From Left: Clive Richardson, Selwyn Terrell and Steve Shaw
"It’s really hard to get a job around here, for anyone." But Selwyn Terrell found that having a back injury made things even harder. "I had a work accident, broke my back [and it] put a bit of a dampener on things really."
The accident happened shortly before he was due to move to Nelson but he found part-time employment at a local firm, Central Engineering, with the help of Workbridge. The Government-funded organisation has branches around the country, assisting people with disabilities into employment.
Another client is Steve Shaw who moved to Nelson from Christchurch after the recent earthquakes. "I had some difficulties here in Nelson because there didn't seem to be a lot of work around that suited me." But he's been happy with the Workbridge placement.
"I enjoy the variety of work I get here at this workplace and sometimes the challenge and possibly also the relaxed atmosphere that we enjoy here."
An employment consultant for Workbridge in Nelson, Tim Upson, says, in a tight job market like a small town, his clients can find it tough. "There's definitely barriers out there and employers can be really choosy about who they want, especially in Nelson – there's a lot of people looking for the same jobs."
And he says part of his role is educating employers about disability. "So they become aware it’s not just the severe things we think of when we think of disability but the mild things too, like anxiety and depression [...] a lot of people suffer form that – it's a really common thing."
Tim Upson says he's heard stories of up to 300 people applying for the same job and he believes, in some cases, it’s disabled clients who can miss out. "I think that's a reality that people will be turned away. Not every employer's prepared to look around that."
And he's grateful to those who are supportive like Central Engineering's owner, Stuart Langford. "The neat thing about this environment is that Stuart's prepared to work with people's strengths and to look at what they can do rather than what they can't."
Stuart Langford says he has had several of his staff come through Workbridge and he has "no grizzles" thus far. "None of the people that they've brought here have got a disability that can't be worked with." And he's reluctant to judge others.
"I don't believe I'm perfect myself so I'm not going to judge other people for what they are or aren't. And everyone has a disability of some kind and these people are probably a bit more honest about it than others."
Tim Upson says Workbridge could do with finding a few more employers like Central Engineering. "They're producing some really good products and things are going well for them and it'd be neat if some more people were open-minded like that and could see the positives."
But he says in the meantime, Workbridge is placing an increasing number of people in work, often with a fast turnaround. "Sometimes it's the same day we're placing people in employment [as] they walk in, it’s neat, [it’s a] fun place to work."
Photo: Stuart Langford the owner of Central Engineering
Spotlight on Disability Rights
How does New Zealand treat people with disabilities and what is it doing to uphold their rights?
In 2008, New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a human rights convention that seeks to protect and enhance the rights of all disabled people.
And last month, for the first time, New Zealand appeared before the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities to be quizzed on the progress it has made. Members of the committee also spoke informally to delegations from New Zealand Disabled Persons Organisations who had written shadow reports. This week the Committee released a report of its concluding observations.