Intensified advocacy crucial to enhancing development contributions of Alumni with disabilities

#InclusionMatters - International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Post-Award survey reveals intensified advocacy crucial to enhancing development contributions of Alumni with disabilities

The 2015 Post Award Disability Inclusion Survey has shown that in order for Alumni with disabilities to contribute effectively to development in their countries, concerted advocacy efforts including engaging with partner governments, sensitising workplaces on disability inclusive policies and training Alumni with disabilities on their rights, are critical.

Survey respondents comprised of 13 Scholarships alumni (female-5; male-8) and nine Short Course Awards (SCA) alumni (female-3; male-6) with disability that had completed their awards in 2014.

The survey seeks to determine the experiences that scholarship Alumni with permanent disability have during the implementation of their Work Plan on Return (WPR) projects after returning from studies, and to ascertain whether accessibility is a barrier to attainment of these reintegration objectives.

While more than half of the alumni have implemented their WPR to “some extent”, only 30% have “fully implemented” their WPR. Some of the major hindrances to implementing their WPR include: lack of employer support; the absence of supportive disability inclusion policies and practice at the workplace; and Alumni not feeling empowered enough to advocate for change in their organisation.

Lack of employer support

Alumni felt support from employers through the provision of assistive devices and barrier-free access would facilitate WPR implementation. “There is no disability inclusion or any similar programme in my workplace. I strive harder to overcome my deficits,” remarked a respondent. To overcome this, some alumni felt that sensitisation and capacitybuilding for senior management would be the best way to create an inclusive workplace environment. “At first, no one was interested in disability inclusion, but after the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities was invited to facilitate a discussion with management on inclusion, all those present now appreciate social inclusion as a concept, hence the creation of a budget line on disability”, an Alumnus responded.

The absence of government-supportive disability inclusion policies in the workplace

Though the perception of the quality of disability inclusion and access at the workplace depends on one’s disability type and access requirements, Alumni felt there was a need to lobby for mandatory workplace policies on inclusion that would formally address institutional barriers. “My workplace does not have a proactive approach to disability inclusion. Disability inclusion is practically discretionary in spite of it being law, and advocacy is mostly received with significant resistance”, remarked a respondent. Another respondent remarked, “The Disability Bill (legislation) is awaiting approval at Parliament, so currently no law exists to facilitate the establishment of disability inclusion programmes [at work].”

Alumni not feeling empowered enough to advocate for change in their organisation

Few alumni facing workplace barriers are able to advocate for better accessibility at the workplace; some even fearing a loss of employment. However, a few of the respondents who indicated that they had approached their employers, say workplace access improved after they had this discussion. “Before the improvement I used the staircase to walk to a lift that transported me to my office on the 10th floor, but now there is a lift available directly from the ground floor,” explained a respondent. To bolster their ability to advocate for accessible working environments for effective WPR implementation, Alumni suggested developing their skills collectively through disability rights advocacy training which could also be extended to all alumni working in the disability sector.

These survey findings will continue to be useful towards reinforcing the commitment Australia Awards in Africa has to promote inclusive development policies and practices by all alumni.

Communities and [workplaces] that include everyone become stronger and everyone wins (J. Imbody)

Will you advocate for an inclusive environment at your workplace and community? Click here to share your ideas on inclusion in the workplace on the Africa Connect Gender Network and Social Inclusion group on Facebook.

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