This Saturday, 3rd December 2022, we’ll be celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – a day observed to increase awareness, understanding, and acceptance of people with disability. The day also provides the avenue to evaluate our progress in terms of empowering PWDs and creating an inclusive culture that embraces PWDs.
Over the years, PWDs have suffered various seemingly insurmountable challenges such as marginalization and lack of opportunities for education and employment among others. However, this narrative needs to change as it is their human right to access all basic needs for a dignified life.
At the core of sustainable development is the call to “Leave no one behind.” This means that sustainability initiatives must benefit diverse groups and must not empower any existing inequalities such as biases based on gender and disability.
We must be honest and humble enough to objectively evaluate where we stand in this issue and be ready to make the necessary adjustments from today. Here are a few lenses to use in your evaluation and analysis:
Make your premises and offices accessible to PWDs through disability-friendly architectural and structural design. You can achieve this by providing automatic doors, having both steps and a ramp where there is a change in level, placing symbols or pictogram signages to help people with reading or cognitive difficulties, and adopting step-free level entry entrances among others.
Equally important is to make your digital properties accessible since these may be the first point of contact between your organization and a person with disabilities. A good place to start is making sure that your website is compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a standard established by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) which is part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Other examples of digital accessibility include; providing text and/or audio alternatives for any non-text content, avoiding designs known to cause seizures, and including closed-captioned videos for individuals with hearing impairments among others.
Training of staff
Since your employees are key stakeholders in creating an accessible and inclusive environment at your workplace, you should consider offering regular training sessions to empower them on how to interact with persons with disabilities.
Adopting disability-inclusive policies
It is important that your commitment to inclusion is embedded in business policies and guidelines around the same. This ensures that all key stakeholders understand the importance of inclusion and are deliberate about fulfilling the agenda. You can most definitely consider making inclusion-goals part of employees’ KPIs to accelerate inclusion. For example, KCB Foundation has a policy that dictates that 10% of all project beneficiaries must be PWDs.
Innovating and providing solutions to PWD-pain points
Invent/Provide access to products and services that target to improve the standards of living of PWDs. These can be assistive devices such as electric wheelchairs to ease their movement or education programmes to help them upskill.
Creating a safe space
Create a safe space in which PWDs can speak up and air their views and opinions without feeling threatened or at risk. This includes their feedback on the organization’s structure and culture on matters of inclusion.
Whereas feedback and objective evaluations may surface facts that we are uncomfortable with, we must learn to accept this and be okay with this discomfort if we are to make any progress on inclusion. This includes understanding that while we are not deliberate to cause any harm or exclude PWDs, some of our actions and policies may still do this. We, therefore, must prioritize evaluating the impact and not our intentions.
Finally, objective evaluation should be coupled with the readiness to innovate and implement the necessary change. This way, we will get closer and closer to overcoming the historical biases and prejudices that we have known to be normal for so long. Let’s do it!