"When it comes to employment and disability, the biggest barriers are in the mind"

Michelle Kolb is responsible for the Swiss project EnableMe Jobs, which includes the job board Enable.Me.myAbility.jobs. Since 2022, this online platform has been helping people with disabilities and chronic illnesses to find jobs. Their inclusion remains paramount.

In the spring of 2022, the UN's severe criticism of Switzerland made a lasting impression, as it pointed out that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was ratified in 2014, had been only marginally implemented. Daily life for the 1.7 million people with visible or invisible disabilities is already difficult, but finding a job – a key factor in their inclusion and quality of life – can be even more complicated. Founded 19 years ago, the non-profit foundation MyHandicap has teamed up with the career management platform for students and graduates MyAbility to create a job exchange specifically designed to support people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. Michelle Kolb, manager of the portal, EnableMe.myAbility.job, explains how it helps them achieve their career goals.

Why did you initiate such a platform?

Michelle Kolb: According to the Federal Statistical Office, people with disabilities have a significantly lower participation rate in the first labor market than people without disabilities (72% versus 87%). Many obstacles must still be overcome for people with disabilities seeking employment, ranging from job adaptation to working hours. However, the main challenge remains the way companies and recruiters view them. Still, companies are increasingly interested in promoting diversity within their teams. EnableMe.myAbility.jobs is a place where motivated and talented job seekers can meet inclusive companies.

What is its role with employers?

Kolb: People with disabilities represent about 20% of the Swiss population. For employers, this means that there is a real pool of talent with great potential. However, companies are sometimes afraid of not knowing exactly what to expect when they approach this demographic and want to avoid making mistakes. The EnableMe and myAbility teams can help them navigate the path to inclusion. Our platform supports them as they move forward and provides them with personal advice on how to find the right solutions for each situation. Our team is made up of a variety of people and can answer important questions.

What can companies, especially SMEs, do to enable people with disabilities to achieve their career goals?

Kolb: As a first step, it is important for leaders to make the inclusion of people with disabilities part of their agenda, ensuring that the whole team is involved. It is also important to be open and not be afraid to take steps towards more diversity. Inclusion is a learning process that may not be perfect at the outset. The most important thing is to dare to take the plunge and actively address this target audience. A clear signal is needed from companies if they are to attract qualified employees with a disability. As someone with a disability, I need to be sure that I will not be at a disadvantage when I am recruited or later on in my career.

What feedback has the target audience provided to you?

Kolb: The reactions are inevitably positive because those concerned are happy to have access to a platform that highlights their skills. One user recently told me that in her eyes and quite apart from her case, this specialized portal is an important step towards more equality for people with disabilities in the workplace.

In a broader sense, what is needed to make it easier for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities to work?

Kolb: The biggest barriers are still in the mind and sensitivity needs to be raised in order to create real awareness in society. People with disabilities are a large and diverse group. Their health conditions can be visible or invisible, temporary or permanent, static, recurrent or degenerative, painful or not... In short, disability is part of our lives and can affect any of us at any time. I experienced this myself at the age of 21, after being diagnosed with an incurable eye disease. I was in the middle of my studies at the time. We need to realize that this is something that concerns us all.



Michelle Kolb, EnableMe Project Manager

Michelle Kolb graduated from the University of Western Australia (UWA) and also completed further training as a trainer at the Cantonal School for Vocational Education in Zurich (EB Zürich). She specializes in supporting the visually impaired and joined EnableMe in 2021 as project manager with the ambition to create a platform specifically dedicated to employing people with disabilities.

Last modification 01.03.2023

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