We need fewer disabled people in the workplace. But many more with lived experience of disability (Disabled People).

By Phil Turner

Considering the role that I am in, you may think that a statement like “we need fewer disabled people in the workplace” would be a career killer, but only if you don’t understand the social model of disability. What I want is fewer people being disabled in and by their workplace, and instead more Disabled People (people with lived experience of disability) in the workplace.

We achieve this by employing more Disabled People and ensuring that our workplaces remove the barriers that disable them.

The Office of Disability Issues aptly defines disability as –

“The social model of disability specifies that individuals do not have a disability – it lies in society.”

“The experience of disability occurs when people with impairments are excluded from places and activities most of us take for granted. It happens when our infrastructure and systems do not accommodate the diverse abilities and needs of all citizens.”

It then goes on to define Disabled People as –

“People with impairments are disabled if society does not provide an environment that takes their impairments adequately into account. Consequently, they experience barriers preventing their participation in society.”

Hopefully, you can now see where I am going with this.

In my last article (When disabled and neurodiverse people truly belong, everyone benefits), I talked about why NZ workplaces should go beyond becoming more disability and neurodiversity inclusive. Instead, becoming a workplace where disabled and neurodiverse people are a part of the collective “us”. The benefits are tangible, but most importantly, it reflects one of New Zealand’s core values, fairness and equality.

But how do disabled people become a part of “us” when our workplaces are not set up for it?

This is the big question, and we all play a part. We must start by accepting that it is New Zealander’s decisions and attitudes that disable people every day. They are not disabled because of their impairment, but instead because of our collective decisions, some conscious and many unconscious. The workplace is no exception to this.

But the good news is we make decisions every day, and this means that we can start making better decisions right now. You can make decisions today that reduce the barriers that disabled people will face.

Barriers

If we can remove or reduce the number of barriers faced by disabled people, we enable them to show their true potential. Which then encourages us to remove more barriers, leading to even better results.

When preparing to write this, I asked myself – how do you do justice to the many types of barriers that disabled people face in the workplace. The only conclusion I could reach was, I can’t. I could write many articles, and I may, that talk about individual types of barriers, but for this article, some categories deserve special mention.

  • Attitudinal – these are the behaviours, perceptions, and the biggest one – assumptions, that people have and make around the capability and needs of Disabled People.They are often formed with the best of intention (e.g. keeping someone safe) but generally come from a lack of knowledge and stereotypes. In the workplace, this can manifest in ways such as assuming that a disabled person will be a greater health and safety risk (rarely true, and more often actually the opposite) or that they will not be able to do the role as they can’t access the computer (also rarely true).
  • Organisational and systemic – the inclusion of disabled people in the workforce can be problematic as decisions made before they arrive exclude them. The way policies, procedures and/or practices are set up can make the workplace unsuitable, or at least more complicated, before the disabled person even arrives.
  • Architectural and physical – this is the one that most people think about when we talk about accessibility. Where is someone going to park their car? How will they get up the stairs? etc. It is all about the setup of buildings and environments so that everyone can use them.
  • Information or communications – these barriers occur when people don’t understand how to communicate with people with different communication needs. Think about those with sensory impairments, such as hearing loss, sight loss or different cognitive processing. Take some time to learn about accessible document and assistive technology. But most of all, have conversations with people and learn how they want to be communicated with.
  • Technology – when technology is implemented, are the needs of potential future staff considered? The selection of inaccessible technology solutions can lead to users of assistive technology and techniques being excluded, or at the very least being perceived as complicated to employ.

If you want to focus on anything from the outset, focus on attitudinal barriers. Resolving attitudinal barriers and removing the misinformation and assumptions about the capability of disabled people leads to their potential being understood by all. From there, people naturally start to remove the other barriers as they see and understand how they are “one of us”.

In a workplace, it is about culture. Do we have a culture of accepting and supporting a person to be who they are, and to thrive in our environment? There is no magic bullet to change the disability inclusive culture of an organisation. Instead, it requires careful and considered leadership over a period of time that reinforces the organisation’s commitment and belief in disability inclusion.

“We don’t have anyone with a disability in our workplace, so we don’t need to fix anything.”

I have two answers to this common statements like this, I always struggle to pick which one to run with first.

  1. How do you know that? 19% of working-age New Zealanders have a disability. 70% of these disabilities are hidden. Are you still so sure that you don’t have disabled people that are hiding them from you? Are you enabling your whole team to perform at their best?
  2. Nor will you if you don’t change how you approach things – missing out on the great talent and diverse perspectives of disabled people.

Disability smart is good for business and New Zealand

With the New Zealand unemployment rate at 3.9%, and with an underutilised (albeit regularly marginalised) disabled workforce available, doesn’t it make sense to start ripping down the barriers? Only then will Disabled People be able to show their true potential.

The ILO estimates the difference between countries getting this right and those doing nothing is 7% of a country’s GDP. NZ’s GDP in 2021 was $305 billion New Zealand dollars, the difference between doing nothing and getting this right is $21 billion New Zealand dollars.

Conclusion

As New Zealanders, we believe in fairness and equality. It is one of our core values and is at the heart of our being. So why then are the unemployment rates of capable disabled people so high? I can tell you it’s not because of a lack of potential, it’s because right throughout our society we don’t make the right decisions that empower them to realise it.

What decision are you and your organisation going to make today that starts to change that?

2022 Disability Inclusive Pathways Conference

Disability Inclusive Pathways Conference

When: Thursday 11th and Friday 12th August 2022
Venue: Novotel Rotorua – Lake End, Tutanekai Street, Rotorua

Building on the success of our innaugural conference last year, we are working hard on our conference for 2022. For more information, see the Disability Inclusive Pathways Conference website.

Register your interest: To register your interest, please e-mail events@accessibilitytick.nz and we will let you know information as it becomes available.

Disability Inclusive Pathways Conference 2021 – Photo Gallery

NZDEN 2022 Meeting #2 – Monday 23 May

About

The second NZ Disability Employers’ Network meeting for this year will be on Monday 23rd May, from 10:00am – 12:00pm.

Delivered over Zoom Video Conferencing.

We look forward to seeing those who are able to attend and enjoy some face-to-face networking with other members.

Our guest speakers for the May NZDEN meeting are:

  • Sarah Mitchell – Head of Employment and Youth Transition, Blind Low Vision NZ
    Achieving positive work outcomes for Blind and Low Vision youth.
  • Maria Stevens – Accessible Formats Manager, Blind Low Vision NZ
    Maria will join Phil for a chat about how we can make our communications more accessible.

We look forward to engaging with you all along with this great lineup of speakers.

Agenda

Registration

An email confirmation and Zoom link will be shared with members via email upon registration. If you do not receive the email within 5 minutes, please check your junk mail/spam. If you have difficulties registering, please email info@accessibilitytick.nz.

NZDEN 2022 Meeting #1 – Monday 14 March

About

Our first NZ Disability Employers’ Network meeting for this year will be held via
Zoom Video Conference on Monday 14th March from 1pm – 3pm

Our guest speakers are:-

  • Linda Holmes – Community and Corporate Partnerships Manager at National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
    Linda has been working with organisations to become more hearing aware and be inclusive of Deaf and hard of hearing employees.  She will be speaking about Deaf and HoH in the workplace and how your organisation can start their journey to become a Hearing Accredited Workplace.
  • Anja Hajdarevic – Disabled Persons Assembly NZ (DPA)
    Anja will share a little about the DPA’s employment initiative, Mahi Tika to help us gain an insight into the work they are undertaking to increase opportunities for some of the most marginalised disabled people.

We look forward to engaging with you all along with this great lineup of speakers.

A Zoom link will be shared with members via email upon registration. If you do not receive the email within 5 minutes, please check your junk mail/spam. If you have difficulties registering, please email info@accessibilitytick.nz.

Agenda

Registration

Christmas Shopping with Disability Social Enterprises

Inspired by the disability social enterprise market Air New Zealand organised for their staff the past two years. They have kindly shared this list of disability enterprises – and we have added some extras that we have been made aware of. Please consider supporting if you are looking for gift inspiration this Christmas, or anytime that you want to give a gift that has real meaning.


Two young men sit at a table which displays a range of wooden Christmas trees which are decorated. They have their arm around each others shoulders, and they are smiling.

Matt and Tom – Eco Christmas Trees

Matt and Tom are twins with Down Syndrome who love Christmas. They have a small range of Christmas themed and gift products, including:

  • Small and large wood Christmas trees
  • Felt star decorations
  • Loc-blocks

A close up shot of a jar with a black label and white text reading Our Harvest - Growing Goodness Together. Guava Jelly. Spray Free, Made by Moxie.

Our Harvest – Sauces, Jams and Jelly

Treat your taste buds with delicious Our Harvest preserves. Our Harvest products are grown, harvested and made with love by Recreate‘s Our Harvest team.


A woman holding two bags of coffee and a man sitting in a chair beside her. They are smiling.

Drink My Coffee

Drink My Coffee is a social enterprise to create employment opportunities for disabled New Zealanders. We are doing this by creating jobs for people to manufacture and distribute premium coffee and enabling people with disabilities to be self-employed, selling the coffee.

Find your local distributor on the order page to support them with their own business.


Family standing hand in hand on the beach. The sun is setting behind them. The parents wear blue tshirts reading I Love My Autistic Child and I Support Someone with Autism. A young girl wears a red tshirt that reads I Support Someone with Autism. The yound boy wears a black tshirt that reads Keep Calm I Have Autism I'm just Being Myself

Chambers & Co – T-shirts and Weighted Blankets

Chambers & Co are devoted to creating a community of compassion and inclusion for all of those touched by Autism Spectrum Disorder. Their distinct apparel has been designed to raise public awareness of the day-to-day challenges that living with Autism brings.


Purple logo of Downlights New Zealand
Row of five smiling people wearing grey Downlights t-shirts. The female in the middle is holding a candle.

Downlights – Soy Candles, Christmas Decorations and Cards

Downlights is a New Zealand-owned and operated fragranced soy candle company that manufactures luxury candles using artisanal techniques. Their candles are lovingly hand-poured and the entire manufacturing process supports the development of a variety of workplace skills and offers employment opportunities for young adults with Down Syndrome and intellectual or learning disabilities.


Will & Able eco-products

New Zealand’s only range of eco-friendly cleaning products creating jobs for Kiwi’s with disabilities.

Good products that are good for our planet.

  • Quality products
  • Environmental Choice NZ certified
  • Bottles made from 100% recycled NZ milk bottles so no more virgin plastics

On the left is a pink circle with the letters ML in the centre. Across the initials are the words Moments with Love also in pink.
Beside the logo a picture of two woman sitting together looking at a gift box. The woman on the left is in a wheelchair. There are candles on the table in front of them and a range of gifts line the shelves in the background.

Moments with Love – Disability Social Enterprise Gift Boxes

Moments with Love creates high-quality gift boxes with a twist. Our mission is to provide you with an experience that will bring joy and create treasured memories as you enjoy a moment of love of your own.  

Each box is carefully curated to feature something to wear, something to do, and something delicious to eat & drink. Many of them include incredible body and bath products & handmade items crafted by our family. Their boxes also feature products from companies supporting people with disabilities. They have partnered with leading kiwi social enterprise companies supporting people with disabilities to bring you the highest quality of award-winning products.

Note: Moments with Love is busy updating their new website. If there aren’t any products on the pages, check back in a few days.

You can also check out their physical store in 4 Palm Court, Silverdale, Auckland (Google Maps)


On the left the logo for Bradley's K9 Munchies in white red and black inside a dog bone shape. On the right. Bradley holds a tray of freshly baked dog treats. He is smiling.

Bradley’s K9 Munchies – Dog Treats

Bradley’s K9 Munchies is a Southland-owned and operated dog treat company that bakes tasty goods for good dogs. Our treats are baked with love and hand-cut. And the entire manufacturing process offers employment opportunities for young adults with access needs and learning disabilities.


Left Olivers Doggie Treats logo on a beige background with a white paw print centre top. Right is Oliver placing a tray of dog bone shaped treats into the oven to bake.

Oliver’s Doggie Treats – Dog Treats

Oliver’s Doggie Treats are delicious, healthy, hand-made dog biscuits by Oliver, a dog-loving boy with Down Syndrome from Auckland who lives life to the fullest!


Illustration of characters from the Awesome Superheros book. The characters are poised in a forest/

The Awesome Superheroes – The Bank Robbery – Book

Laetitia Tan is a teenage author with Down Syndrome. She wrote this book with the support of her Speech and Language Therapist. Laetitia hopes to inspire you to use your imagination and tell your story – it does not matter that it is not perfect, so long as you are happy with it.


Three Christmas trees made from driftwood, adorned with Christmas lights. They are positioned on top of a larger piece of driftwood.

Fishwood Design – Artist

Creating art with nature! Hand crafted driftwood sculptures to hang in the garden, bach or home. Especially perfect for those who love the sea!


Left is the logo Art + Soul in turquoise. Right is a piece of artwork of houses in bright primary colours with a blue frame.

Art+Soul

A small business based in Milford, on Auckland’s North Shore with the purpose of bridging the gap for young adults living with disabilities. They are very maverick in their approach to enable their member’s successes and life choices. They aim to achieve this in a safe, respectful, and stimulating environment where all abilities and levels of capability should be considered and catered for.

Products include arts, crafts, soaps and body products, handmade greeting cards, and more.


Three handmade Christmas cards arranged on a table. They are made from various folded papers and feature designs of a Christmas tree, a star and a Christmas stocking.

Bellcraft Cards

Lia is a Hibiscus Coast mum who lives with Cerebral Palsy and chronic pain. As a result, her mobility has decreased a great deal over the last few years and relies on a wheelchair for mobility. Her current self-propelled wheelchair is a huge help but it is limiting. She would love to be able to join her family on the beach again, rather than spectating from the grass. Lia has set a goal to fundraise for an Omeo hands-free, all-terrain wheelchair.

Lia has made these beautiful cards with off-cuts from various paper merchants and is selling these through her Facebook page to fundraise for her new wheelchair.


A tray of freshly made dark chocolate bars
Row of Organic Wildness Chocolate varieties including Dark Chocolate, Dark Chocolate with Acai, Dark Chocolate with Cupuaca and Coconut, Dark Chocolate with Cupuaca and Cashews, 57% Cocoa Dark Chocolate with Walnuts, Dark Chocolate with Vietnamese Mango, Dark Chocolate with Bee Pollen from Nelson and Pure 57% Cocoa Dark Chocolate.

Wildness Chocolate

Wildness is a Social Enterprise in Wellington, New Zealand and Singapore. We harness the passion, skills and energy of exceptional Singaporeans with special needs at APSN CFA (Association for Persons with Special Needs Centre for Adults) and in the Rimutaka prison in New Zealand.

Packed with eco-friendly zero-waste materials, our delicious organic chocolates are handmade using only the finest ingredients and environmentally sustainable methods.


Young man is working on a piece of art. He is looking at the canvas and his paint brush as he applies the paint.

Yaniv Janson – Contemporary Fine Artist

Yaniv is a young New Zealand artist from the small coastal town of Raglan. His work centres on his great passion for environmental and social issues and this has been reflected in his artworks.

Living with both epilepsy and autism, Yaniv doesn’t let either dictate who he is. He began painting 13 years ago and creates the work from home, enjoying the freedom of determining his own schedule. He can choose when, where and what to paint and loves that it is something that people all over the world can enjoy.

Being awarded over 18 awards, participating in more than 40 exhibitions and having sold in excess of 180 paintings, Yaniv is far from finished.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities – Double Header

Friday 3rd December 2021

Join us for this special double-header virtual event Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities, hosted by KPMG followed by the final NZDEN meeting for 2021


Celebrating International of Persons with Disabilities – Hosted by KPMG

Join us to hear –

Insights from Digital Accessibility Research our network participated in, featuring:

  • Patrick Kouwenhoven, Country Manager for Infosys

Disability System Transformation / Accessibility Legislation Discussion Panel featuring:

  • Paula Tesoriero MNZM, Disability Rights Commissioner
  • Anne Hawker ONZM, from the Ministry of Social Development, and lead on the all-of-government Enable Me Network

What: Celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities
Date: Friday 3rd December 2021
Time: 1
2:00pm – 1:00pm
Location: Online video conference (via Microsoft Teams)

Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities hosted by KPMG 
Friday 3rd December 2021, 12-1pm.
Followed by the final NZDEN meeting for 2021, 1-2.30pm
For more information: www.accessibilitytick.nz/events

Video conferencing link will be shared via email with those who register.

Agenda:

Time Items
12:00pm KPMG update and Accessibility Tick update
12:10pm Infosys Digital Accessibility Report launch
12:20pm Panel: Disability System Transformation and Accessibility Legislation
  • Anne Hawker, ONZM Principal Disability Advisor
  • Paula Tesoriero, MNZM, Disability Rights Commissioner
  • Selwyn Cook, Disability Empowerment, NZ Local Hero of the Year 2016
12:45pm Panelists Q&A
12:55pm Close and thank you
1:00pm Finish


NZ Disability Employers’ Network (NZDEN) Meeting –
Friday 3rd December 2021

Our final NZ Disability Employers’ Network meeting for the year

Immediately following the above event, we will be holding the final NZDEN meeting for the year, via Zoom Video Conference from 1:15 – 2:30pm.

We welcome Dan Buckingham, CEO Attitude Pictures as guest speaker to talk about the value of disability stories.

We will also be recapping the key messages from our many speakers throughout the year.

Video conferencing links will be shared via email with those who register.

If you wish to attend but have not received the link, please email info@accessibilitytick.nz.

Agenda:

TimeItems
1:15pmWelcome / Introductions
1:30pmInterview with Dan Buckingham, CEO Attitude Pictures
Interviewer: Phil Turner
2.00pmYear in Review
A look at the year that has been, with recaps about the key messages from each of guests.
2.30pmMeeting Closed

NZ Disability Employers’ Network (NZDEN) Meeting – Thursday 30th September 2021

Our September NZ Disability Employers’ Network meeting will be held via
Zoom Video Conference on Thursday 30th September from 10am – noon

Full agenda now available –

Our guest speakers are –

  • Nathaniel (Nat) Janke-Gilman, Meridian Energy
    Sharing some of the fantastic work happening at Meridian and how he created buy-in for disability inclusion from their Senior Leadership Team.
  • Stew Sexton, AbilityDis
    Stew has equipped many of our members accessibility champions/H&S professionals with the practical skills and knowledge to better understand their sites access barriers. Hear about one of our most popular trainings, ‘Accessibility Chamoion Training – The Physical Environment and other ways you can increase your organisations physical accessibility’

We are looking forward to engaging with you all along with this great line up of speakers.

Zoom link will be shared with members over email. If you wish to attend but have not received the link, please email info@accessibilitytick.nz.

NZDEN Disability Inclusive Pathways Conference 2021 – photo gallery