This Sunday 3rd December is International Day of People with Disability and it’s a timely reminder that we need to celebrate the contribution that people with disability make to our workplaces and our community.
You may not know that a social model of disability has been developed which differs from the medical model of disability. The medical model has traditionally been accepted by society who compare a person’s physical, mental, psycho-social or intellectual impairment to ‘normal’ people. However, people with disability developed a social model which shows society that impairment need not lead to disability, and guides them to remove disabling features that create barriers to them forming one with society.
The social model of disability is now the internationally recognised way to view and address ‘disability’. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) marks the official paradigm shift in attitudes towards people with disability and approaches to disability concerns. People with Disability Australia (www.pwd.org.au)
We all have the power and the responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone. Here are 3 ways we can continue to make our workplaces more inclusive.
Cater to a large and growing part of your customer base
People with disabilities constitute a large and growing segment of the population, in Australia 1 in 5 people have a disability, meaning as a business owner you have a bottom-line reason to care. Ideas to improve how you service this segment include
- Embracing and encouraging diversity in your workplace
- Training your employees to recognise and service disabled persons
- Include accessibility protocols in your website design (if your web designs asks “What’s that?” take your business elsewhere
- Create channel flexibility in your customer service to allow your customers various ways to interact with your employees
Employ people with disabilities
Whilst there are many people working with a disability we have a long way to go in improving their labour force participation and unemployment rates. Many people disabilities have completed tertiary education, a vocation or other professional qualifications and they bring to the labour force a diverse range of skills, abilities and valuable perspectives. Global studies found no differences in performance and productivity for workers with a disability and this category of workers actually have fewer scheduled absences.
Make workplace adjustments to accommodate an individual’s disability
Many employers recognise that small adjustments to accommodate a disability is an attraction and retention strategy for sourcing talent. Examples of how to create an inclusive environment include;
- Providing training, mentoring and a buddy and support
- Providing flexible working hours including modified hours, part-time work, or working from home part of the week
- Redistributing tasks that a person with a disability may find hard to do
- Investing in modified equipment such as voice-activated software for people with vision impairment
Assistance with the cost of making workplace adjustments is available through the Australian Government funded Workplace Modifications Scheme, JobAccess. They provide free workplace assessments and a Employment Assistance Fund so businesses can purchase a range of work-related modifications and services. These include but are not limited to;
- The cost of modifications to the physical work environment including work vehicles
- Adaptive equipment for the workplace including training
- Information and communication devices
- Auslan interpreting for interviews, workplace interpreting or co-worker Auslan training
- Specialist workplace services for employees with specific learning disorders and mental health conditions
- Plus, many more