We have already made the argument that the inclusion of persons with disabilities is to make sure that everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires.
In essence, we are advocating including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability. This involves more than simply encouraging them; it means making sure that adequate policies and practices are in effect in a community or organization, in line with the aspirations of Goal No. 11 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 – Sustainable Cities and Communities. Inclusion in the Workplace:
Inclusion in the workplace should lead to greater diversity, not just in terms of background and ability but also in terms of a diversity of ideas and opinions, which in turn will lead to greater dynamism within the organization. An inclusive workplace will enhance its ability to approach its mandate in terms of targets with fresh and thinking and flexibility; it will enable the organization to navigate current and emerging trends, as well as maximize the opportunities of the 21st century marketplace with a greater assurance of success.
But what does an inclusive workplace look like – from the point of view of a person with disability? And what is the role of co-workers in sustaining that inclusivity?
An inclusive workplace is a working environment that values the individual and group differences within its work force, and makes diverse employees feel valued, welcome, integrated and included in the workforce instead of feeling isolated because of their background or physical challenge.
This inclusivity begins with the installation of disability-friendly structures in and around the office premises such as staircases, elevators and escalators, as well as ergonomic seats and writing tables, etc. Conveniences must also be within easy reach of persons with disability, and easy to use.
In the wake of the recent signing into law of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019 by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, the question remains as to how many of our workplaces are equipped with disability-friendly facilities and amenities? Sadly, the answer is that this requirement is still a novel idea, as novel (in the minds of many in this society) as the notion that a person with a disability is a person, period. The provision of these facilities and amenities is not a favour or a sop to persons with disabilities, but a fundamental human right. For the avoidance of doubt, the Act generally reaffirms the equal status that persons with disabilities enjoy with persons without disabilities under the laws of the land and proceeds to create mandatory provisions for preserving that equality and ensuring that they benefit from a level playing field as far as is possible. With the rights of persons with disability being reinforced in this way, any form of discrimination against them is strictly prohibited and attracts sanctions under the Act.
Our NGO, Empathy-Driven Women International Initiative (EDWIIN), Nigeria’s No. 1 advocates for the rights and welfare of persons (especially women) with disabilities, and an that has empowered many of them with life-changing tools with highly impactful activities, has been at the forefront of the campaign for the domestication of various international protocols and conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities by the Nigerian authorities. Now that Nigeria has done the needful in passing this important but overdue legislation, we dare say that the real work of actualizing its aims has just begun. The work of enforcement to induce compliance on the part of employers, co-workers, clients and others, and the implementation of measures (such as education, public enlightenment and sensitization) is one that should concern all stakeholders. On our part, we stand ready and willing to partner with government (both at national and sub-national levels).
We bring to the table of inclusion our long-standing experience and expertise in communications (especially in the provision of first-rate media content), education and especially training of personnel (both able-bodied and the physically challenged, as well as persons with mental and developmental challenges) on the modalities and issues around inclusion. Co-workers of persons with disabilities are a special target of our advocacy and training, as they have an important role to play in giving PWDs a sense of belonging and a feeling of value and worth.
We aim to help create a 21st workplace that is reflective of every stratum of society, a space where every person – whatever their background – is given a fair chance to prove their intrinsic worth, to reach for their full potential, and to contribute their quota to the goals of the organization, to the community and to humanity in general. Our aim is a workplace free of tokenism, patronizing attitudes, resentment or discrimination on the basis of disability – a workplace where no one is (or made to feel) left out.