Progression's 2015 Highlights: Disability Awareness & Inclusion at the Forefront

January 2016

Progression, specialists in the disability field, has taken great strides in creating awareness and education around disability and skills development in the workplace. The company, which has assisted corporate South Africa to manage disability for 12 years and has provided learning and employment opportunities to thousands of people with disabilities, looks back on the successes of 2015 and new goals for 2016.

The beginning of 2015 marked a challenging time for Progression who was tasked with addressing the amended Codes of Good Practice in South Africa. However the year, when approached with hard work, enormous team effort and a strong code of promoting learning and growth, resulted in the success of a number of projects that positively influenced the way forward for disability in South Africa.

Progression features at 2015 Disability Conference Australia

The relocation of Progression’s strategic partner and Disability Expert, Sharon Bard, to Melbourne, Australia offered an ideal opportunity to learn from international integration practices and as part of her engagement in the Australian disability space, Sharon was invited to speak at a leading disability conference hosted in Sydney.

The Australia Disability Employment Conference, presented by Disability Employment Australia, is the premier forum for managers, aspiring managers, practitioners and academics working in or with the Disability Employment Services sector. Sharon presented a keynote feature in which she highlighted the parallels between integration in Australia and South Africa and how both countries, while sharing some similarities, are in fact different in their implementation. Through speaking at the conference, she hoped to provide the Disability Employment Sector with benchmarking approaches and principles in the pursuit of sustainability and excellence, thus contributing to on-going change and maturity.

“Commitment to Best Practice around the integration of people with disabilities in the workplace is fundamental to successful inclusion. The workplace is a perfect incubator to inspire greater social and economic change,” comments Sharon.

2015 Celebrates the 4th Annual Disability Conference

Every year the Progression disability conference aims to explore and unpack the various aspects of disability in the workplace.

The 4th annual Disability Conference, which took place from 8-9 September 2015 in Pretoria, saw a number of keynote speakers from a variety of backgrounds challenging delegates to examine some of the key misconceptions and challenges around Reasonable Accommodation and how true accessibility in the workplace can ultimately unlock potential and create an environment in which all individuals can grow and participate. Speakers for the event included the likes of technology experts, universal access specialists, occupational therapists and a number of inspiring first-hand accounts from employees and employers alike who have implemented Reasonable Accommodation in the workplace.

 “Most employers accept their responsibility to employ and promote people with disabilities but fall short when considering the adjustments or modifications which may be required to ensure the successful and fair participation of an employee with a disability. The 2015 Disability Conference addressed this issue and more,” states Julia Wood, Progression’s Organisational Development Manager and Conference Project Manager.

Progression is looking forward to growing the 2016 conference even further to encourage true transformation and inclusion for people with disabilities.

Expanding Progression’s Disability Experts’ Reach

Following the success of the 2015 Disability Conference, Progression launched a new disability product to observe National Disability Rights Month in November. The product, combining existing disability awareness and sensitisation, was bundled into a day of information sharing and exploration that was presented within clients’ workplaces. The campaign aimed to drive awareness around disability to all levels of the business, with the opportunity for employees and employers alike to engage with disability experts in an informal manner.

The feedback from the Disability Awareness Days provided Progression with valuable insight into the current progress of disability integration in the corporate workplace in South Africa and will prove instrumental in the shaping of future endeavours.  

“Introducing topics of disability in the workplace requires continued awareness and sensitisation. The Disability Day offered organisations the opportunity to better understand the culture and attitudes towards disability that exists in their workplace,” states Justene Smith, Disability Specialist at Progression.

Taking Skills Development Back to ‘Grass Roots Level’

“Education is a fundamental driver of social and economic upliftment,” states Beth Cook, CEO at Progression. Progression cemented their relationship in 2015 with Early Childhood Development practitioners, Siyakwazi, announcing the NPO as their official SED partner.

Siyakwazi’s programmes aim to promote inclusive education within rural KZN, supporting existing ECD centres with vital resources. Progression’s involvement has led to funding of additional resources and has allowed Siyakwazi’s Siyasizas (Teacher’s Assistants) to embark on their own journeys of empowerment through formalised Early Childhood Development learnerships.

Through this partnership, Progression and Siyakwazi hope to continue to work towards empowering and improving South Africa’s future.

Moving into the Future of Disability and Development

Through continued support and sharing of information in 2016, Progression hopes to further debunk the myths and misconceptions that exist around disability, helping South Africa realise the multitude of possibilities for integration and bring about true transformation and inclusion for people with disabilities. “Our participation at a global level, the information shared through our events and products and our continued investment in the future are just some of the ways that we aim to do this,” comments Beth. “But most important of all is that each and every person at Progression understands and appreciates that ‘inclusion matters’, therein lies the difference.”

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