Tailor Job-matching approach
Addressing the needs for a disability inclusion environment is what CareER reverberates in today’s workforce.
“We need to move them to the meritocracy mindset because you’re not hiring out of sympathy,” says Walter Tsui, co-founder and executive manager of CareER, a charitable organisation that provides job-matching services and peer support to people with disabilities and Special Education Needs (SENs).
Tsui, who is visually impaired, is only able to see five to 10 per cent and has become more reliant on a guide dog recently due to a worsening vision.
Yet during his formative years, he still had 30 per cent vision. He even played basketball, rode a bike, and ran with the aid of a running partner.
According to Tsui, his mother has always been encouraging since his diagnosis at age 3. “She had a mindset that having problems with your eyesight is not fatal. She just treated me like a normal kid,” Tsui says.
CareER, which stands for Care in Education and Recruitment, was established in 2013. It was created out of the challenges that Tsui had faced both during his university experiences and working at some organisations.
For one, when he asked his university professor for the class notes, his professor told him to just listen to the equations written on the three whiteboards.
“In primary and secondary schools, it was totally an inclusive experience,” says Tsui. “I was one of the top students in my secondary schools. And I never thought I would get discriminated. It was the first time to feel the reality.”
Unlike other organisations that may only focus on a particular disability, CareER is for anyone with disabilities as long as they have received their higher education.
CareER categories four types of employers that they work with: multinationals (MNCs), local conglomerates, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and early and non-governmental organisations.
According to Tsui, CareER tailors their approach to each potential employer due to various requirements that reflect their organisation’s mandated workforce.
Free of charge, CareER connects candidates with potential employers or vice-versa. For candidates, they could either be visually-impaired, hearing-impaired, or mobility-impaired.
“When companies hire out of sympathy, it’s not a long lasting career. It’s only about the passion. The passion will last for a short time. Our job is to find the right person, the right candidate, and to inspire them with their abilities,” says Tsui.
SMEs and early startups tend to hire more people with disabilities. For one, Tsui says these organisations are looking for a person who is willing to learn and to stay on a longer term.
Still, “we just want to focus on abilities and not disabilities,” Tsui says.
Prior to CareER, Tsui had worked for both international and local companies. Asked about the difference between the two, he says it depends on the inclusivity of the supervisor.
“It’s not about the company culture. But the personal mindset that your supervisor has,” says Tsui.
His experience working for one particular organisation was a defining moment for Tsui. His then supervisor told him of his weaknesses.
“At that time, it was tough. But I noticed why I wasn’t up to that standard. I didn’t know much about all of the screen reader software features that could help me to work faster through different technology channels,” says Tsui.
Stuck at home after his internship and feeling disappointed in himself, Tsui decided to memorise all of the shortcut keys of the screen reader software, downloaded all of the guidelines from Microsoft software and then memorised steps on how to send emails without any typos or grammatical mistakes without the use of a mouse cursor.
Usage of technology like the VoiceOver feature on his smartphone, a gesture-based screen reader, has allowed Tsui to know which app he has pressed on.
It was a one-man band during the earlier years. But CareER now employs nine full-time staff of which six are people with disabilities.
In the past, people with disabilities may be seen as “heroes.” But Tsui says it’s about making people realise those with disabilities are normal like everyone else.
“We are not building heroes, but to develop talents with disabilities and SENs to work normally in the workplace as a contributing team member,” says Tsui.
Aside from matching candidates with the right employers, CareER believes in developing a long-term relationship with their members. It now has over 500 members with different kinds of disabilities. And over 250 have founds jobs in over 110 employers.
Building on the next phase of CareER, Tsui is looking for ways on how to pass on CareER’s knowledge and experiences onto their juniors like the alumni in different industries and sectors. He wants them to someday become a mentor to senior secondary school bodies.
Asked about his proudest moment so far, Tsui says it’s about being able to walk together with his members.
“They have built up their confidence to walk much longer, have gained more independence and have sought higher expectations for themselves. They have found their full-time jobs and afterwards, they have their own families. That is my proudest moment,” Tsui says.