Could the power of technology be the vital weapon in our arsenal that we use to break down those barriers created by the stigma for people with disabilities in the workplace? While legislation has come a long way in addressing shortcomings in our society, including the previous marginalisation of individuals with disabilities, we still have a long way to go in changing individual beliefs.
This is according to Lutendo Mpfumba, a Support Coordinator at Progression who recently engineered a campaign in celebration of National Disability Rights Awareness Month. She shares some unique insight into some of the challenges surrounding people with disabilities, and the need for equal and fair participation from all.
As we reflect on the 2014 National Disability Rights Awareness Month (3 November to 3 December 2014), the UN Enable Report states there are currently more than one billion people in the world today with a disability who face some sort of physical, social, economic or attitudinal barrier. Closer to home the Department of Social Development has also created a National Disability Rights Policy as a means of promoting active participation of people with disabilities in the country’s economy. Yet for all these efforts made towards creating an inclusive society, people with disabilities still face serious discrimination.
It has been my experience that even though thousands of people with disabilities are active participants in society, there needs to be a shift not just in how general society views those people with disabilities, but in how people with disabilities view themselves. The answer to creating a more inclusive society may in fact be harnessing the power of an individual’s abilities in order to deliver a sustainable competitive advantage.
Within the UN’s 2014 theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities - ‘Creating Enabling Work Environments’, through the promise of sustainable technology – we have an answer. At Progression we focused on two objectives during our campaign in support of National Disability Rights Awareness Month. Firstly, to help people with disabilities understand their rights. People with disabilities have the same rights as everybody else, including the right to work. Secondly, to assist organisational leaders and employers in recognising the contribution of people with disabilities in the workplace, as well as the value of a diverse workforce. When this objective is achieved, and employers recognise this fact, they may be willing to implement reasonable accommodation, a tool that can be used to assist in creating and enabling an accessible work environment.
Communication through technology is critical to solving this challenge. We live in a world where the technological advances have changed the way we live. Where information and education is readily available online. We believe that this is where we need to focus our efforts in changing beliefs.
We still have an enormous need for education on how to treat people with disabilities in society in a respectful and dignified manner. These are not individuals that need to be pitied, feared or ignored. With a change in attitude and thinking it becomes clear that people with disabilities can and do make an extremely valuable contribution to the workplace and economic development. Using the power of technology to communicate this message will go a long way in creating a more inclusive society.
As an individual with a disability, I am proud to be part of a company and the various initiatives that place less focus on disability and more attention on ability.