In recent years, diversity and inclusion (D&I) have become trendy buzz words used by human resources professionals and corporate leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the progressive cause. However, one organization stands out in the crowd as it works tirelessly to transform D&I from a trendy topic into real action. In this eight-part series, we’ll take a look at what makes D&I work and some of the success stories.  

The employment of persons with disabilities is usually seen as a social welfare service. Not much thought is given to making the inclusion meaningful and impactful, as the focus tends to be on disability rather than ability. In Hong Kong, a non-for-profit organization is determined to change that mindset so to realize the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

The story began in 2013 – the year CareER was established. “The problem with the old way is employers focus too much on the persons’ disabilities. As we really want to help employers finding the right talent, we flip it around and ask them what kinds of skill sets they are looking for,” Walter Tsui, a co-founder of CareER, says.

In essence, CareER is a charitable organization specializing in matching higher educated persons with disabilities with prospective employers and offering recruitment and related services for free.

“Each person has his or her strengthens and weaknesses, and it just so happens that physical disability is a very visible weakness. Employers should look beyond this and focus on the person’s skills and ability,” Walter adds.

Programme Manager Ada Lee notes that while it is understandable CareER is seen as a job placement agency, people should take a look at the significant value they deliver to their members. “There is no doubt that jobs are important as they give our members dignity, but more importantly we help them grow and regain their self-confidence with our holistic approach.

“In the end, everybody wins. We help them develop their career, and employers can find the right employees,” Ada explains.

Quite often, there are cynics that question whether corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives amount to little more than window dressing. Walter admits that this is a common perception in society. But as far as CareER is concerned, that won’t distract them from doing their job.

“It doesn’t matter why a company wants to hire a person with disabilities. What we are focusing on is to create values for both parties during the process. Quite often, through disability workshop, accessibility inspection and work placement, employers slowly come to the realization that persons with disabilities are actually capable job seekers,” Walter says.

What sets CareER apart from other similar organizations is their methodical approach in the job matching process. The ABLE mode, developed by CareER, guides everything the organization does.

4 icons represents the ABLE model

“A” stands for accessibility, and this encompasses both physical and online accessibility; “B” stands for business needs, and this means the hiring of a person with disabilities shouldn’t be based on the concept of corporate social responsibility but rather the business needs of a company; “L” means learning, and this involves helping employers to understand how to interact with persons with disabilities; and “E” stands for experience, and this means providing opportunities so that persons with disabilities get the chance to work and employers can experience what it is like by having disabled employees.

“Under the ABLE model, we have worked with over 100 companies, and so far, it has worked very well. Sometimes, companies don’t have to go through all the steps, but the model helps us to identify which companies are ready to hire persons with disabilities,” Walter continues. “Many small and medium-sized enterprises are keen to hire persons with disabilities, but quite often they are not ready. With this model, we can avoid unhappy situations by helping companies to get ready and have a truly welcoming work environment before hiring.”

Apart from the ABLE model, the business mindset also sets CareER apart from other similar organizations. “We understand the business needs of employers and their thinking. As such, we approach issues from a business angle rather that a social welfare or social work perspective,” Walter adds.

Looking back, Walter is pleased that there is a growing awareness in society about hiring persons with disabilities. He recalls a 2016 survey that indicated over 80 percent of employers were willing to look into the ability and talent of persons with disabilities.

“Having awareness is a good thing but that is not good enough. We need to see more actions by companies. In the same survey, less than 20% of respondents thought about hiring and reaching out to persons with disabilities in the next two to three years,” Walter remarks.

Therefore, the challenge right now is not about awareness but rather equipping companies with know-how on providing a truly inclusive environment for persons with disabilities so that they can thrive and contribute.

Walter is sharing

“CareER was established to plug a service gap between persons with disabilities and employers, and while we have done a good job in closing the gap, a lot more still needs to be done.” Walter said

“Hong Kong is fortunate that the level of accessibility is pretty good in the region and there are many multinationals in the city who value the importance of having a truly inclusive workplace. However, the mindset of local employers needs to be changed, as they still see the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace as a welfare service,” Walter notes.

Cultivate a change mindset is not an easy task, but Walter and his team are committed to empowering persons with disabilities. At the end of the day, in everything they do, CareER strives to promote a sustainable framework so that the hiring of persons of disabilities will become a win-win venture.

The second part of the series will examine a dynamic program that employs the ABLE model to help both the members and employers.

CareER provides career development and campus supports for higher educated persons with disabilities and SEN, meanwhile, promotes equal opportunities and disabilities inclusion at the workplace.
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The CareER Jockey Club Thriving Grass Career Development Program is tailored for higher educated persons with disabilities and Special Educational Needs (SEN). During the program, participants will be given training opportunities to build self-confidence, improve personal competence, as well as develop leadership and communication skills. For more information, please visit: https://career.org.hk/key-program/ 

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