Back to Basics: Disability Inclusion at Work | EAPA-SA

An overview of disability in South Africa

In South Africa’s 2011 Census, citizens were asked if they had mild or severe difficulty in the six functional areas of seeing, hearing, communicating, walking, remembering and self-care. According to a 2014 report by Statistics South Africa, based on the 2011 census, 7.5% of the country’s population is regarded as having a disability.

In terms of legislation and Government policy, South Africa is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) signed on 30 March 2007 and ratified on 30 November 2007.  The national constitution’s chapter two, “bill of rights” explicitly prohibits unfair discrimination against people on the basis of disability or health status.1

Including people with disabilities widens the talent pool

While some companies are not taking advantage of the benefits of disability initiatives, progressive employers understand that organisations which are inclusive of people with disabilities benefit from a wider pool of talent, broader skill-sets and more creative business solutions – all of which benefit the organisation’s bottom line. People with disabilities typically have to be creative in order to adapt to the world around them.  They develop critical strengths such as problem solving skills, agility, perseverance, and a willingness to experiment—all of which are essential for innovation.3

What does it mean for an organisation to be disability-inclusive?

All employees benefit from a more diverse workplace. Studies show that working alongside employees with disabilities makes non-disabled employees more aware of how to make the workplace environment more inclusive and better for everyone. There are several attributes associated with disability-friendly organisations, and these have the added bonus of benefiting all employees.  These include3:

  1. Established disability policies and measurement

Adopting written policies, practices and procedures to enhance employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities, and measuring the effectiveness of those policies.

  1. Outreach and recruitment

Building a pipeline of qualified applicants with disabilities by developing relationships with a variety of appropriate recruitment sources.

  1. Inclusive procedures and openness

Establishing personnel processes and job descriptions that facilitate the hiring of qualified persons with disabilities, as well as promoting a culture where employees with disabilities feel comfortable asking for the workplace supports they need.

  1. Participation from the top down

Ensuring a commitment to disability inclusion at all levels of the organisation—including at executive level.

  1. Communication and education

Providing training on disability-related workplace issues to employees, and communicating the organisation’s commitment to disability inclusion, both internally and externally.

  1. Making accommodations

Accommodating disabled employees by providing the tools they need to do their job effectively, whether this means assistive technology, a flexible schedule, or any other reasonable accommodations that will enhance their productivity.  While many organisations are concerned about the potential costs of accommodating persons with disabilities, these generally constitute relatively small financial investments.

  1. Empowerment

The provision of mentoring and coaching initiatives, as well as skilling and re-skilling programmes to ensure that persons with disabilities continue to grow and succeed.

  1. Accessibility

Ensuring the workplace is accessible, both physically and digitally speaking. This entails creating a barrier-free workplace powered by accessible, universally designed technology, as well as websites and online job applications that are accessible to everyone.

The benefits of disability-inclusion

There is mounting research which shows several key benefits for organisations which practice disability inclusion. These include4:

  1. Better access to a motivated talent pool which is:
  • reliable – people with disabilities typically take fewer days off – including sick leave, are loyal and stay in jobs longer than other workers
  • productive – disabled people perform just as well as other employees in the right job with the right support
  • affordable – recruitment costs are lower for disabled employees and disabled people have fewer accidents at work in comparison to other employees
  1. Greater access to a diverse customer base
  2. Greater appeal to investors with corporate social responsibility and sustainability interests
  3. Better image among employees, the community and with customers

In order for South African organisations compete more effectively in the local and global marketplace, it is important to choose employees from as wide and diverse a pool as possible and organisations would do well to employ disabled people because, overall, it makes good business sense.