Five key steps for businesses to foster greater inclusion for People with Disabilities
The 3rd of December is recognised as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and is the culmination of a month of national awareness in South Africa. As we observe this day, it is a stark reminder that much still needs to be done to create inclusivity for the approximately seven per cent of our population living with either physical or mental disabilities.
However, it also provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on those initiatives and organisations that are successfully championing inclusivity and making a difference. One such organisation is EduPower Skills Academy, a leading Skills Development training provider. For the past five years, the Academy has been committed to creating accessible learning environments to shape a future where equal opportunities are accessible to all its learners.
EduPower’s Managing Director, Rajan Naidoo says this begins with a paradigm shift – acknowledging that inclusivity cannot be a checkbox exercise but an active pursuit in championing diversity for one of our most marginalised communities. “Removing barriers and providing accessibility to equal opportunities is more than ramps and elevators; it’s about creating an environment where everyone – regardless of their abilities – feels valued and can thrive,” he says. “For Edupower, it’s about providing equitable access to the skills and career potential that can be achieved through learnerships.”
Based on the Academy’s experience, Naidoo shares five key steps that companies seeking to become more inclusive of People with Disabilities can implement:
- Embrace Universal Design Principles
The adoption of physical spaces that are not merely compliant but genuinely inclusive is an important aspect. Ensure that your facilities are designed to be adaptable, incorporating features such as adjustable furniture and assistive technologies. This approach fosters an environment that can accommodate diverse abilities.
- Prioritise Digital Accessibility
Invest in technology and design practices that make your online platforms, training and communication channels accessible to everyone, including those with visual or even auditory impairments. EduPower’s commitment to digital inclusivity extends the reach of its training and work experience resources, ensuring that all learners can benefit from an equitable experience.
- Engage with the Disability Community
Actively seek input and feedback from individuals and organisations within the disability community. They will provide invaluable insights into the unique needs and challenges faced by People with Disabilities. By fostering a collaborative relationship, your business can tailor its practices to better accommodate diverse abilities.
- Cultivate Inclusive Workforce Practices
EduPower has proved that creating a diverse work environment also requires corresponding policies and supportive attitudes that nurture a culture that values and respects individual differences. Implement best practice with training programmes to raise awareness among staff on the different forms of disabilities and how they can support colleagues with disabilities. And where required, provide onboarding and mentorship to new starters with disabilities to ensure a smooth transition.
- Listen, Learn and Implement
The journey towards accessibility to equal opportunities for all is a continuous learning process. Businesses need to actively listen to the voices of individuals with disabilities, involve them in decision-making processes and be open to continuous improvement. Act on feedback, collaborate with experts and remain adaptable to evolving standards and technologies. This commitment to learning will ensure that your business stays at the forefront of accessibility and inclusion and can evolve according to the needs of its diverse stakeholders.
For businesses looking to emulate the Academy’s approach, Naidoo offers the following advice: “Implementing Edupower’s often hard-learned lessons allows companies to establish environments where every individual has an equitable chance to succeed. A diverse and inclusive workforce not only enriches with a wealth of perspectives and talents but also fuels innovation and success, which can ultimately yield a strong return on commitment and is an investment in the company’s future.”