Scientific Symposium : from Special to Specialist

Scientific Symposium : from Special to Specialist

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In a scientific symposium in the Antwerp Hilton Hotel, the Antwerp Management School and the HEC Management School presented their six recommendations for an optimal integration in the labour market of people with an intellectual disability.

Sport and play as powerful vehicle for reducing the social exclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in communities was strongly promoted at the Scientific Symposium of the 2014 Special Olympics European Summer Games taking place in Antwerp, Belgium today (Monday, September 15th). The Special Olympics European Summer Games currently taking place in Antwerp with 2,000 athletes from 58 countries competing in 10 sports over one week, was highlighted as a strong example of how people with intellectual disabilities can take a more visible role in our communities.
 

Research

The research team studied eight cases, all companies and organizations that employ people with an intellectual disability. The study reveals that customized job design is the key for optimal inclusion. Successful inclusion focuses on people. Colleagues are not considered as persons with a disability, but the focus needs to be on their skills, his or her competencies. This way, the colleagues with an intellectual disability fully feel the benefits of an optimal inclusion: financial freedom, autonomy, and an improved quality of life, they radiate more self- confidence (possibilities of schooling and task variation), emotional well being and social status. In short, they feel like fully-fledged company employees.

Employers obviously need to maintain the focus on profit.  In almost every case of the study, the inclusion of intellectually disabled people aims at better company results: the labour cost of people with an intellectual disability is lower, they work faster, and for manual repetitive tasks, the quality of their work is far better. A one-sided focus either on people or on profit has a detrimental impact for all parties involved.

“If we want that Special Olympics athletes also excel on the shop floor, people with and without disabilities must be able to collaborate properly” says research manager Bart Cambré of the Antwerp Management School. Customized job design plays an extremely important part in the process. A better inclusion will only be possible when authorities do not blindly save on coaching infrastructure and subsidies in an effort to reduce labour charges. Empowering people with an intellectual disability is important as well; the focus needs to be on their competencies and skills, and not on their intellectual restrictions. But above all, people with an intellectual disability need to be treated respectfully as partners on equal terms. Then we will discover that they are not “special” or “different” but “job specialists”!

Six Recommendations :  from Special to Specialist

1.  Inclusion means working together, considering that both individual and company interests prevail.

2.  Customized job design is the key to optimal inclusion.

3.  Talk your walk: spread good practices.

4.  Do not save on coaching infrastructure and subsidies for people with a disability.

5.  Empower people with an intellectual disability: paint their skills very well!

6.  Inclusion is a public mission: treat people with a disability equally and with respect, as specialists.

The keynote speakers at the Special Olympics Scientific Symposium were, amongst others, the Antwerp province governor Cathy Berx, CEO Tom Heyman from Janssen Pharma, European Commissionner for Employment, Social Affairs and Integration László Andor, and professor Roy McConckey (University of Ulster). Governor Berx expressed the hope that policy makers consider these recommendations in the future.

 

 

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