Diversity and inclusion - including disability


The advantages of diversity and inclusion that includes disability.

Elderly man smiling with young disabled boy.jpg

Listen to the audio version by clicking the play button above.

You have probably heard a lot about diversity and inclusion recently. It is lately a focus point for many organisations and business support groups, both in New Zealand and internationally.

Efforts to embrace and celebrate our differences is fantastic. It is important that a wide variety of voices are welcome and heard to create a healthy workplace environment; an increasing awareness of the advantages of this is encouraging.

Studies show that embracing our differences is beneficial in numerous ways to both a business and the people working in it. Have a look at this Forbes article - one of many supporting this claim.

More and more organisations in New Zealand, large and small, are examining and addressing conscious and unconscious bias around issues like gender, age, ethnicity and culture in order to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace community.

An important element of diversity and inclusion that is frequently missing, however, is disability.

Why should disability be part of diversity and inclusion? To ensure everyone living with a disability, either temporary or permanent, is offered equitable opportunity to be welcome, to belong and to contribute. The same as we all want for ourselves.

24% of Kiwis live with a permanent disability. That is over a million people who are often unwittingly overlooked when diversity and inclusion conversations are taking place.

In addition to this significant number of people with permanent disability, there are situations that further increase the proportion of our society that will benefit from disability being an integral part of diversity and inclusion.

This includes people like me, who, as we age, have increasing difficulty hearing conversations in a noisy environment or seeing well in dim light. And people who at some point experience a temporary impairment affecting their daily routine - the sort of thing that could affect any of us at any time. Maybe the temporary impairment is a broken leg requiring the use of crutches. Or maybe it’s a concussion impacting brain function for a period of time. In these situations we may not view ourselves as having a disability, but we will be better off in a culture more inclusive of disability.

Much data is available on the negative economic impact of excluding people with disabilities from the workplace.

Undeniably people with disabilities, particularly long term and permanent disabilities, are adversely affected in the workplace. People with disabilities earn half as much as those without disabilities. They are three times less likely to be in work at all and twice as likely to be underemployed if they do have a job.

This is not their preference. On the whole, like most of us, people with disabilities want to work and reap the economic and well-being benefits of employment. When they are employed, people with disabilities stay in the same job longer than people without disabilities.

Bringing disability into the diversity and inclusion arena will surely draw attention to talent that is currently overlooked. This can only enhance the positive effects the diversity and inclusion movement is having on employers and employees. And that is good for everyone.