In our first of two panel discussion series on 13 Sep 2019, TomoWork and distinguished panellists cross-examined the pertinent topic of “Creating An Effective Workplace” for persons with disabilities (PWD), facilitated by Jonathan Carl Wong of Bridge+. Inclusion takes a village, involving employers, job-seekers, and supporting disability organisations, among many others.
The hour-long discussion mooted four key points: accessibility and constant communication, aligning organisation ethos with inclusive culture, individual self-advocacy, and overcoming hiring resistance by companies.
Accessibility and constant communication form the bedrock of inclusive workplaces. Samuele Martelli, an architect by training who is now Director of Projects, CapitaLand, highlighted the realities of a diversity of needs. It is imperative that the design perspective of physical spaces is innovative, flexible, and one that constantly reinvents itself from the start. There may be no one-size-fits-all solution, but there is a compelling need to aim for Universal Design, where all members of society regardless of age, agility, or disability can fully co-exist.
Further, organisations are encouraged to align their ethos with inclusive culture through awareness and management. Tapping on technology – consisting of mainstream communication modes (WhatsApp, e-mail, Skype), individual assistive devices (such as screen readers), as well as various mobile apps – allows PWDs to function effectively.
Beyond physical spaces, top-down and bottom-up management are equally if not more vital. For one, employers could redesign recruitment and work processes reasonably while ensuring they hire based on merit and strength. Nadi Chan, Co-Founder of Foreword Coffee that balances a staff ratio of 80% PWDs and 20% non-PWDs, shared that they “constantly check in with them and devise ways to be more efficient at work”. For instance, when they realised that there was a more accessible espresso machine with slightly different button configurations than the one they had, they were unafraid to make the switch because of their people-first emphasis.
In other situations, SPD Senior Employment Support Specialist Patricia Goh suggested that the hard-of-hearing may also benefit from tailored adjustments. Bone-conduction headphones could send vibrations straight to one’s jaw when someone speaks, buttons with lights could get their attention instead of colleagues shouting across the room or throwing things without warning, and a fire alarm in the form of a disco light signal could mean the difference between life and death.
On the individual’s onus, they are encouraged to build confidence by constantly participating, interacting, contributing, being upfront in community, and practicing self-advocacy. Elena Chipalova, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Asia-Pacific, BP, posed the challenge, “Ask yourself what makes you less confident. Remember that all you need are the right skills, attitude, and ability for the job.”
Nonetheless, the majority of PWDs still face much resistance from many companies, as a disabled member of the audience pointed out. How then do they circumvent such obstacles? Elena weighs in that the only relevant worry employers have is that they are afraid they would not know how to accommodate PWDs. However, there is an answer to that – education. With employers keeping abreast of the latest support schemes, programmes, and funding in the sector, and potential employees being open about the reasonable adjustments they need, PWDs can and have been accepted and groomed professionally.
More light will be shed during part two, Hiring and Retaining PWD Talent, of the discussion series on Tuesday, 17 Sep!
Register here for a seat now!
#TomoWork #TomoWorkSG #Diversity #Disability #Inclusion