Josy Chow – Sustainability Intern
This has been my 5th year at the University of Hong Kong majoring in English Studies. I am very happy to join Encompass HK this year as a project officer, to work in an equal and inclusive environment.
As a student with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), I get along with many people with different abilities, whose talents have been undermined resulting in a higher rate of unemployment compared with that of able-bodied individuals. According to a territory-wide survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department in 2013, the unemployment rate of people with disabilities and/or chronic diseases aged 15 or above is estimated as 6%, which is about double of that of the general population. I, without exception, faced a lot of hurdles during my job-seeking journey.
Like many other students, I was busy to search for summer jobs or internships before summer vacation. Many CVs and cover letters were sent but to be extremely frustrating, all applications are in vain for a response. Due to my physical condition, I am not fit to commute to work every day. Therefore, I always look for job opportunities that allow me to work remotely. I understand that working at home may not be popular in Hong Kong’s career market. However, I think that is the gap can be filled by the untapped pool of talents! I believe everybody is born with certain abilities that any individual can make contributions to the world as well as society. Not until I encountered Encompass HK and learned such employment inequality, I constantly questioned my own ability because it seemed that almost no one even tried to understand my potentials, I was not given any interview opportunity.
To be more disappointing, the government introduced a regime, named Productivity Assessment for Employees with Disabilities. Such scheme grants employees’ right to request to be assessed and then the minimum amount of salary received will be adjusted based on their productivity. I can see the passion of the government to enhance the competitiveness of disabled employees in the business world. Nonetheless, due to various challenges, differently-abled employees are very likely less productive according to the standard applied to general workers, employers often encourage those employees to take the assessment. The employees would rather give up an equal amount of wages in order to secure a place in a company. For me, productivity cannot be the only indicator to decide how much salary an employee deserved. Everyone’s effort should be appreciated! Anybody, including those who are differently-abled, can work diligent or not because this is a matter of personal quality but not productivity, not to mention the fact that the amount of work produced can be difficult to quantify in many industries. The scheme, thus, can indirectly consolidate the stereotypes toward differently-abled individuals and lead to work exploitation of underpayment.
Encompass HK gives me opportunities to learn how to write social media posts and report summaries and how to conduct administrative work such as accounting tasks.. It also provides me a platform to hone my translation skills. Salary is never a huge matter, but being equally treated and some degree of financial independence gained from work are significant for revealing dignity.
One of the SDGs is to reduce inequality (Goal 10). Apart from employment issue, a wheelchair-unfriendly environment and unreasonable transportation fees also halt the equal opportunities among differently-abled people in social, education and other daily life aspects. HKU has worked hard for a universal campus, barrier-free access of buildings are improving and I am always grateful that they added a ramp behind the residential hall I am living now just after my admission so that all students with wheelchairs and/or walking aids can have easy access to the hall. Although some progress has been made in Hong Kong to establish a leveled ground for all, I am looking forward to it be a universal city. Because, from day one, we are all human beings, one family.