No pity, only opportunity for the differently-abled

I have been learning a lot about inclusion in recent months. Following the disability summit co-hosted by Kenya and the UK earlier in the year, in addition to a series of workshops I have been attending on inclusion, it is rather obvious that a lot needs to be done to ensure equal participation for all, in Kenya today.

Companies that are looking to wade through the competitive mucky waters of the business environment, must be diverse and accommodative. Many companies would proudly underscore in their job adverts that they are equal opportunity employers, yet when an interviewee turns up with a sign language interpreter, for example, they become less accommodative. The non-verbal communications speaking rather too loud to ignore. They are not convinced that the sign language interpreter, in this case, is just but a mouthpiece of the very able interviewee.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is an edge for your business. Working with colleagues who are abled differently, helps your brand to have the optics of a market segment you might have overlooked. It enables you to cover a wider market segment, and most of all, customise your services calculatedly as per the need of each segment, hence higher chances of success.

Last month, the Ministry of Devolution and planning in partnership with the Council of Governors launched the County Public Participation guidelines in braille. This shows that Kenya has joined the vanguard of nations that continue to be responsive to the needs of persons with disability.

This is a great step in a journey that would require greater commitments to leapfrog from the status quo to the accommodative status. This boils down to further changes in the policy front across key sectors such as construction and transport, sectors which have been known to be challenging for differently- abled persons.

As a brand, lead the pack, get ahead of the curve and tap the right talent indiscriminately. As it’s commonly alluded to, people leave bosses and not their jobs. Design an inclusive and attractive workplace and high turnover will be out of question. Different abilities, character traits, personality types are a win.  They all conjoin to a clear plan that has combed through endless possibilities, averting the risk of locking your mind, thus birthing blue ocean strategies.

Join the bandwagon and have your brand live its values as outlined in your visibility instruments like the website, brochures and other publicity tools.

Engendering fairness and equality in the workplace brings to play employee advocacy, organically. The benefits of employee advocacy cannot be exhausted. In this day and age, employees- speak has a higher impact than brand speak on social media. Personal posts are likely to be more trusted and are perceived to be authentic compared to company pages. Consumers are likely to purchase what they have seen their social media connections embrace.

Physical impairment can come as a result of accidents, stress and many other causes, therefore, this means it can catch up with anyone in the organisation. Wouldn’t it be a smooth transition to have accommodative systems in place that can help colleagues adapt to well-established systems? It is a loss of talent to have them inveigled to settle for redundancy as a result of being indisposed?

You can start with the simple steps below

  • Create awareness in the workplace on how to be more accommodative to persons living with disability. Organise workshops and have such people who are abled differently facilitate these workshops. Awareness is key since it helps open up your staff members to newer realities that people live with daily. It also helps them avoid particular terminologies and labels that would not auger well with such persons.
  • Invest in infrastructure that would be accommodative to persons living with disabilities. For the visually impaired, for example, invest in IT for braille, and for persons hard of hearing you can offer sign language lessons to colleagues to help converse the basics with them. For persons who have to rely on wheelchairs, ensure you have ramps in addition to staircases in your offices. Opt for office facilities that are friendly and allow free movement for all.

As we have differently abled people in our society, they are also equally talented and can significantly contribute to the growth of your organisation. Below are some suggestions on etiquette when interacting with persons living with disability:

  1. Ask before helping, do not make them feel incapable, give them a chance unless they specifically ask for your help.
  2. Let the person establish the communications mode they prefer. For instance, persons with hearing impairment can choose to have you communicate through writing or they might request for an interpreter.
  3. Consider giving extra time when engaging in a conversation. For example, when communicating with a stammerer, ideally do not complete the sentence for them. Give them enough time to finish what they are saying.
  4. When communicating with a person with hearing impairment, give the person full attention remember you are not speaking to the interpreter.
  5. Be patient and be a good listener.
  6. Relax and have a sense of humour.

I will be delighted to hear from you, how has your experience been and what do you resolve to do differently in the coming year?

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