Safoora Sadek, owner and director of Ukuba Management, a consultancy that offers disability mainstreaming services, explains the difference between disability mainstreaming and disability programming, and shares how companies can create more inclusive spaces and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
To what extent are the public and private sectors mandated to employ and facilitate access to economic opportunities for persons with disabilities, and how are both sectors currently faring in this regard?
In terms of employment, the public and private sectors tend to stick to the 2% mandated target for the employment of persons with disabilities. This quota is calculated against the total number of employees in a department or company. As with all quotas, although this is a move in the right direction, it should not be the end goal. Government also has internal policies and legislation to create opportunities for persons with disabilities to be active in the mainstream economy.
For example, the Preferential Procurement Act requires that 5% of government’s annual procurement budget is awarded to businesses owned by persons with disabilities. Additionally, all government departments are required to include persons with disabilities as programme and project beneficiaries.
What does it mean to mainstream disability, both in the workplace as well as in corporate developmental programming, and how is this different from disability programming?
The social model to addressing disability requires us to assess whether the broader environment enables or prevents the participation of persons with disabilities. The model also requires us to focus on the abilities rather than the disabilities of the people that we are working with. This means that we must create environments that enable persons with disabilities to function at optimal levels.
To mainstream disability is to incorporate the realities and needs of persons with disabilities at the conceptual stage of any project or initiative. Persons with disabilities should be included as part of project target groups, rather than developing separate programmes. Mainstreaming at a conceptual level entails, for example, making provision for ramps for wheelchair users, investing in voice technology or supplying better lighting to enable sign language interpretation.
An added benefit of a mainstreaming approach is that it is more cost-effective than creating separate programmes for persons with disabilities. Supporting businesses and initiatives that focus on universal and inclusive design, in the manufacturing, infrastructure and technology sectors, for example, is another way of supporting disability mainstreaming.
To what extent is disability mainstreamed in corporate social investment (CSI) programmes and what are some of your recommendations for CSI practitioners?
The most effective way to mainstream disability is to introduce inclusive thinking at the programme design stage. All CSI programmes should be designed to include persons with disabilities as beneficiaries alongside persons without disabilities. For example, programming to improve girls’ access to education should, from the conceptual stage of the programme, provide for girls with disabilities.
For MTN Foundation’s ICT connectivity in schools’ CSI programme, Ukuba Management recommended that the computer labs that the Foundation was setting up be designed for persons with various types of disabilities. The computers would need voice technology and braille keyboards and the labs would need wheelchair-accessible doors, ramps and adjustable desks. In that way everyone would be able to access the labs, rather than having separate specialised rooms for persons with disabilities.
Companies must also ensure that the non- profit organisations and implementing partners that they fund include persons with disabilities as beneficiaries. While not ideal, companies that have not mainstreamed disability from the onset of their CSI programming can do so concurrently to implementation, making adaptations as they go, rather than starting separate programming for persons with disabilities.
What are some of the practical and immediate ways that companies can ensure that their places of work, products and services are accessible to persons with disabilities?
Companies can provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities by adapting the physical work environment: desks, light and sound, personal assistants, adequate pay and healthcare benefits. Companies can also sensitise and run awareness training for all employees, to help create an inclusive work environment.
Longer term, to ensure that inclusive thinking becomes the norm, companies should invest in developing frameworks and toolkits to support disability mainstreaming. Importantly, these documents should be enlivened with follow-through and should be driven at a strategic level.
FirstRand Foundation, for example, adopted disability mainstreaming as a cross-cutting CSI priority in 2009. The toolkits that they have developed are shared with implementing partners as well.
SAFOORA SADEK: Owner and director, Ukuba Management | email@example.com
Source Details: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2019