By Soji-Eze Fagbemi | Abuja

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has proposed actions to ensure that the post-COVID world of work is disability-inclusive.

A new report from the ILO stated that changes brought about by the expanding digital economy could help persons with disabilities gain more equal access to the world of work, or they could also create greater barriers.

According to the ILO, advances in the digital economy, significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are creating unprecedented opportunities to build a more inclusive world of work for the more than one billion people with disabilities globally.

However, it pointed out that digital barriers also threaten to aggravate existing inequalities and exclusion, unless they are countered with effective and targeted initiatives, as highlighted by the study.

The report: ‘An inclusive digital economy for people with disabilities,’ was prepared by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN) and the Spanish disability NGO Fundación ONCE.

It looks at the effects of the digital revolution on the creation of new jobs, changes to existing roles and work models, as well as online recruitment processes. It also highlights key areas for action by different groups of stakeholders, including the digital industry, academia, governments, workers and employers, and people with disabilities themselves.

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The report highlights three main levers for creating a more inclusive digital labour market for persons with disabilities: ensuring accessibility, fostering digital skills and promoting digital employment.

The increase in digital work creates acute problems for those without the necessary skills or equipment, the study says, pointing out that, due to persistent exclusion, people with disabilities generally have lower levels of education and training than their peers without disabilities.

Hence, reskilling and upskilling will be key to building an inclusive future of work, alongside initiatives to foster digital employment and support collaboration between relevant stakeholders.

Assistive technologies (AT) could also open up new occupations and opportunities. However, the report warns that a lack of accessible AT could create new barriers because without it many essential digital tools will not be usable by people with disabilities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends already present in the world of work, including the expansion of the digital economy,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Equality department.

“We must ensure that we direct this trend so that it supports an inclusive future of work in which the talents and skills of persons with disabilities can contribute to the success of workplaces and societies worldwide.” Manuela added.

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