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Our journey towards inclusion in the workplace

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For many years, Sightsavers has been committed to recruiting, training, promoting and ensuring the wellbeing of people with disabilities in the workplace.

In 2015, we published Sightsavers’ first social inclusion strategy, which focused on scaling up the organisation’s efforts to achieve diversity and equality in the workplace. The following year we launched Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group, a cross-departmental group of staff who champion positive change and promote disability inclusion.

These milestones paved the way for several groundbreaking initiatives, including a Disability Employee Network and disability awareness training for all staff. These achievements represent the work of many teams across the organisation.

After years of hard work and many achievements, our work is not yet done. In 2021 we’re launching our new strategic framework, and disability inclusion in the workplace remains a core priority.

Here you can read about our inclusion highlights of the past six years, and follow the timeline of our journey towards becoming an employer of choice for people with disabilities.

Two women embracing and smiling.

An inclusive approach

Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group was founded in 2016 to promote diversity and accessibility at work.

About the group

Sightsavers’ inclusion highlights

An illustration showing speech bubbles on a yellow background.

Disabled Employee Network founded

This Sightsavers network, launched in October 2019, is made up of employees who provide a voice for staff with disabilities. Working closely with the Disability Inclusion Working Group, members share their personal experiences and support us in our mission to be disability-confident.

Staff survey on disability

In March 2018 Sightsavers carried out an internal survey into disability among its staff, with results indicating that 8% of Sightsavers staff identified as a person with a disability. A second survey was completed in October 2020, with 9.4% of staff self-identifying as having a disability.

A photo of a young man plus four icons: a person, a rural house, some money and an ear with a cross next to it.

Disability awareness training for staff

Since January 2017, we have offered training sessions that cover disability inclusion, language, accessibility and disability inclusive development. The training is mandatory for all staff, and is led by trainers with and without disabilities in the UK, East and West Africa.

The Disability Confident leader logo, featuring text and four small icons indicating people, ticks, a lock and someone thinking.

Disability Confident accreditation

Disability Confident is a UK government-endorsed scheme that aims to make workplaces more inclusive by identifying employers that are committed to equality. In April 2017 Sightsavers gained level 2 accreditation, and in February 2020 we reached level 3, the highest level.

Through the years: our inclusion journey

2016

March

Accessibility features incorporated into our rebrand

Improvements to Sightsavers’ branding included new typography styles to ensure our communications are more legible. We added a section to our guidelines on accessibility rules, including contrast levels, minimum font sizes, ensuring content can be understood by screenreaders, and adding alt text to images.

July

Disability Inclusion Working Group founded

The Disability Inclusion Working Group (originally called the Social Inclusion Working Group) is a cross-departmental learning community made up of staff members that champion positive change, aiming to make Sightsavers an organisation that promotes and embodies disability inclusion.

2017

January

First disability awareness training sessions for staff

The training covers disability inclusion, language, accessibility and disability inclusive development. Read more in our highlights at the top of the page.

Launch of our inclusion speaker initiative

This initiative involves inviting disability experts to speak to Sightsavers staff to promote best practice and encourage an ethos of  inclusion within the organisation. Key guests to date include Microsoft’s Hector Minto, Channel 4 disability consultant Graeme Whippy, and Paralympian Georgie Bullen.

Producing accessible digital documents in-house

Our design team were trained how to create PDFs that can be used by screenreaders, and were also shown how to use tools and resources when creating printed documents to improve areas such as colour contrast and page navigation.

February

First accessibility testing services

To ensure our communications can be understood by as many people as possible, we launched a testing service to check both internal and external Sightsavers documents to ensure they can be read by screenreaders. Over the past few years this service has expanded to also test the accessibility of visual design, language, video and online elements.

April

Disability Confident accreditation

Sightsavers gained level 2 accreditation as part of this UK government-endorsed scheme that aims to make workplaces more inclusive. Read more in our highlights at the top of the page.

May

Sign language sessions for UK staff

Our first British Sign Language (BSL) tester sessions were organised for group of staff in the UK office. In January 2020, eight staff members passed their level 1 British Sign Language course, and we’re keen to encourage more staff, both in the UK and in country offices, to learn to sign.

September

Appointing our first Mental Health First Aider

We appointed our first Mental Health First Aider in September 2017 to support staff who are experiencing mental wellbeing issues or emotional distress. We now have 10 trained staff members who have taken on this role.

October

Academic paper focuses on our social inclusion strategy

Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group featured in the paper, written by several senior staff members and published in the Knowledge Management for Development Journal.

2018

February

Online training promotes inclusion in the workplace

Our interactive training module aims to ensure staff are aware of different disabilities, as well as teaching them how they can make the workplace more inclusive for colleagues with disabilities. It covers hearing impairment, visual impairment and mobility issues, with a chapter on neurodiverse conditions due to be added in future.

March

First staff survey on disability

Our internal survey into disability among staff showed that 8% of Sightsavers employees identify as a person with a disability. Read more in our highlights at the top of the page.

April

Accessible design initiative unveiled

Our Perspectives initiative, run by Sightsavers’ web, design and branding team, promotes the importance of accessibility in design and communications. It launched in April 2018 at the D&AD design festival in London, and encouraged visitors to look at the world from a different viewpoint.

May

Joining the Global Business and Disability Network

Sightsavers became a member of the Internal Labour Organisation’s Global Business and Disability Network, which promotes inclusion at work. Read more in the highlights at the top of the page.

June

Sightsavers featured in Creative Review magazine

As part of the Perspectives initiative, our lead digital designer Matt Roberts spoke to one of the world’s leading creative magazines about accessibility and his experience working as a colourblind designer. In the same month, Sightsavers’ work in accessible communications featured in French design magazine Étapes.

October

Speakers’ initiative takes centre stage

The Disability Inclusion Working Group’s speakers’ programme was presented as an innovative practice to members of the International Labour Organisation’s Global Business and Disability Network.

Our CEO speaks at diversity conference

Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper delivered a speech on disability inclusion in the workplace at the Global Equality & Diversity conference in London, which brought together business and public sector staff involved with equality, diversity and inclusion strategy.

2019

February

A new approach to accessible recruitment

Sightsavers successfully piloted new ways of recruiting and selecting candidates, enabling candidates to apply and be interviewed in the way they felt best demonstrated their skills and experience. The pilot helped inform our recruitment practices more generally and some elements have continued in our mainstream recruitment process.

August

Wellbeing and support services unveiled

Sightsavers’ Wellbeing Hub and Wellbeing Taskforce were founded in August 2019 to support staff and promote the importance of good health, comfort and happiness. This was followed by the launch of global guidelines to help managers support staff with disabilities.

Keeping our offices safe and accessible

Sightsavers’ premises team started carrying out twice-daily checks at our UK head office to ensure all walkways are clear and free from obstruction and all offices are well lit, with lighting in full working order.

September

Accessibility assessments for our country offices

Sightsavers ran a pilot to integrate an accessibility audit into resilience assessments of our country offices around the world, in an effort to ensure they are accessible as possible for both staff and visitors.

October

Disabled Employee Network founded

This Sightsavers network is made up of employees who provide a voice for disabled staff. Read more in our highlights at the top of the page.

2020

January

New Brand Book lays out accessibility guidelines

Sightsavers’ brand book, launched in January 2020, governs how we present ourselves as an organisation. It ensures our branding is consistent, recognisable and professional, and features detailed accessibility guidance for creating content that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Silent emergency alarm installed at our HQ

A silent vibrating emergency alarm was installed at our UK head office in Haywards Heath, with corresponding pagers for staff who are unable to hear the emergency evacuation alarm.

February

Disability Confident accreditation

Disability Confident is a UK government-endorsed scheme that aims to make workplaces more inclusive. We achieved level 2 accreditation in April 2017, and in 2020 we reached level 3, the highest level, an accolade awarded to employers that are leaders in this field.

March

Awards shortlist for disability inclusion group

Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group was shortlisted for a Bond Diversity Award. The awards recognise organisations in the UK NGO sector that nurture diverse and inclusive workforces.

April

Sightsavers co-founds Inclusive Design Council

Sightsavers’ digital design team helped to set up the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) Inclusive Design Council, which aims to champion inclusive design and give individuals and organisations the knowledge, skills and desire to design experiences for everyone.

July

Sightsavers hosts a Twitter chat on disability inclusion

Sightsavers’ policy and research team, @Sightsavers_Pol, took to social media to host a live Twitter chat on how we can rebuild our workplaces inclusively after COVID-19. Sightsavers’ Kate Bennell also wrote a blog for Civil Society magazine, looking at how charities and businesses can create an inclusive environment for staff with disabilities as they rebuild after the pandemic.

August

Staff inclusion training moves online during pandemic

The mandatory disability inclusion training for Sightsavers staff was adapted to be delivered online during COVID-19 office closures, ensuring staff can still learn while working remotely.

2021

Looking to the future

After years of hard work and many achievements, our work is not yet done. In 2021 we’re launching our new strategic framework, and disability inclusion in the workplace remains a core priority. Our journey towards becoming an employer of choice for people with disabilities continues.

Learn more about our commitment to inclusion

Sightsavers and inclusion