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How to make your workplace inclusive for people with disabilities

April 2018
Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame speaking into a microphone at an event.
1 billion
people worldwide have a disability

My name is Getty Oforiwa Fefoame and I’m Sightsavers’ Global Advocacy Adviser. I have also been nominated by Ghana’s government to join the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As a woman with visual impairment, I would like to be recognised, respected and treated like any other person in the workplace. I would like opportunities to be able to deliver my best work and contribute on an equal basis with others.

Many organisations now have disability/inclusive policies in place to ensure that there is satisfactory environment for women with disabilities to participate equally at the workplace. However, sometimes these policies are not implemented or not implemented effectively.

It comes down to understanding and attitude.

What good is a disability policy if employers don’t actually ‘get’ inclusion? Or if employers do not have a proper appreciation of what marginalisation is or what inclusion should entail?

My advice to employers

Every organisation is different, but here are some general tips for charities or companies looking to make their workplace inclusive.

  • Appreciate that every person with a disability is different. Your policies need to enable individuals to manage their own work in a way that respects their diversity. Two people may have the same disability, but have learned to deal with it in different ways, so be ready to treat each person as an individual. This requires flexibility.
  • All employees need to undergo an orientation process to understand what disability is, and what the benefits of an inclusive society are. Once they have the information, they then need to understand the benefits for themselves and the organisation. If you do this, you will find people will take ownership of these issues themselves.
  • Negative attitudes exist everywhere. I’ve found it doesn’t matter whether you are in a church, an African Union meeting or a bar; we need to be honest that everyone is human. Some people are afraid or reluctant to talk about disability and others don’t think it has anything to do with them. Genuine leadership is needed to draw people’s attention so they know inclusion is in the interest of all. Inclusion must be in the centre of everything.
  • Policy implementation needs to be monitored to have the needed impact. We have found disability and attitudinal surveys are a helpful way achieve this.
  • Change doesn’t come easily and one-off activities don’t work. It’s a continual process that you need to keep in place. Be proactive and passionate.

 

Author


Gertrude smilingGertrude (Getty) Oforiwa Fefoame

Getty is Sightsavers’ Global Advocacy Adviser and has been nominated by Ghana’s government to join the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
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