International Day of People with Disability 2021

International Day of People with Disability

Disability Inclusion. Today. Everyday.

International Day of People with Disability

Today is International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD). At Australian Disability Network, we celebrate IDPwD today and every day through the work we do with leading Australian businesses to create a disability confident Australia.

In this special edition of the newsletter, you can see what Australian Disability Network is up to on the day, hear directly from our employees with disability about their passion for the day and see what initiatives and programs you can join to be part of the celebrations – now and in the future.

This year’s UN theme is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.”

And while we acknowledge and celebrate the day – we know that disability inclusion must go beyond this day alone. Australian Disability Network, along with our 350+ member-strong network continue to strive for a better future.

Disability inclusion. Today. Everyday.

#PurpleLightUp – Our Leader to Leader Conversations

On International Day of People with Disability, PurpleSpace celebrate #PurpleLightUp. #PurpleLight up is a global movement that highlights the positive impact employees with disability have on the economy.

For 2021, #PurpleLightUp is encouraging Leader to Leader Conversations – asking Employee Resource Groups and Network Leads to come together with their CEOs to discuss the important role Employee Resource Groups can play in driving positive change in disability inclusion.

In support of #PurpleLightUp and in celebration of International Day of People with Disability, Australian Disability Network’s CEO, Corene Strauss, and our newly launched Disability Employee Network (DEN) Representatives Emma Henningsen and Michele Nealon sat down to chat.

Watch the Australian Disability Network Leader to Leader conversation.

Three women on a virtual meeting smiling and talking.

Find out more about #PurpleLightUp.

What International Day of People with Disability means to me: Michele’s reflection

Guest post by Michele Nealon, Relationship Manager at Australian Disability Network. 

Group picture of five people smiling, and a picture of a woman (michele) in corporate attire smiling.

For me, International Day of People with Disability is an excuse (if we need one) to celebrate the international networks that exist amongst people with disability.

Over the last 10 years or so, while completing a Masters in Philosophy on the Workplace Experiences of Employees with Hearing Impairment, I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to attend conferences and events organised by the International Federation of Hard of Hearing, European Federation of Hard of Hearing, and American Association of Hearing Loss. I’ve visited and engaged with academics and people who are hard of hearing from Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Denmark and Australia, amongst others.

I will certainly be reaching out to these networks to celebrate the goals we have achieved together and separately and most importantly, the comradeship we share.

The Day is also an opportunity to offer support and encouragement to other leaders with disability, striving to contribute in environments where their skills, knowledge and experience is valued and respected.

But disability inclusion is not limited to this one day. Every day, the Australian Disability Network allows me to advocate within our member organisations to increase the accessibility and inclusion of people with disability. That is my passion and that connection to my personal purpose is a very comfortable match. Today and every day, when at work, I embody the motto “Nothing about us, without us”.

The 2021 theme: Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.

All the statistics tell us that people with disability are missing from board tables and leadership positions more generally – it is time for us to be heard, to break through and take our rightful place at the decision-making table. The questions that arise from this theme are…. Do you have a person or persons with disability in leadership positions in your organisation? Have you supported people with disability to take their rightful place in leadership positions? Have you provided people with disability with opportunities to further their education and training in a truly inclusive and accessible environment?

COVID-19 has proven that organisations can be much more flexible than they ever imagined with how people complete their work – let’s not lose that lesson as we head to the post-COVID-19 world as we create  inclusive workplaces for people with disability.

One practical tip to implement in your workplace or personal life

Whatever you do and however you intend to celebrate the International Day of People with Disability, there is one question that should always be asked, “Do you require adjustments/accommodations to participate in this event?”. That question is the starting point to ensuring your event is accessible as possible to all people who may wish to participate.

For myself, outside of work, I’m looking for an opportunity to join or be part of a board or advisory committee and once again, use my experience as a person with disability to benefit other organisations in a leadership capacity.

This International Day of People with Disability, I invite you to look around, and see what leadership opportunities can be offered to people with disability and then take steps towards making that a reality.

People with disability will often surprise you with their skills, knowledge and experience. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader but I know many people with disability, some of whom I call friends, who would make a significant contribution to your environment given an opportunity to do so.

What International Day of People with Disability means to me: Tia’s reflection

Guest Post by Tia Kwan, Programs Coordinator at Australian Disability Network. 

Girl (Tia) smiling, with trees, grass and flowers behind her.

As a person with disability, International Day of People with disability is a reminder for us all of the countless stories of people with disability – of their struggles, successes and barriers encountered in life.

The day is also an opportunity to open up conversations in the community to raise awareness and understanding of people with disability and to celebrate diversity and inclusion.

I’m grateful that while this day exists to raise awareness – the work that I do every day at Australian Disability Network aligns directly with the purpose of IDPwD. Our vision and mission at Australian Disability Network is to create a disability confident Australia, and everyday through the use of our network, platforms and influence in the community we work towards that common goal, paving the way for an equitable future.

COVID-19’s cultural change

This year’s IDPwD UN theme is ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.’ I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on both this theme and the changes we all made over the past two years.

Throughout the pandemic, the way we live and work has changed drastically. While this has provided many opportunities for more accessibility and inclusion – not every single new change is inclusive and accessible for people with disability.

I think we should all take some time to reflect on how we adapt these new changes in our lives and make it work for everyone, so we can truly be equitable. And there’s no better and more inclusive way to achieve this kind of equity than to have people with disability leading and engaging with this cultural change.

But there are small, individual steps we can all take to support this change. In my personal life, I educate myself and people around me about disability inclusion and accessibility. This is a really simple but sometimes overlooked task which comes back to one single question: asking a person with disability if they would like any support or adjustments? And if they do require support or adjustments, ask the person with disability how you can support them.

I always try to ask that question at the beginning of conversations, and not later on as an after-thought, which I think is really important. Those simple questions can show you’re serious about inclusion – and it starts to become a good habit once you ask it enough.

Plus, it’s just a good thing to do – we know that often making things accessible and inclusive for people with disability benefits everyone positively, not only people with disability.

I think one other good habit for inclusion is to remember to not make any assumptions. We don’t know what kind of support or adjustment a person with disability will need. No two people are the same – including two people with the same disability – so it’s all about supporting the person with disability to drive those conversations.

Hear from our CEO on International Day of People with Disability – Corene Strauss

Woman (Corene Strauss) in corporate attire smiling, with her hand up to her chin.

At Australian Disability Network, we’re looking towards a future with a disability confident Australia. That’s our vision, not only today, but every day. Our CEO, Corene Strauss, speaks more on the day and the theme.

“International Day of People with Disability is an important day – because it’s a time when attention is explicitly drawn to people with disability. We can all open our minds to what we can be doing to be more welcoming and inclusive for everyone.

That action in itself is the very foundation of Australian Disability Network. I am extremely proud to be part of Australia’s leading organisation, building confidence in organisations across the country to welcome people with disability. I know that the impact of our work and those of the organisations engaging on this journey is often profound.

The UN’s theme around leadership this year is timely. I think many organisations are doing a terrific job of employing people with a disability, but the job does not stop there. We need to look at more opportunities to build leadership capability across the entire organisation – from the coalface to the Boardroom. We don’t see many people with a disability in the Boardroom, yet one in five people live with a disability. So, what are the unintended barriers preventing this?

I think today is a timely reminder too for leaders to take a moment and ask your employees whether they have all the right adjustments to make their jobs easier. Many employees do not share their disability – and we need to create a safe environment for them to feel comfortable sharing any details around workplace adjustments that might be needed. All it takes is a simple question – ask the person. Without judgement.”

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