Dell partners with Progression to support people with disabilities

24 August 2010 - Dell Computers, a provider of home and business computing solutions, is committed to providing employees with disabilities equal opportunities in the workplace, and with its partnership with Progression, an organisation that provides complete disability equity solutions, it is doing just that.

“Work life commands a series of challenges that most able-bodied people do not even realise. Access to entrances and work materials create burdens that hamper a person with a disability from providing excellent service and enjoying productive, fulfilling careers.

“We at Dell realise this and aim to facilitate an environment for anyone to reach their full potential,” says Rubiena Duarte, Head of Transformation at Dell, South Africa.

Dell has, over the past four years, provided learnerships for more than forty people with disabilities, aiming to retain 20 percent of these learners as permanent staff per year. All learners on Dell’s programme complete Business Administration (NQF4) internships, and are placed in various positions, including in its contact centre, HR, technical support and finance departments. Dell has illustrated that it is possible to successfully integrate learners with disabilities into the workplace and have employed a number of the learners the at the end of their learnerships in various permanent positions throughout the organisation, and continues to do so.

“We aim to contribute positively in every culture and community in which we serve,” says Duarte. “Our bias is towards long-term commitments – projects and initiatives that deliver real value and benefits for every individual that aims to succeed.

“Our belief is that by improving social conditions, business conditions will improve, and communities in South Africa will become more literate, healthier and more connected to the rest of the world.”

Beth Cook, MD at Progression, says that legislation states that “reasonable accommodations” should be made by employers with regard to people with disabilities.

“For example, to accommodate an employee who uses a wheelchair, it would be reasonable to provide them with a workspace on the ground floor, instead of installing a lift.

“The simple addition of a larger computer screen may be all that is required to accommodate someone living with sight impairment. Solutions such as these demonstrate that accommodations for people with disabilities can be simple and cost-effective,” she adds.

Duarte, an avid supporter of equal rights, says a story of particular success is that of a man living with quadriplegia, who was placed on a learnership at Dell. When he began at Dell’s contact centre, he was given a mouth stick to type with, and accommodations were made for him to be able to maneuver in his wheelchair. Dell also accommodated his helper who he brought with him on a daily basis; in order to attend to his personal needs.

“He went on to become one of Dell’s best learners – he became the fastest typist, was the best student of MS Office, and was of great value in Dell’s contact centre,” Duarte says.

In the past Dell has also provided wheelchairs and voice-recognition software in order to accommodate learners living with disabilities.

“Dell embraces the spirit of transformation, and goes the extra mile in accommodating people with disabilities. The learners we have placed at Dell gain valuable knowledge, work-experience and self-confidence, and are easily employable after their learnerships are complete,” says Duarte.

By implementing disability-focused learnerships and employing people with disabilities, employers add real value to their businesses.

“They are able to create a culture of diversity within their organisations, and are able to positively impact their B-BBEE scorecards and consequently their bottom-line. As well as making a difference within their organisations, employers are able to make a real contribution to sustainable social upliftment and economic transformation within the community,” she concludes.

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