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Sightsavers blog

Celebrating the value of employees with disabilities

Sightsavers, March 2020
two women sit behind a computer, laughing.

In this blog, Rasak Adekoya shares his career story, tells us about his role helping employers appreciate candidates and employees with disabilities, and what it’s like leading a film shoot as a blind person.

Rasak is programme officer for Inclusion Works, a disability-inclusive employment programme in Nigeria, part of the Inclusive Futures initiative funded by UK aid.

‘Disability’ only occurs when an impairment interacts with a barrier. I understand this well, having myself become blind as an adult. I was determined not to be pitied, and so found any means possible to overcome the barriers I found were in my way to being productive as a blind person. I have managed to do this successfully, and have built an impressive career in communications and project management. I now help others do the same.

In my spare time, I’ve authored four books and contributed to numerous policies nationally and regionally. Prior to joining Sightsavers, I worked as the public awareness and communications Manager for the USAID Strengthening Advocacy for Civil Engagement (SACE) project in Nigeria. I am a co-founder of the Africa Volunteering Week and 360 Connect Champion – a social enterprise building the technological capacity of people with disabilities. This was all made possible by my conviction that there is productivity in disability.

My work with Inclusive Futures

My job as part of the Inclusive Futures employment programme, ‘Inclusion Works’, includes working with job-seekers with disabilities, ensuring they’re well equipped for their job hunt with the relevant skills to ensure they secure a good job they can make a career out of.

I also work with organisations that represent disabled people to encourage private sector companies to become inclusive workplaces, with disability-inclusive policies in place.

We also work hard to influence the Nigerian government to ensure the Nigeria disability act, which calls for five per cent of every workforce to be made up of people with disabilities, be put into practice.

Inclusive Futures

The Inclusive Futures initiative aims to create a world where everyone has the same opportunities to go to school, access quality healthcare, and claim their rights to work through formal and informal employment.

About the initiative
Two men shake hands.
Rasak (pictured on right) meets Timothy Olawale, director general of Nigeria Employer Consultative Association, who endorses the Inclusive Futures employment programme.

Why I made a promotional film

From conversations with people involved in the project, I realised there is need to highlight the success stories of a number of people with disabilities already excelling in good jobs across different sectors, to convince more employers to employ qualified and competent people with disabilities.

Many of my contacts saw me as a rare exception, as a person with a disability excelling at what they do. I wanted to show them this wasn’t the case; that there are many other people with disabilities demonstrating incredible value through their work, regardless of their disabilities.

I cannot bring these people along to every meeting with me. So, I set about shooting a short promotional film capturing their voices, and most importantly, testimonies by their employers, telling of the value they bring to the organisation.

The objective was to help employers be aware of the value people with disabilities can bring to their organisation, to influence them to make their workplace disability-inclusive, and ultimately, be confident to employ job seekers with disabilities.

We captured the views of employees with disabilities working in the private and public sector, their employers, the HR regulatory body and the federation of employers in Nigeria.

Leading a film shoot as a blind person

On the third day of the shoot, I recall the camera man asking me to come over to see his display screen, to check the shot was what I wanted. I laughed, and joked that I’d left my glasses at home. He had forgotten that I am blind. We laughed about it together, and carried on.

It wasn’t just that he had forgotten: he had been fascinated by how often I’d told him to zoom out, fade in, take a close shot… and so on. He couldn’t imagine how I’d got to know such terms, given that I am blind.

I explained that I wasn’t born blind. At the age of 17, I was an on-air personality presenting in a TV cable station in Lagos. I learnt a bit about shooting, and gathered some experience within the short time I worked there, before I moved on to work in radio.

Amuno Oghale, a customer care representative with Ikeja Electric, meets with managers to discuss his part in the film shoot.

The employees who contributed to the film were excited that their examples could help influence employers to recruit more job-seekers with disabilities.

Likewise, I found their employers hugely enthusiastic to tell their own stories of becoming a disability-inclusive employer, making strong business cases for diversity and inclusion. They were proud that their brands would be associated with such values and qualities, when the film would be made public in Nigeria and globally.

We’ll be showing it at annual general meetings of huge national and global corporations, in advocacy meetings with government representatives, in training sessions for HR professionals, at careers fairs and at other employment-related events. Our aim is to influence all these groups, as well as the general population of Nigeria.

Jobseekers with disabilities, and the professional mentors they've been matched with through Inclusion Works, meet in Abuja.

The programmes success so far

The Inclusive Futures employment programme offers the expertise to help build the disability confidence of employers. This means helping eliminate the barriers job-seekers with disabilities encounter during recruitment processes, and making workplaces accessible and friendly to people with disabilities. We are also helping job seekers with disabilities, preparing them to have the relevant competences employers desire.

Organisations like Ikeja Electric, a subsidiary of Sahara Energy, as well as Letshego Microfinance Bank have already indicated interest to take the disability-inclusive audit assessment to ascertain the extent to which they are disability-inclusive. As they undergo this assessment, we foresee more organisations, perhaps their competitors, will be encouraged to engage with the project and open their doors to be a choice employer for people with disabilities.

In just three months, 30% of job seekers with disabilities we trained through Inclusion Works Nigeria are already placed in a job, adding important skills to their employers. I am excited about how the mentoring/mentee model – where HR professionals, serving as career advisers, are mentoring job seekers with disabilities – is  improving their success rates. I am thrilled about the willingness and commitment that’s been so far demonstrated by the private sector, revealing to us that the more conversational and non-confrontational we are, the better we can influence and support them to become disability-confident employers.

“There are many people with disabilities demonstrating incredible value through their work, regardless of their disabilities.”

 

Author


Rasak Adekoya.Rasak Adekoya
Rasak is programme officer for Inclusion Works, the Inclusive Futures employment programme.

Two men shake hands in front of a sign for Letshego bank.

“As part of my role, I help employers better appreciate how potential employees with disabilities can help their business to flourish.”

Two men shake hands in front of a sign for Letshego bank.

All professional images ©Sightsavers/KC Nwakalor

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