How to be a Disability Confident Organisation
10 February 2014 at 10:46 am
Becoming a disability confident organisation means embracing inclusion, writes Disability Employment Australia CEO Lynette May.
Do you understand how people with disability relate to your business as potential and existing employees, as customers, suppliers or stakeholders? 
If you don’t, then it is likely that you may be unwittingly excluding part of the community from either participating in or receiving goods or services from your organisation.
As community sector organisations, working at our optimum, we should be creating organisations that reflect the community we live and operate within. This grassroots attitude to inclusion is powerful, although, from experience, can be challenging for the smaller organisations to implement.
Becoming a disability confident organisation means creating a culture of inclusion, and removing barriers for people with disability. This usually means adjusting your processes and/or services to enable all individuals to contribute as employees, customers or stakeholders.
Most of us are resource and time poor, so creating positive change in manageable chunks is an ideal way to reach the end goal without becoming overwhelmed before you leave the starting block.
A good place to start, and a great way to acknowledge your current good practices, is to identify where you are already doing a great job. From there, you can prioritise areas for improvement – based on importance, or availability of resources.
Disability can be acquired, or gradually impact on a person’s ability to do their job over time.
Therefore, another reason to prioritise disability awareness in your organisation is an understanding that your current employees’ requirements may change over time.
Remember too that disability is diverse, and is not always visible. For example, a service user, a customer, stakeholder or employee does not have to disclose their disability – which may be a hearing impairment or a mental health condition.
Four steps to becoming a disability confident community sector organisation
1. Audit the services you provide in the community
Start by working out what you are already doing well. Which aspects of the services you deliver are inclusive and accessible to all members of the community – especially customers and stakeholders? You can examine a service offering as a group of processes, you might be doing well in some, and not so well in others.
‘Audit’ doesn’t need to be a scary word. It can be as simple as taking time out in a staff meeting, or assigning the task to a project team, and brainstorming. Make sure you look at things from different angles – take a new perspective.
If you already have people with disability accessing some of your services, consider forming a reference group to help identify barriers people with disability may face when interacting with your organisation. If you don’t, approach a local group that represents people with disability and ask for their advice or assistance.
If you’re moving to a new building or renovating, consider what you can do to make your building more accessible. An accessible toilet or an alternative to stairs can make all the difference in welcoming the community into your space.
2. Ensure your workforce reflects the community you operate in
An important part of auditing your existing level of disability confidence is to examine your recruitment and HR processes. Your workforce should reflect the community you service.
You will find that employing people with disability immediately makes your services more accessible to people with disability. Not only are staff more comfortable, but changes you make to your processes or physical space can make your organisation more welcoming – for example, tactile aids to assist access for people with vision impairment.
3. Improve disability confidence at every level of your organisation
To be truly inclusive, every department or function in your organisation needs to be disability confident – from the front desk to accounts, and everyone in between. This even includes your board.
The best way to ensure confidence at every level of your organisation is to integrate disability confidence training into your workplace. This could take the form of professional development, or team building.
Formally integrating your commitment to inclusion into your organisation’s vision, mission and values is a good way to make sure everyone is on the same page and heading in the same direction.
4. Talk to your local Disability Employment Services provider
A great place to start is by having a conversation with a local Disability Employment Service (DES). They can either provide or link you to services to assist your organisation along the journey to becoming more disability confident.
Getting the support you need
Disability Employment Australia is able to offer advice, assistance and potentially tailor training to your organisation’s needs. This is a good first ‘port of call’ if you’re not sure how to get started.
Government funded organisations that assist people with disability into employment, and provide workforce solutions to employers.
Job Access is a government funded organisation. Their advisors can provide disability awareness training for organisations already employing people with disability, as well as link employers and employees to other relevant services.
AND offers various disability awareness training options at member and non-member rates.
NDRC is a government funded program that partners with large employers to create employment outcomes for people with disability. They run free ‘Getting to Yes’ seminars that provide information on how to diversify your workforce, and why. You don’t need to be a large organisation to attend.
Arts Access Australia offers face-to-face and online disability awareness to arts and cultural organisations.
Mental Health First Aid courses can give you and your staff a greater understanding of mental illness and how people with mental illness can be supported in the workplace and the wider community.
About the Author: Lynette May is the CEO of Disability Employment Australia – the peak organisation representing the Federal Government’s Disability Employment Services.