Our journey towards inclusion in the workplace

A close up of two women holding hands.

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 the Disability Inclusion Working Group, a cross-departmental group of Sightsavers staff who champion positive change and promote disability inclusion.

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

In July 2023, after seven years of hard work, the Disability Inclusion Working Group was concluded, having completed and exceeded its core aims.

Here you can read about our inclusion highlights between 2016 and 2023, and follow the timeline for this part of our journey towards becoming an employer of choice for people with disabilities.

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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

The Sightsavers Disabled Employee Network (DEN) was launched in October 2019. The DEN gives colleagues with disabilities across the world a forum and mechanism to share their experiences both as a group and with the wider organisation.

Infographic with the figure 9.2 percent.

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. In our third survey in October 2023, 9.2% of staff self-identified 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



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 that covered contrast levels, minimum font sizes, ensuring content can be understood by screenreaders, and adding alt text to images.


Disability Inclusion Working Group founded

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



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.


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 next few years this service was expanded to also test the accessibility of visual design, language, video and online elements.


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.


Sign language sessions for UK staff

Our first British Sign Language (BSL) tester sessions were organised for group of staff in the UK office. This led to eight members of staff achieving British Sign Language Level 1 in January 2020.


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. By 2023, there were more than 25 Sightsavers Mental Health First Aiders.


Academic paper focuses on our social inclusion strategy

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



Online training promotes inclusion in the workplace

Our interactive training module was launched. It 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. The training covers hearing impairment, visual impairment, mobility issues and neurodiverse conditions.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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 to be part of our mainstream recruitment process.


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.


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 that offices are as accessible as possible for both staff and visitors.


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.



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 in the UK head office

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Sightsavers shows support for people who rely on lip-reading

Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group encouraged staff to sign a petition to the UK government to support the development and production of lip-reading and hearing aid-friendly face masks.


Social media accessibility guidelines published

The social media accessibility guidelines were produced for Sightsavers staff to be read alongside our content accessibility guidelines and social media accessibility document created by Kate Bennell.



Purple Space membership

Sightsavers joined Purple Space – a development hub for disability network leaders, disability confident employers, allies and champions who drive business change on disability. Purple Space helps disability employee networks to build engagement strategies to stimulate better conversations about all aspects of disability and business.


‘Our journey’ webpage launches

The Our journey webpage was launched to celebrate our journey towards promoting disability inclusion in the workplace at Sightsavers. It was developed by Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group in collaboration with various teams, including web, design and branding, human resources, senior human resources business partners, the Wellbeing Taskforce and the Disabled Employee Network.


Recruitment accessibility reviewed

The recruitment team updated Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group on recent adjustments to the recruitment process and resources to ensure recruitment is accessible.


DIWG subgroup formed to raise awareness of accessibility tools

A subgroup of Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group was established to increase awareness among staff about the range of accessibility tools available.


Staff take part in Purple LightUp

Sightsavers staff wore purple clothing and shared a picture of themselves for Sightsavers #PurpleLightUp 2021. #PurpleLightUp is a global movement coordinated by Purple Space that celebrates and draws attention to the economic contribution of disabled employees around the world.



Social media accessibility guidelines updated

Sightsavers’ social media accessibility guidelines were refreshed to help to ensure that everyone can enjoy, understand and share social posts.

Think Accessibility campaign launches

The Think Accessibility campaign was launched by members of Sightsavers’ Disability Inclusion Working Group to help increase awareness around accessibility at work. All Sightsavers staff were invited to attend sessions run by representatives from a variety of Sightsavers teams. Sessions took place between July 2022 and July 2023 and covered:

  • Accessibility on social media
  • Meeting accessibility
  • Accessible communications
  • Accessible writing
  • IT accessibility
  • Print and digital accessibility
  • Video accessibility
  • Accessible design in projects and programmes


Staff join Purple LightUp 2022

For the second year in a row, Sightsavers staff wore purple clothing and shared a picture of themselves for Sightsavers #PurpleLightUp 2022.



Sightsavers supports National Accessibility Guidelines in Tanzania

Sightsavers was invited to support to the Government of Tanzania with its development of National Accessibility Guidelines to help  ensure that accessibility standards are followed by all government and private institutions.


Think Accessibility campaign concludes

The final session in the Think Accessibility campaign focused on unseen disabilities (sometimes referred to as ‘invisible’ disabilities) and accessible working. It was hosted by various members of Sightsavers’ Disabled Employee Network.


Accessible communications pack launches 

Colleagues from across the organisation officially launched the Accessibility pack for inclusive communications, which aims to provide easy-to-access guidance to Sightsavers’ partners and staff to create accessible, inclusive communications projects, activities and materials.

Learn more about our commitment to inclusion

Sightsavers and inclusion