In 1992, the United Nations proclaimed the observance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It’s chief aim is to promote the understanding of disability issues and gain support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
We marked the 20th anniversary of the UK Disability Discrimination Act earlier in the year. We are making progress in the UK.
But the 3rd of December is also about increasing awareness of the advantages to be gained from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of life – whether it be political, social, economic or cultural – and we are still a very long way from achieving that.
We can clearly see the business benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce and a lot of work is going on across industries to ensure they use non-discriminatory recruitment but we also need to ensure retention by supporting those already employed.
My mission in life is to help employers to routinely anticipate, expertly accommodate and positively celebrate its disabled talent.
I’ve been working closely with Sarah Simcoe, Chair of SEED ( Fujitsu’s Disability Employee Network) to help stimulate and develop their network and to look at improving the processes supporting employees who require workplace adjustments.
Most often, small changes to an employee’s work environment can mean the difference between remaining in work or not. It maybe something as simple as a bigger screen or a different mouse that can change a person’s whole life – from being isolated and unable to contribute to society to being the best they can be at work and a valued member of a team.
Employee Networks can enable collaboration between employers and their disabled employees to gain fresh ideas about how to break down barriers whether they are real or perceived. Inclusivity matters. And companies that embrace this thinking and act on it can certainly affect their bottom line.
Fujitsu certainly understands the benefits of being a responsible business – happy employees are productive employees – which is probably what helped them win “Responsible Business of the Year” at the 2015 BITC Awards earlier in the year.
The SEED employee network is really taking off now with over 600 members. It runs quarterly awareness webinars and this week they are promoting the UN Theme of “Invisible Disability” – a subject that I’m sure will see their numbers grow again.
They have also had two major achievements this year: The creation of the networks sub-group looking at Dyslexia and their first Annual Conference, “Be Completely You” back in October. It was obvious from the sharing of personal stories and experiences that this was seen as a “safe environment” and really did promote the idea of “being completely you in the workplace”.
If you’re business isn’t diverse and inclusive you’ll be missing out on massive benefits. If you want to change how your business behaves, you just need to take the first step.
Kate Nash OBE is a leading authority in workplace network groups, creator of PurpleSpace, Ambassador to Disability Rights UK and Global Ambassador to Business Disability International.
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