Organisations have become more open to hiring disabled people’s services and purchasing their products due to positive developments in rehabilitation services.
More than 50 private and public organisations as well as government departments will be awarded for supporting the employment of disabled people at a prize presentation organised by the Social Welfare Department at the Convention & Exhibition Centre on November 24.
In an interview with news.gov.hk, the department’s Marketing Consultancy Office (Rehabilitation) Marketing Controller Nancy Chung said six categories of awards will be given out at the ceremony: Outstanding Partnership, Exemplary Business Support, Distinguished Employer, Valued Support of Social Enterprises, Devoted Sponsorship & Promotion, and Professional Advice & Consultation.
To promote public awareness of the disabled’s working capabilities, there will also be a parade and an interactive demonstration of their services and products.
Twenty rehabilitation organisations will display diversified products and services, including handicrafts, beverage service, food preparation, household services and maintenance, cleaning services and pest control.
Disabled people will also give demonstrations to showcase their massage, decorative items making, and Saori weaving techniques, Miss Chung said.
“We hope the event will help the public know more about disabled people’s capabilities, understand how important job opportunities are to them, and promote our community to further support the employment of the disabled.”
Speaking on the department’s work in helping the disabled get job opportunities, Miss Chung said her office has a strong alliance with 37 rehabilitation organisations. They run about 100 vocation rehabilitation service units and social enterprises with a pool of more than 10,000 disabled people.
To help them get more on-the-job experience and better equip them to compete in today’s labour market, the office has been contacting various government departments and companies in the public and private sectors to promote their services and products.
The office also makes arrangements for the alliance to bid for outsourcing service contracts of public and private organisations.
In 2005-06, the office acquired more than $11 million worth of job orders for the disabled and secured tenders and contracts valued at more than $4 million for its alliance.
Miss Chung said vocational rehabilitation service units and social enterprises of the alliance can offer a choice of quality products and services. Products include banners, backdrops and promotional items, souvenirs, trophies and flags, floral design and hampers, vegetable and fruit processing and supply, sewing products, arts and crafts.
They can also provide services such as catering, courier and delivery, data entry & processing, artwork design, typesetting and production, printing and book binding, flyer/leaflet distribution, labeling and letter-shopping, laundry, transportation service, office and car cleaning, packaging and assembly, one-stop household service, massage, barber and beautician service.
Project supports social enterprises
Miss Chung said since 2002, the office has helped create job opportunities for the disabled through the “Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprise” Project.
Interested organisations must submit their business proposals and the office will give advice on their plans which will then be assessed by project assessment panels.
The maximum amount of the grant available is $2 million per approved business and the grant should be used to pay the initial capital expenditure and support the business’ initial operation. The number of disabled employees should not be less than 60% of the total number of people on the payroll.
So far, 38 social enterprises have been set up through the project, creating over 500 posts. Among them, over 350 posts are filled by the disabled.
As social enterprises have grown in recent years, the public and various sectors have learned more about the working capabilities of disabled people, Miss Chung said. This has helped alleviate organisations’ concerns about using disabled people’s service.
“Organisations will study the cost-effectiveness issue and service quality when considering our alliance’s service. I believe it is good for our alliance organisations because it makes them become more competitive and develop more market-oriented enterprises,” she said.
“Our ultimate goal is to persuade various sectors to give the disabled a chance to participate in the market so that they can further develop their potential.”
The office also strives to match disabled people with suitable training opportunities or full-time and part-time job placements in the open market.
To provide a real working environment for training the disabled, the “Support the Employment of People With Disabilities” (SEPD) Shop was set up in 2002.
Disabled people from the alliance handle the shop’s daily operation. The disabled make all the products displayed and sold in the shop.
Business Manager Sylvia Choi said the products on offer in the shop include cloth handicrafts, small decorative items, paper items, hand-knitted products, photo frames, and souvenirs.
“Disabled people working here must receive training. Trainers from vocational rehabilitation service units will be briefed on our shop’s operational guidelines. They will then teach their trainees some shop-keeping skills such as product display techniques and how to deal with customers.”
Products must meet the shop’s requirement, Miss Choi said. If necessary, the shop management will ask the producers to improve – or in extreme cases, remove – their products.
The rehabilitation service units concerned determine the product prices. Shop management sometimes advises them on pricing and marketing strategies. The shop may also provide space for sales trials of new products.
Trainees’ response positive
Market response to the shop’s products so far is quite encouraging, Miss Choi said, adding the shop has received quite a number of production orders.
Ah Kuen, who has been trained in the shop since April, said the opportunity has improved her working capabilities. Noting she has learned a lot about customer psychology, Ah Kuen said she is able to make proper suggestions to customers and knows how to display products in an appealing way.
“Working here allows me to earn a living and have opportunities to contact other people and society. I think I will feel more confident when I seek another job in future.”
People are welcome to visit the shop at G/F, Mong Kok Government Office, 30 Luen Wan Street, Mong Kok. It opens from noon to 9pm daily.