The Importance of Disability Equity Audits
by Candice Lambert

Disability Equity Audits can be better understood as  ‘disclosure campaigns’ and have been implemented by Progression since the business started in 2002.

Through our in-the-field experience, Progression has found that not all staff members disclose their disabilities to HR personnel. There are various reasons for this, the main being a lack of knowledge as to what may be classified as a disability. All too often, staff are unaware that their condition falls within the definition of disability. In addition, employees are unsure as to whether the business is prepared to manage, or capable of handling, the disclosure, as well as how they will be treated during and after the disclosure process.

In short, a Disability Equity Audit aims to increase employees’ understanding of disability. In addition, it aims to create awareness of the organisation’s disability disclosure process and, in turn, increase the number staff disclosures. A standard Disability Equity Audit commences by unpacking and understanding the legislative content and context regarding disability. Thereafter, Progression will provide a number of capacity building sessions which aim to empower those individuals responsible for managing the disclosure process. These sessions will also equip the organisation with the skills and knowledge needed to effectively manage disability in the workplace. The next step is a critical one and involves clearly and effectively communicating the organisation’s intentions to staff, managing questions around disclosures as well as the disclosures themselves. The audit draws to a close by providing the organisation with feedback and results.

A disability audit can be implemented either as an element when employing a strategic approach or as a separate stand-alone project, with the results varying according to the approach taken. Where possible, Progression encourages organisations to adopt the strategic approach, as it provides long-lasting benefits regarding sustainability and corporate culture. However, the organisation’s requirements and end goals will ultimately determine the approach used.

No matter how organisations approach and carry out a Disability Equity Audit, either strategically or as a project, the benefits are unquestionable.

Conducting a Disability Equity Audit will allow the organisation to:

-        Determine the company culture around diversity and disability

-        Create an inclusive and disclosure-friendly environment

-        Manage change in terms of the culture around disability (and sometimes diversity)

-        Sustainaby manage disability in the workplace, even after Progression steps away

-        Increase the number of employees who disclose their disability

-        Increase the efficiency and accuracy of the disclosure process

-        Develop a standard process for disclosure that can be followed in future disclosures

-        Develop policies or adjust current policies, ensuring best practice is followed

-        Uncover other important information that can be used to implement further beneficial projects within the company (when using the strategic approach)

All organisations need to conduct a Disability Equity Audit at some point in their business life. In most cases, Progression will carry out a Disability Equity Audit once, with adhoc support and intervention every 2 – 6 years. Capacity building of new HR personnel or staff would form a part of this adhoc support.

Some tell-tale signs that your organisation is in need of a Disability Equity Audit include:

-        People do not understand the definition and context of disability in the workplace.

-        The organisation lacks a sufficient disclosure policy.

-        The organisation does not have a disclosure management process in place.

-        Staff are unaware of the organisation’s policy or process on disclosures and management of disability.

-        There is very little sensitivity towards, and understanding of, people with disabilities in the organisation.

-        Current disclosure numbers are incredibly low.

In conclusion, it is evident that, with the assistance of Progression, a Disability Equity Audit is a rewarding and worthwhile exercise that should be considered by all corporates in South Africa. 

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