BBEE level two accredited QSE training and skills development provider.

“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 you should not be able to excel in this booming sector,” she said.

Prudence is passionate about empowering young people with the right skills for the future. She focuses on getting more people with disabilities and black women into the ICT sector while at the helm of Dynamic DNA.

“The ICT sector is probably the only sector 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. 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,” she said.

“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,” continued Prudence.

Huge gains for business too

Research from the City of Johannesburg suggests that South Africa currently has about 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.

Prudence adds those with disabilities are often early technology adopters. They are using it to empower them to do more. It makes sense that they would enjoy developing expertise in areas like cybersecurity, AI, and cloud computing which are in high demand.

“It is important to make clear that providing training for and employing PwDs does not make businesses charitable. It is simply more of an intentional part of the skills development process,” Prudence explained.

In addition to addressing their future skills shortage, prioritising learnership programmes for PwDs can 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.

The benefits are two-fold.

Prudence shared her top five reasons why ICT could be a great career for people with physical disabilities and how businesses can market to PwDs.

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. 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

Many training companies, like Dynamic DNA, have adapted their learning environment to cater for people with 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 online platforms allow them to learn at their own pace in the comfort of their own home.

3. Remote working is an option

Thanks to the pandemic, remote working is now increasingly accepted, which is great as it effectively removes the physical barrier to accessing 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 as many young people in South Africa do not have access to a specialised vehicle for travel and many workplaces are difficult to access. This way, 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 PwDs 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. They don’t need specific qualifications to enter this field. All they need is a personal computer, telephone and headset. There are many call centre jobs available in South Africa and there are already several people living with a disability doing them.

Prudence concluded by urging everyone to join 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.

This article first appeared in the Germiston City News



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