In late 2019, a couple of business leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, started tackling the issue of gross under-representation of people with disabilities in the workforce. This paved the way for 500 CEOs of the top 500 firms globally to come together and promote disability inclusion initiatives within their organisations.
In Australia alone, there are 2.1 million Australians with disabilities who are of working age yet only 47.8% are gainfully employed. While Australia is on par with other developed nations, people with a disability still have a lower labour participation than people without disability.
While 34% of employed people with a disability are managers and professionals, a person with a disability will have a much harder and longer time finding gainful employment, sometimes even 61.5% longer than their peers without disability.
And that’s if they are lucky enough not to be the 1 in 5 who will face work place discrimination, which mostly stems from the employer itself. While it still happens today, we’re hoping an initiative that started in the World Economic Forum in 2019 will change all of that.
The Valuable 500 Formation
As business leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, they pledged to form the Valuable 500 group that will promote disability inclusion in their organisations. These businesses represent 24 million employees spread across 64 sectors from 36 companies.
Together these companies have pledged to include disability into their board agendas and make one single commitment to be shared and reported to the Valuable 500 annually.
To further break down the barrier to employment for people with disabilities, 13 firms have come together to lead the way in opening up economic opportunities for people with disabilities. Salesforce and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. will open a job portal catering exclusively to people with disabilities. Meanwhile, Unilever, IHG, and AutoTrader have committed to hiring more people with disabilities. Hopefully this move can change the fact that there are no executives or senior managers with a disability in any of the FTSE 100 companies.
Meanwhile, tech and communication companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, Verizon, and Apple have taken steps in improving digital accessibility to promote disability inclusion initiatives.
In particular, Apple, the organisation’s Iconic partner for Inclusive Design, has recently launched SignTime albeit starting its rollout in select countries not including Australia, which allows customers to communicate with Apple customer service using American Sign Language.
Product-wise, iPads now have a new background sounds option which feature a stream, ocean, or rain to help people who need a low sensory stimulation to stay calm and focused. Meanwhile Apple Watch’s sensitivity has been increased to allow people with limb issues to better interact and control the device without touching it.
Google and Deloitte have also created internal census playbooks to help business leaders understand how disability representation helps their organisations. The internal census playbooks also identify the barriers that exist and t prevent people with disability’s participation in the labour market. At iAccess Consulting, hopes for structural and physical barriers are also taken into consideration.
Whilst remote work options have recently been introduced and temporarily removes the physical barriers to working, most workplaces are still inhospitable to people with disabilities, preventing them from joining top organisations and climbing the ranks to success.
As the top 13 firms lead the way to discovering and implementing programmes and solutions to promote disability inclusion initiatives that will open more opportunities for people with disabilities, we hope this initiative is carried far into the future until we see a better representation of people with disability in the workforce, regardless of the level in the organisation.
Even if you are not part of The Valuable 500 initiative, you can do your own bit as a business leader to promote disability inclusion initiatives by ensuring your workplace is accessible to people with disabilities. Get in touch with our iAccess Consultants for good advice on workplace accessibility today!