At work, everyone faces challenges and obstacles. But for someone with a disability or divergence, be it visible or not, profound or temporary, life’s challenges can have a much deeper impact and occur more frequently.
Physical barriers, communication difficulties, negative attitudes, and discrimination can all make it challenging for employees with disabilities to find and keep employment, let alone advance their careers.
A report exploring discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) found that a third of survey respondents with disabilities experienced negative bias in the workplace, such as feeling underestimated, insulted, or excluded because of their disability. Almost half of these respondents also reported that they felt they would never achieve a leadership role in their company, regardless of their performance or qualifications.
If this oppressive ceiling has been hovering over your career, it may be comforting to know that there are some companies that are taking proactive steps to address these challenges, to open more accommodating career pathways, and to promote more inclusive workplaces.
In this article, we will explore four of our Endorsed Employers that have proven their commitment to not only supporting women but also advancing disability inclusion in the workplace. These companies have implemented innovative programs, policies, and initiatives to create an environment that supports all employees, regardless of their gender or disability status.
I.T., digital & online media services | 5,001-10,000 employees
At Accenture, their Disability Inclusion mission is to actively recruit, support, develop, and advance their people with disability and carers; and to provide an inclusive, supportive culture and accessible work environment.
Accenture is working with the Australian Network on Disability (AND) to become a disability confident recruiter and improve the experience for people with disabilities at every step of the recruitment process. They’ve completed a comprehensive review of their recruitment policies, practices, and processes with AND and they’re working together to implement recommendations that have been made across 18 recruitment areas or themes.
For example, updating job ads to include contact details for candidates to reach out if they need help or to discuss potential changes to the process to allow them to perform at their best – even before they’ve started applying. Their recruiters are also trained in how to manage requests for support or adjustment and ensure these are catered to.
In FY22, they saw a steady increase month-on-month in the number of new joiners at Accenture who identify as having a disability. This is solid progress against the ambitious target they have publicly set of 8.7% and they’re continuing to work towards this goal.
All employees have access to Accenture’s Accommodations Support Tool. If adjustments are required, their Health, Safety, and Well-being team, as well as their HR Partners, People Leads, buddies, and internal and external support partners work with their people to understand what can be provided to suit their accessibility requirements.
This may include the provision of assistive technology or ergonomic equipment, flexible work arrangements, modifications to their workstation and more, subject to business needs.
Accenture has established an Accessibility Centre in their Melbourne and Sydney offices which showcase some of the assistive technology available for employees with disability. These centres provide employees with the ability to determine which options best satisfy individual needs.
Accenture also offers a wide range of health and well-being support mechanisms which help balance the personal requirements with working life for those people with a disability.
Their Disability Inclusion Employee Resource Group (ERG) advocates for disability inclusion both within Accenture and externally. In addition, this group provides mentoring, creates awareness and champions for improving the experience of people with disability in the workplace, including carers of people with disability. This welcoming group offers opportunities to network, make friends, share stories, attend events, celebrate days of importance, and access resources and learning opportunities.
Their people and career management platform also provides employees with the opportunity to share their disability information confidentially and voluntarily. This aggregate information enables Accenture to provide more targeted support mechanisms to reduce those barriers to allow people to perform at their best.
Mining, resources & energy | 1,001-5,000 employees
Water Corporation continues its commitment towards creating a belonging workplace by achieving Disability Confident Recruiter Accreditation from the Australian Network on Disability (AND). The accreditation recognizes the steps Water Corporation takes to remove barriers to employment for people with disability, and its continued efforts to build an inclusive culture that values the impact of the unique skills and abilities of a diverse workforce.
The utility has become one of just 27 organizations in Australia – and the first water services provider – to be accredited as a Disability Confident Recruiter.
Water Corporation has audited their hiring processes to ensure they are inclusive, accessible and provide equal opportunities for people with disability. The team has assessed each step, from the job advertisement right through to onboarding, to address the potential barriers candidates with disability face while applying for a job opportunity.
They believe making the recruitment processes more accessible is a key step towards creating a workforce that’s inclusive and reflects the diversity of their customers and our community.
“After a thorough review and assessment process, we’re now among a small number of employers around Australia that can feel confident that our recruitment practices provide an equitable experience for candidates,” says Talent Sourcing Advisor, Lakshi Dorakumbura.
Below are some changes implemented to make the recruitment process more accessible:
- Using inclusive language in job advertisements that is welcoming of people with disability and making sure our website and recruitment portal meet web content accessibility guidelines.
- Focusing on the core requirements of roles, taking an inclusive approach to the adjustments, including flexibility in hours, work location, and equipment used.
- Providing a contact person with job advertisements who can provide candidates with support during the application process.
- Ensuring that a candidate’s preferred method of communication is used during the process.
- Supporting candidates with their interview preparation including offering alternative interview locations and if required, alternate methods of assessments and tests.
As a part of the accreditation, the talent acquisition team has been trained in disability confident hiring practices and how best to support a candidate that reaches out for assistance. The talent acquisition team now feel confident to offer personalized support for candidates with disability, including assisting them with interview preparation.
Talent Acquisition Manager Kate Beattie added, “It’s important to highlight our achievements as a key part in a broader plan focused on improving our recruitment processes. We’re adopting a strength-based approach towards hiring people with disability by recognizing and valuing the unique experiences and contributions each individual can make.
“As a team, we’re really proud of this accreditation achievement and our role in supporting a more inclusive workplace.”
Ernst & Young (EY)
Consulting & professional services | 5,001-10,000 employees
Ernst & Young Australia is committed to establishing an inclusive workplace where all people feel valued and can perform at their best. To advance accessibility across their organization, EY member firms in Oceania have an Accessibility and Inclusion Plan, and is a global signatory of the Valuable 500 initiative.
In 2021, EY Australia collaborated with the University of Sydney’s Brain Mind Centre to launch SwithcedOn, a pilot autism employment program that led to a neurodiversity movement within the EY organization. As such, they now dedicate the month of November for neurodiversity.
To promote neurodivergent inclusivity, they have focused on amplifying the voices of neurodivergent individuals and sharing their stories through articles, interviews, and people stories. They have also co-designed toolkits to signpost workplace adjustments and resources, while also helping to educate leaders on how they can best support neurodivergent team members.
Retail & fashion | 5,001-10,000 employees
Kashveera “Kash” Chanderjith is the Senior Manager Risk Controls & Frameworks for Woolworths Group and is profoundly deaf. She knew she’d made the right decision to work for Woolworths Group because of the support she’s received from her General Manager and peers.
“Once, my GM announced our leadership team wouldn’t attend a conference because it wasn’t accessible. Her belief was that if it’s not accessible for one person, no one should go. And my peers supported this decision. It was a real watershed moment for me.” Kash grants she’s probably one of the most diverse team members you’ll meet at Woolworths Group.
“I encompass various cultural, gender, disability, and sexuality identities. Instead of conforming to a single identity, I’ve integrated all these various parts of me together to form my unique self.
“I’m a deaf advocate. I’m a woman who’s spent most of my career in male-dominated environments. I’m having conversations around nationality and languages, as I’m an Australian, born in South Africa of Indian descent. I’m a proud mother of an eleven-year-old daughter. My partner and I had one of the first same-sex weddings conducted with Hindu rites and rituals.
“I think Woolworths Group is supportive of bringing your whole self to work, so it’s beyond identities and intersectionality.”
“Everyone genuinely tries to do the right thing across the board, and that makes me proud. I’d love to see accessibility ingrained throughout the organization. Team members are becoming more comfortable having difficult conversations because they’re empowered to do so.”