The IASE, a national organisation headquartered in Belmullet which promotes equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups, is celebrating 20 years of leading the way when it comes to developing more inclusive workplaces.
The Irish Association of Supported Employment was founded in 1994 and has strong Mayo links.
The chairperson of the IASE is Castlebar man Greg Barry, who manages the EmployAbility Mayo service, while the national coordinator is Sarah Togher from Belmullet.
The IASE’s national office is located in the Údarás Industrial Estate in Belmullet.
The organisation is perhaps best known for its annual awareness initiative - ‘Job Shadow Day’, which takes place each April.
The days sees hundreds of people with disabilities go into the workplace for one day to raise awareness amongst employers and their workers about the valuable contribution people with disabilities can make in the world of work.
Former participants include An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, celebrity chef Neven Maguire and radio personality Ray D’Arcy.
In June, 2013, the IASE hosted one of the world’s biggest employment and disability conferences in Croke Park, Dublin, when it brought 500 leading experts and delegates from more than 30 countries to Ireland for three days to discuss ‘supported employment’.
Supported employment is a model pioneered in North America in the 1980s and it has proven to be hugely effective in supporting people with disabilities into jobs in the open labour market.
There are an estimated 5,000 people at work in Ireland through supported employment.
Last month, the IASE hosted a joint conference with its Northern Ireland counterpart, the NIUSE, to celebrate 20 years since the charity was founded.
Mr Barry said the conference was a ‘golden opportunity’ for Ireland and Northern Ireland to consider the progress made over the last 20 years in promoting equal access to work for people with disabilities and also to consider how the IASE and NIUSE can continue this work.
Research by the Economic and Social Research Institute in 2013 on disability in the labour market found people with disabilities in Ireland are only half as likely to be employed as the rest of the working-age population and are more likely to suffer discrimination at work.
“Ireland is a world leader in best practice in supported employment for individuals with a disability and we have made considerable progress in recent years,’ said Mr Barry. “However it is clear, particularly in light of recent research, that there is still a lot of work to do.”
“The conference placed significant emphasis on the positive contribution individuals with a disability and people from a disadvantaged situation can make to the workplace as well as exploring the challenges and solutions to more inclusive employment practices and worksites.”