Sightsavers from the field

The businesses embracing disability inclusion

November 2020
Three people holding hands and smiling.

Sightsavers partners with companies around the world to help them foster more inclusive working environments for people with disabilities.

Through the Inclusive Futures Initiative Work stream, Sightsavers has helped corporate teams in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda to recruit and support employees with disabilities in a range of professions. Here, they share their success stories.

Kenya

East African Breweries Limited, based in Kenya, was passionate about pioneering new disability inclusive practices in the workplace and looked to Sightsavers for guidance. “One of the challenges we had before was that we didn’t know how to do it,” says Eric Kiniti, corporate relations director at the company. Implementing changes such as new recruitment practices and conducting accessibility audits of the office can be tricky for businesses to navigate without the experience and expertise behind them – and this is where Sightsavers comes in.

“But now we’ve found a credible partner who’s done this before, we’re very excited that we are able to roll this out,” Eric adds. “They bring expertise that we don’t have… I think it’s a very valued partnership.”

The Inclusive Futures Work stream is helping to make practical changes to the way companies train and hire people with disabilities. Since 2018, the programme has been testing innovative ways to help more people access employment in four countries: Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. The programme works with private sector companies to help them become more attractive workplaces for people with disabilities and more confident in hiring and training employees with different types of impairment.

pages from the Inclusive futures employers toolkit.

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Munyori Evans, head of human resources for Standard Chartered bank in Nairobi, is passionate about improving diversity among his staff. Partnering with Sightsavers brought the knowledge and experience the company needed to put ideas into practice: “We are stepping into this now with a bit more information in our hands and with a bit more confidence that this is doable and institutions and organisations like ours need to do this,” he states. “All of that requires partnership and there is no single institution that can do that alone, and that is why I’m calling out for private and public [institutions] to come together. That is what excites me about this partnership.”

Munyori has witnessed the benefits of the fresh perspectives people with disabilities can offer. “The experience for me has been eye opening,” he says. “It’s been a learning journey. [The employees] have challenged us on how our building looks [in terms of accessibility], what we need to take care of in terms of the systems and the processes.”

The new approach has also enhanced the services they provide. One of their employees who has a visual impairment worked with them to develop more accessible online materials. Munyori notes: “That produced a deliberate attempt to then say, ‘how do we ensure that our learning programmes are well-geared towards the visually impaired?’ And, now we have accessible programmes for the visually impaired, which we continue to develop.”

“Sightsavers brings expertise that we don’t have… I think it’s a very valued partnership.”

Nigeria

Inclusive Futures tackles low employment rates among people with disabilities by working with companies to develop more inclusive recruitment practices. Ikeja Electric, a power supplier for sub-Saharan Africa based in Lagos, Nigeria, collaborated with Sightsavers to make adjustments to its practices. “For us, we do not look for the typical things that most employers look out for, which is more around what educational qualifications you bring on the table,” says Henry Ajibola, the company’s chief human resource and administration officer. “We look at things like creativity, problem solving, how analytical you are, and what value you create at work.”

So far, the new approach has helped them bring two employees with disabilities on board who are excelling in their new roles. “They bring tenaciousness, resilience to their work, and dedication,” adds Henry. “Those are the things they bring on a daily basis that have made them stand out in the work that they do.”

Three people sit round a desk.
Employees at Ikeja Electric, Lagos, Nigeria.

Uganda

Deus Turyatemba, who has a visual impairment, works as a sustainability manager at Standard Chartered Bank in Uganda, overseeing the bank’s diversity and inclusion agenda. But 10 years ago, as a young graduate with a disability, he struggled to find employment until he was hired by Standard Chartered, which has a strong ethos of embracing diversity and inclusion. “I credit my own success to having found an inclusive workplace where I have been able to develop and apply my talents. My hope is that the [Inclusive Futures initiative] will make this a possibility for many more young people in Uganda and beyond.”

“At Standard Chartered we are more than happy to be part of the initiative. Building on our past experience we are optimistic that we can play a fantastic role in shaping the future of people with disabilities.”

In Uganda, the Federation of Ugandan Employers has been building the case for inclusive employment with businesses in the country. “The starting point is information,” says the Federation’s CEO, Douglas Opio. “This is what we’ve been doing together with partners like Sightsavers… What we have been trying to do is raise some awareness, in other words to make employers disability confident. Some of them have their doubts, but of course when you explain to them of course they understand what needs to be done.”

Working closely with HR managers is key in helping companies implement policies to hire people with disabilities and make reasonable accommodations for them, such as providing information in braille. “It doesn’t happen accidentally but deliberately,” Douglas adds. “If you have a policy in place then that can be done.”

“People with disabilities bring tenaciousness, resilience to their work, and dedication. Those are the things that have made them stand out in the work that they do.”

Deus working at his desk.
Deus working at Standard Chartered Bank in Kampala, Uganda.

Bangladesh

Another organisation implementing inclusive policies is Shwapno, a supermarket chain in Bangladesh. Sabir Hasan Nasir, the company’s CEO, is passionate about hiring people with disabilities: “While others discriminate and don’t recruit [people with impairments], we look forward to having them on board in our organisation.”

The chain’s head of HR, Shah Md. Rijyi Rony, shares the same belief and has worked with Sightsavers to diversify new recruits. “Because we want a diverse workforce, we try to look at the skills a candidate has or what skills they can develop and how we can match a job to those skills. We don’t only hope they will progress to management; that’s in our policy. We want a workforce that is gender inclusive, that is disability inclusive.”

Advice to employers

“For us, working with [civil society] partners like Sightsavers is the way to go,” says Henry from Ikeja Electric. He found that his business benefited hugely from the support and expertise Inclusion Works offered when Ikeja began its journey to becoming more inclusive. “A lot of organisations will struggle [with] how they can fit into that agenda of inclusiveness, which is where partners like Sightsavers come into play, to support organisations like ours.”

Once you’ve gathered the knowledge as an organisation, Henry’s advice to other employers is to just take the plunge. “If the person has the capability to do the work, make those provisions within the organisation, restructure your workspaces, ensure that the right work tools to enable these individuals to be successful in the workplace are put in place.”

Emmanuel Michael, head of human capital at Letshego Finance, a microfinance bank based in Lagos, Nigeria, is also encouraging other employers to hire people with disabilities and support them to achieve their potential. “The important thing is to identify what is the strength of this particular person that we want to bring on board, what can they do? And then we position them in the area where they have a strength for.”

“I’m calling an all employers in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, to go out there, identify people living with disabilities, identify their strength areas and how they can help to improve their businesses,” Emmanuel adds.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, also based in Nigeria, worked with Sightsavers successfully to make its recruitment practices more inclusive for people with disabilities. “We are very excited at the institute that we are beginning to play a key role in driving this conversation… I would like to strongly, very strongly recommend Inclusive Futures Work Stream to employers out there,” says Gbenga Totoye, director for membership and market development at the institute.

Are you interested in taking the next step to ensure your business is a more inclusive workplace for all? Take advantage of our employers’ toolkit, a portfolio of practical guides, checklists, case studies and resources which make it easier for any business to deliver the best practice we call ‘disability confidence’. Find out more about the toolkit here.


UK Aid logo.Inclusive Futures is funded by UK aid. It demonstrates the UK government’s commitment to global leadership on inclusive development by ensuring people with disabilities are central to international development policymaking and programmes.

“I would like to strongly recommend Inclusive Futures Work Stream to employers out there.”

Find out more about Inclusive Futures

Find out more

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