Employers may be asked to guarantee a job interview to any disabled person who meets the criteria for the job.
Delegates in a group session at a national disability conference in Auckland yesterday called for a pilot of a British scheme where employers use a "two-ticks" symbol in job advertisements to show a positive attitude to disabled people.
Those who sign up to the scheme, mostly in central and local government agencies, promise to interview all applicants who identify a disability in their job application and meet the criteria for the job.
Disabled Persons Assembly chief executive Rachel Noble said many were ruled out as soon as employers realised they had a disability.
"I heard of a case where a person applied for a job, and was shortlisted, but when they found out he had a disability they would no longer interview him. He was deaf," said Ms Noble, who is deaf herself.
"Until we are allowed in the room to meet the people, we are going to face that behaviour.
"If we are in there, and have a conversation, then people see the real person and how much that person has to offer, and there is the opportunity to have a conversation about how adjustments might be made in the work environment for a smooth working day to take place."
Workbridge chief executive Grant Cleland said funds were available for technology, building modifications and support staff.
New Zealand's 58,000 sickness beneficiaries, and possibly some of the 84,000 on invalid benefits, will be targeted under the "investment approach" of the welfare reforms, which aim to cut long-term welfare costs by investing up-front in helping beneficiaries into work.
Ms Noble said most disabled people were willing and able to work if employers would give them a chance.
"When you talk to employers who have taken the step [to employ a disabled person], they always talk about what a wonderful experience it is, how it adds value to their organisations and how staff turnover is reduced."
But she said the Government had not yet engaged with disability groups about the welfare reforms.
"I'm worried that we are still operating from a charity model whereby we are a group to be cared for," she said.
"We would rather be a group that we engage with and work with to ensure that we can access employment, education, justice services and quality health services."
Supported Employment Association chairwoman Helen Robertshaw, who moved to New Zealand from Britain six years ago, said Britain's "two-tick" system helped job applicants talk openly about the support they would need to do a job.
But the secretary of the new NZ Employers' Disability Network, Ann Hawker, said employers preferred to change attitudes through seminars rather than a two-ticks scheme.
"What they felt is much more important is driving the change in attitude."
ON THE WEB
British employers using the "two-ticks" symbol promise to:
* Interview all disabled applicants who meet job criteria and consider them on their abilities.
* Talk to disabled workers about how to use and develop their abilities.
* Make every effort to keep workers when they become disabled.
* Ensure all staff know how to implement these promises.
* Report on implementation annually.