There is a general perception that employing Persons with Disability means reduction in productivity.
As a result of this discernment, every year, an appreciable number of Persons with Disability (PWDs) graduate from Ghana’s tertiary institutions with various qualifications, but unfortunately, most of these graduates remain unemployed for various reasons including the limited knowledge of most employers and the public about the capacities and capabilities of PWDs.
It is worth noting that, the Melcom Group of Companies, recognizing the positive side of Persons with disability defied all the odds to employ about 20 Persons with various forms of disabilities to work in different departments of the company.
The Company says its move to employ Persons with Disability (PWDs) was purely based on merit and not because there is a special considerations for them.
As one of the leading retail companies with several shops across the country, the Firm says it does not discriminate against any particular group of people and that it gives employment to people based on their skills set and competence.
In an interview with Public Agenda, Mr Godwin Avenorgbo, Director of Communications at Melcom group of Companies said, “so far we have about 20 persons with disability working with us. It seems to me they did not even know that Melcom will employ them else a lot more would have come forward. As you come and you have the skills set, we give you employment; we don’t discriminate at all.”
According to him, “working with persons with disability has been part of our system because we want human resource that is capable of performing jobs and anybody who so qualifies is given employment. We don’t go out there looking for people with disability, but if you apply for a job opportunity and you have a role to play and you can add value to the work we are doing, we will employ you.”
Mr Avenorgbo explained, “We are in a business where we need the brains .., so physical disability is not an obstacle for you not to work at Melcom. There are various department that these people are placed, we can do more because we are opening new shops very soon. It is our hope that in every shop, you will find about two to five Persons with Disability. Currently at Melcom Plus there are about eight Persons with Disability.”
The Director of Communications disclosed that persons with disability even concentrate more on the job than those who are not disabled.
Sharing his experience, he said, “I have a background in media and I had one such person in my accounts department when I was the Director for business development, he never went out for lunch so he was the one people saw when they came to do business at lunched time. So he became such a reliable person during lunch time and work for long ours. Even after 5 pm he stayed on to be able to balance his books and so on. There is advantage in engaging Persons with disability.
In terms of output, he said Melcom is a private company hence if a worker’s output is not good, they would be dismissed, adding, “here the output is to a certain standard otherwise you will go home because we don’t owe anybody an apology for that, so if you see persons with disability here it means they are very hard working.”
With regard to the Company’s built environment, he maintained that the environment is accessible. This is because they are placed in areas where they are comfortable and are working without any obstacle.
He revealed that the company gives opportunity to autistic children to serve customers. “In fact we even give opportunities to autistic children to come and serve in the shop and we do that ones every year. We needed to get them exposed to serve and to interact with people they come in a very large numbers.”
He advised the corporate world never to discriminate against PWDs because anybody can be physically disabled.
“Most of them weren’t born with physical disability, some of them suffered disability through accident and anybody can get involved in an accident so why would somebody well educated skilled and with brain she denied of a job just because the person has mobility difficulty. It is not fair and it is wickedness, we must give them opportunities. We all complain when we see them by the road side begging for money and knocking our car windows and so on how do we get them off the streets? The response is, give them employment opportunities and train them so that they can be integrated into the Ghanaian society,” Mr Avenorgbo counselled.
Mr Charles K. Bediako, a deaf person who spoke to Public Agenda through a sign language interpreter who has been working for Melcom since 2004 was full of praise for the Company, while insisting that they are not in any way discriminated against.
“I and my colleagues have been given a very conducive environment to work and we are happy here,” Mr Bediako added.
On his part, Mr Maxwell Aware Agye, who is also an employee with multiple disability- (Physically Challenged and deaf), lauded the Company for the opportunity but appealed to management to consider adjusting their salaries to match with the current economic trend.
Mr Agyei further encouraged employers to give opportunities to persons with disability to exhibit their capabilities.
The Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations (GFD).The Umbrella organization of Persons with Disability in Ghana is leading a national campaign to promote employment opportunities for PWDs through sensitization on disability issues among employers, engagement with public and private sector institutions and enhancing the capacity of graduate PWDs for the job market.
The move by the GFD is meant to address the high unemployment rate among PWDs in Ghana.
The Federation was glad to note that Melcom has made such a move as it would go a long way to propel its quest to get corporate Ghana to employ PWDs.
By Mohammed Suleman