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Polish labor market for people with disabilities. Anna Omielan and Bartosz Radomski comment

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I never had any doubts that I needed to be independent. When I passed my final exams, I did not consider returning home and living on my parents’ pot – says Bartosz Radomski, a physiotherapist who lost his sight at the age of 17, in an interview with TVN24 Biznes. Anna Omielan, on the other hand, works at the school. – How is it possible that you play football? After all, you don’t have a leg – she reports students’ questions, because she is also a representative of Poland in amp football.

28-year-old Bartosz Radomski has congenital glaucoma. – She was detected late, she was operated on and is not my problem. However, too high pressure in the eyes caused complications that we still face today. Because of this, when I was 17 years old, I lost my sight – he says in an interview with TVN24 Biznes, adding that he underwent 34 eye operations, including 4 corneal transplants. Unsuccessful unfortunately.

But I never had any doubts that I needed to be independent. When I passed my final exams, I did not take into account going back home and living on my parents’ pot at all – he points out.

He found his first job while kayaking

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Since April 2021, Radomski has been recording audiobooks at the “Storybox” company, but he is a physiotherapist by education. – I also have my massage and rehabilitation office “Neosoma” in Puławy since 2021. At the same time, I conduct training in broadly understood accessibility for people with disabilities. We are changing the world for the better step by step. On weekends, however, I guide visitors around the “Invisible Exhibition” – he lists.

Read more at tvn24.pl about The Invisible Exhibition: A journey into the world of the blind

He believes that work has always come to him by itself. – I found my first job in the clinic while kayaking. In the kayak next to me was a man who, as it turned out, was on the supervisory board of one of the Puławy clinics. He really wanted to hire me,” he recalls.

Bartosz RadomskiPrivate materials of Bartosz Radomski

Was it always so colorful? – It was hard at the beginning in a special kindergarten attended by children, for example, on the autism spectrum. – I am a blind person who moves with a dog. Kindergarten, health department, dog in kindergarten? There was a problem. Blind physiotherapist working with children with disabilities? There was a problem, he recalls.

He explains that initially the parents of his charges did not want him, as a blind person, to work with their children. They felt he couldn’t keep them safe – The wisdom of my boss and crew was that they stood by me. After a year of working together, it turned out that I was chosen by the children and they all wanted to study with me – he emphasizes. He worked there for three years.

During our conversation, he mentions another story. I once applied for a job with an insurance company. I passed the telephone part of the recruitment process as the best. That’s the opinion I got. Thanks to this, I was invited to the office in Lublin. I said I would come with my dog ​​because I am blind. And then I was refused a meeting – he reports.

Bartosz RadomskiPrivate materials of Bartosz Radomski

It explains why employers may reject candidates with disabilities. – I have a friend who uses a wheelchair, is a PhD in cybersecurity and has not been able to find a job for a long time. Employers are afraid of disability because they think people will expect special treatment from them. And blind to remote work needs a computer and a free screen reader – he assures.

He believes that a person with disabilities who decides to take up a job is determined enough. – She’s sure she’ll get the job done. He is a faithful worker. I checked it on myself. Since this year, I also have a “Neotaxi” taxi in Puławy, which is available for people in a wheelchair, for example. One of my drivers is a guy who has been unable to find a job for years because he has a genetic defect. The right hand is not as developed as the left. And we’re doing great,” he says.

Another example? – The “See the Sea” project, where half of the crew on the legendary Polish sailing ship “Zawisza Czarny” is blind. The idea behind this special cruise is that there is no reduced fare. That’s what half the crew of the blind is for, so that no one works for two. I got a brush and scrubbed the undercoat. I had to peel potatoes for fifty peasants. And you go with it, and you peel it. You steer the ship and you feel that the lives of all the people on board are in your hands. We can do such things – sums up Bartosz Radomski.

“How come you play football? You don’t have a leg”

30-year-old Anna Omielan lost her leg when she was two years old in an accident in the field during the harvest. Currently, she works in a primary school with integration departments in Janowszczyzna, 40 km from Białystok, where she lives.

He belongs to the Polish national football team. The list of her sports successes is long: in 2007 she won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in Taipei. She was also the youngest Polish representative at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008, where she placed ninth. However, a year later she achieved the second and third time at the European Championships in Reykjavík. Sixth place winner at the 2010 World Championships in Eindhoven. Triple Open Championship gold medalist Greece in 2012. Vice-champion of Poland in 2013. Multiple medalist of many sports events: World, European and Polish Championships.

He says in an interview with TVN24 Biznes that these experiences also help in everyday work. – The school in Janowszczyzna is my third school. I am a speech therapist by education, and I work with children on the autism spectrum, with intellectual and motor disabilities – he lists.

– There is one specific moment at the beginning of the school year in September when new children come and see that I have no leg, that I have a prosthetic leg. They touch her, ask why she looks like this and if it hurts me. I answer that thanks to the prosthesis I can walk. Some people have a problem with their eyes and wear glasses, and I have a problem with my leg and wear a prosthesis. The fact that I was a world champion in swimming gives them some respect. Direct questions are also interesting: how is it possible that you play football? You don’t have legs, she smiles.

Anna OmielanPrivate materials of Anna Omielan

Anna Omielan also recalls that even in her student days, when she applied for a job in cafes, she did not show that she was disabled. – I wore long pants because I was afraid that there would be no people willing to hire me. Social, assessed from the perspective of disability, not skills, is very weak, he says.

I have a friend who doesn’t have an arm. It was very hard for her to find a job. She studied architecture, was interested in sports, practiced swimming and wanted to teach fitness classes. Failed to. Eventually she went to GermanHe works in production, he says.

How does Anna Omielan assess her situation? – No one looks at the fact that I have no legs, because I am go-getting, smiling. Many able-bodied teachers complain about their fate. This is not my way of thinking. I am strong, maybe because my disability shaped me from the beginning. Just like discipline in sports. In training, if you want to achieve something, you have to endure some pain, effort, regardless of your disability. Sport shapes character and a person is more resistant to what can kill him later – he suggests.

Anna OmielanPrivate materials Anna Omielan

He also believes that it is worth developing in various fields and being open to many solutions – I always wanted to study at a medical university, I wanted physiotherapy the most, but I didn’t get into this field. My mother suggested speech therapy, also because it meant I wouldn’t have to stand so long at work. This is also rehabilitation, only speech. I liked it very much. And it turned out great, he concludes.

People with disabilities earn 30 percent less

From the report of the Activation Foundation “Inclu(vi)sion. What do employers in Poland think about employing people with disabilities?” published in May 2023 shows that despite the definition of disability as an important element of diversity, employers in Poland rarely decide to undertake initiatives and programs in this area. Only 12 percent of them declare that recruiting people with disabilities is an important element of building and consciously creating a diversity policy.

– The realities of the Polish system of supporting the employment of people with disabilities mean that a person with a disability who needs support in finding their way on the labor market finds themselves in a systemic void. Poviat employment offices support people with disabilities to a marginal extent and effectively support them in entering the labor market – adds Emilia Olejnik-Malinowska, an expert on communication and implementation of new technologies from the Activation Foundation, in an interview with TVN24 Biznes.

The good news is that “55 percent of employers believe that the most important factor determining the employment of a person with disabilities is their experience and competences, and as many as 77 percent of employers who once employed employees with disabilities indicate that they are now considering accepting work of people from this group” – we read in the report of the organization that has been supporting people with disabilities and employers in the labor market for 30 years.

Emilia Olejnik-Malinowska emphasizes that another important direction is to take action related to the improvement of employment conditions for people with disabilities. Currently, a very large wage gap persists.

– Difference average salary people with disabilities in relation to the average salary in the national economy in Poland is 30 percent – he points out.

Co-financing for companies

According to data provided on government websites, there are over 3 million people with disabilities in Poland who have a legal confirmation of disability. In fact, there are many more – from 4 to 7 million.

An employer who employs people with disabilities may apply to the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled People for monthly subsidies to the salaries of these people.

“According to many employers, subsidizing the salaries of people with disabilities is the most effective form of supporting the employment of these people. The amount of subsidy depends on the degree and type of disability,” explains the press office of the State Fund for Rehabilitation of Disabled People in response to questions from TVN24 Biznes.

They state that the amounts of the maximum monthly subsidy in the case of full-time employment are:

PLN 2,400 – for employees with a significant degree of disability, PLN 1,350 – for employees with a moderate degree of disability, PLN 500 – for employees with a slight degree of disability.

If the employee has a specific disease, the above amounts are increased by:

PLN 1,200 – for employees with a significant degree of disability (the total amount of the co-financing is PLN 3,600), PLN 900 – for employees with a moderate degree of disability (the total amount of the co-financing is PLN 2,250), PLN 600 – for employees with a slight degree of disability (in total the amount of the co-financing is PLN 1,100).

Read also: Announcement of a new benefit for people with disabilities. “Three Levels”

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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