Disability Mentoring Week 2008
Disability Mentoring Week 2008: Holding their own in the workplace
28 March 2008
People with disabilities are next week paving the way for the younger generation by showing them they can 'hold their own' in the workplace.
From 7 April 2008, over 50 students with a disability are participating in the Mainstream programme’s Disability Mentoring Week in workplaces throughout New Zealand.
In Wellington, 16-year-old Drisana Byrne of Newlands College will be taking part in a nationwide programme that initiates a one-on-one mentoring relationship between a volunteer employee with a disability, in a State sector organisation, and a final year secondary or tertiary education student, who also experiences a disability of some kind.
On 11 April 2008, Drisana will be accompanying Barbara Thomas at the Correspondence School’s reception area as she provides administrative support to other staff.
Drisana has mitochondrial cytopathy, a physical condition that weakens her muscles. She uses a walking frame and quad sticks to get around but doesn’t let this get in the way of her enjoyment of dancing, singing, reading and writing. A gregarious individual, Drisana is determined to get a job working with people when she leaves school next year.
This is the second year Barbara has mentored a student. She also has mobility issues and walks with the aid of a stick. "I really enjoy helping young people to realise that having a disability does not mean you have sit back and let life pass you," she says. "It is great to be able to encourage them out of their shell and show them that you can hold your own in the workplace."
The State Services Commission maintains that the State sector agencies should adequately reflect the diversity of New Zealand citizens. Its Mainstream programme facilitates employment opportunities for people who experience significant disability. All placements are created within selected State sector organisations.
"There are tangible social as well as economic benefits to assisting people with a disability make a worthwhile contribution to New Zealand’s workforce," says programme manager Pam MacNeill. "It is also a chance to introduce students to other people with disabilities and let them see what they can achieve. And, for some, it can be the beginning of an ongoing friendship."
In the 31 years the Mainstream programme has been operating, hundreds of New Zealanders with a disability have progressed from the Mainstream supported employment programme into meaningful and productive employment throughout the general workforce.