Employers can both provide a service to the community by hiring people with HFA and benefit from HFA people’s special qualities. But in order to do so, they need to have sufficent understanding of HFA and learn how to get along with workers who have the disorder.
Unfortunately, there is not enough relevant support to make this happen. The mother of Cheung Ka-ming, a 29-year-old with HFA says her son tried to find a job through the Selective Placement Division of the Labour Department. “The Labour Department does not conduct much follow-up. They will only accompany us to the company once or twice,” says Cheung.
Her son also sought help from the Social Welfare Department’s Sunnyway programme, which provides on-the-job training for young people with disabilities. “I think that [the Sunnyway programme] was not so useful. They were not able to find him a job in the end, ” says Cheung.
Cheung Ka-ming has had two jobs; he worked in catering before his current job as a courier. He found his first job, also as a courier through the Labour Department, but the officer who placed him never met him face to face.
Just a few weeks into the job, a customer complained because Cheung left a delivery containing an expensive kind of Chinese medicine at the door when no one answered the bell. The delivery was lost and Cheung was sacked. He was asked to pay HK$500 for the lost package. The incident shows how people with HFA struggle with tackling the unexpected. Without assistance from the Labour Department, neither Cheung nor his employer knew how to deal with such a situation.
Now, with frequent follow-ups from the Heep Hong Society, Cheung works for another delivery company. The society has a support team for employers which boosts employers’ confidence in hiring people with HFA as they know who to contact when they encounter difficulties in dealing with their HFA employees. Cheung’s current supervisor has a good relationship with him. “I like the job now. I don’t want to change the job in the short term,” Cheung says. His mother adds: “This employer teaches his workers patiently. Ka-ming did have some bad behaviour at work, but the employer specially wrote some rules for him to follow.”
Services like those provided by the Heep Hong Society are a big step forward in helping HFA people reach their potential in the workplace. But they are not supported by the government and rely on short-term donations and funding. Without sufficient resources and manpower, social workers have heavy workloads. One of the social workers of the Heep Hong Society is following more than 30 cases. Each case includes clients’ family members, employers and colleagues.
“There are a lot of things which we want to do better,” says Peter Lam Kuen, centre manager of the Heep Hong Society. “But we do not have the resources.”
But even if there were enough resources, it is not enough to just rely on NGOs to create an environment where HFA people can perform at their best. Employers and co-workers need to contribute as well. As Daniel, the young man with HFA who is currently working in a butcher’s shop, says: “The most important thing is to be lenient with us, to treat us with heart. We do not have minds given to deception or trickery. I wish people could learn more about us. Don’t discriminate against us. But I know it is difficult in Hong Kong.”
Edited by Donna Shiu