Will you be joining the revolution?

Thu 24 January 2019

It’s being called a ‘Disability Inclusion Revolution’, a global tipping point, an historic crossroads, a new zeitgeist in which businesses and business leaders internationally are making themselves accountable for inclusion of people with disability in the workforce. Momentum is building across the globe. Are your business leaders on board?

If you’re looking to gain support for inclusion of people with disability, now’s the time to put forward a compelling case that your leadership team will find hard to ignore.

“Improving employment participation rates for people with disabilities in today’s labour force is a critical global issue. It is time that we look to business to provide better leadership in this area, by applying employer policies and practices that are proven to increase the likelihood of improving the employment outcomes of people with disabilities.” Susanne Bruyère, Professor of Disability Studies and Director of the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, ILR School, Cornell University (Source: World Economic Forum)

Highly modern conference space with lighting, staging, cameras, rows of chairs. Plaques at the front say World Economic Forum. Screen says Annual Meeting 2019.

Image source: WEF, Sikarin Fon Thanachaiary. 

This week, the need to bolster inclusion of people living with disability is a main message at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting (‘Davos’) in Switzerland. An event that brings together leaders of global society – including heads of government, top executives of the 1,000 foremost global companies, and leading experts and young people from all over the world – Davos 2019 will highlight ambitious new standards for accessibility, employment and inclusion across the globe.

“The route to a truly inclusive world is through the creation of truly inclusive business. We know that if Business values disabled people equally then society will too. In the last 30 years, bold business leadership has played a crucial role in driving social change. Now is the time for bold business leadership to do the same for disability inclusion.” Caroline Casey, founder of #valuable (Source: Business Leader)

#valuable. It's everyone's business.

In a worldwide call to action for Business to recognise the one billion people living with disability, award-winning activist and social entrepreneur Caroline Casey has spearheaded the #valuable campaign. By supporting #valuable, high-profile global business leaders and companies have committed to take accountability for inclusion of people with disability in business.

Helping to put inclusion of people with disability on the international business agenda, and keep it there, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Janet Riccio, EVP of Omnicom Group and Dean of Omnicom University, have pledged their support of #valuable. Unilever has made a commitment to hire 8,000 additional people with disability, while Virgin Media set an ambitious goal to support one million people with disability to gain work by the end of 2020. (Source: TIME)

“Once companies are aware of these potential economic benefits, they should be motivated to bring persons with disabilities into the work force to thrive as never before.” Ted Kennedy Jr., Disabilities Rights Attorney, Connecticut State Senator and Board Chair, American Association of People with Disabilities (Source: The New York Times)

Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage

Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, has published a study called Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage. The study showed that companies that championed people with disability outperformed others – driving profitability and shareholder returns. Revenues were 28 per cent higher, net income 200 per cent higher, and profit margins 30 per cent higher. Companies that improved internal practices for disability inclusion were also four times more likely to see higher total shareholder returns.

In The New York Times, Ted Kennedy Jr. said these findings should give companies a new reason to hire people with disability, and pushed for businesses to follow the lead of “exemplary companies” like the Bank of America, which brought together 300 people with intellectual disability to create a support services team, Microsoft, which built a successful hiring program specifically for people on the autism spectrum, and CVS Health, which refocused its training programs to capitalise on characteristics people with disability often demonstrate.

Satya Nadella speaks into a microphone. Lectern reads Nadella.

Image: Satya Nadella speaking at the WEF Annual Meeting (source: WEF, Valeriano Di Domenico). 

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has made it his mission to make all the company's products and services accessible to everyone. Since becoming CEO, Nadella has made ‘inclusive design’ a core part of Microsoft’s business model and expects inclusive design practices will go mainstream in 2019. (Source: Windows Central)

Global Disability Summit

In the UK last July, the first ever Global Disability Summit delivered 170 sets of global and national level commitments on inclusion of people with disability, which included the World Bank Group’s set of ten commitments to accelerate action at scale to achieve disability-inclusive development in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Results from many employers show that it makes good business sense to provide inclusive work environments for people with disabilities. You will get the work done, and also harvest positive side-effects such as higher engagement, higher retention rate, joy of work, sense of purpose and improved management skills in the workplace.” Thorkil Sonne, Chairman of Denmark's Council for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development Goals (Source: World Economic Forum)

Denmark’s Thorkil Sonne, founder of the innovative social business Specialisterne, recently declared to business leaders, “Now is your time to make a choice.” (Source: World Economic Forum) Reflecting on the choice he made 15 years ago to formulate a business model that creates environments where people on the autism spectrum can excel, the Specialisterne concept has spread to many countries and large companies, such as EY, IBM, Microsoft, PwC and Westpac, and the Specialisterne Foundation has set a goal to generate one million jobs for people on the spectrum and those with similar challenges by 2030.

We will all come into close contact with disability in our lives. 80 per cent of disabilities are acquired later in life, and our ageing population means the prevalence of disability is on the rise. With family combined, disability affects 53 per cent of our global population. (Source: TIME). Within Australia, more than one-third of households include a person with disability. (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics)  

Traditional disability symbol of person in wheelchair on screen in background. In front, a woman speaks to an audience.

Image: Caroline Baumann, Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, USA, speaking at the WEF Annual Meeting (source: WEF, Mattias Nutt). 

It’s clear that there is an unprecedented focus and commitment on inclusion of people with disability globally. And, while many can’t compete with the likes of Microsoft, Virgin Group and the World Bank, this movement is about organisations taking a stand and doing what they can to create positive change for one billion people and their families. As our CEO Suzanne Colbert AM said in an interview with Ruh Global Communications:

“No one is a competitor when it comes to planning what can we do to make it better and more inclusive for people with disability, and to welcome people as employees and customers. Making it [disability inclusion] work is helping specific organisations mould it – mould the language and mould the business process, so that it becomes part of their business-as-usual. When we can help businesses mould and really craft an effective strategy in their organisation, it becomes sustainable.”

There are practical steps you can take to drive this agenda. Please contact us if we can help you or your business leaders champion people with disability in 2019.

About the Australian Network on Disability

The Australian Network on Disability is a for-purpose, member-based national powerhouse of more than 250 private, public and for-purpose organisations actively committed to inclusion of people with disability in business. The Network supports its members to build confidence and capability to welcome people with disability as employees and customers.

The Australian Network on Disability’s Access and Inclusion Index is a national assessment and benchmarking tool that enables organisations to understand and measure access and inclusion across ten key business areas. It provides practical insights into areas of strength and opportunity that can be used as a roadmap for ongoing improvement. Organisations that measured their performance the last two years in a row increased their scores by almost 20% – a huge leap of progress from one year to the next. 


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