Five Considerations for Building a Disability Awareness Strategy
November 01 2016 By Justene Smith
Continuing from the article What is Disability Awareness & why is it important? Justene Smith, Disability Specialist at Progression, unpacks some important considerations for organisations when building an effective Disability Awareness Strategy.
1. What does my organisation want to achieve?
Disability awareness can be implemented for many purposes depending on the desired outcomes of the organisation. Disability awareness can focus on sharing basic information about disability, it could be used to capacity-build managers to better understand disability and manage this in a more proactive and effective way going forward and to implement their own awareness in the future, or it could assist in preparing a workplace in anticipation of a Disability Disclosure Audit.
Setting clear and concise outcomes that talk to all areas of the business is very important. In addition, companies need to be mindful of the culture and attitudes within the business during the strategy development phase. Communication around disability will only be as effective as the methods used to deliver the awareness. Depending on the company's communication tools, delivery could include workshops with staff, digital awareness animations, posters and brochures, questionnaires, or industrial theatre, to name a few.
2. Ensure consistency and continuity, keeping Disability top of mind
As with any communication strategy, consistency and continuity are key to ensuring that the message is not only delivered, but remembered and actioned. The same goes for disability awareness in the workplace. Very often organisations will focus on running awareness workshops as a once-off occurrence; while this is a good introduction to disability, the message is often forgotten soon after and people revert to their ingrained habits or behaviours. Instead, organisations need to build an awareness strategy that focuses on constant and consistent communication with their workforce, while at the same time ensuring that they are developing an ongoing strategy for management to keep this ball rolling.
3. Develop and manage tools to support the process
Considering that disability is part of normal human experience, it makes sense that an organisation should have tools in place that support an inclusive and accessible workplace. Disability must therefore be incorporated into all personnel planning and management with a 'business as usual' approach. Practical issues such as policies and procedures within the organisation need to be considered, as well as a chain of communication for questions pertaining to disability. Helplines, disability desks or forums, as well as sound and inclusive policies that make provision for disability and which are clearly communicated and accessible for all employees, are all means of ensuring that it's not just 'talk, talk, talk.
4. Leverage off existing awareness days
There are a number of recognised days, weeks and sometimes months linked to disability and the various conditions recognised as a disability. For example, National Disability Rights Awareness Month (3 Nov to 3 Dec) and Casual Day, which generally falls on the first Friday of September, are both recognised and celebrated in South Africa. Linking disability awareness to these national or international awareness drives can be a good platform for driving awareness within an organisation, helping to solidify the message within the company. Companies need to build processes into their disability awareness strategies that facilitate regular discussion and communication campaigns around disability.
5. Working with a third party consultant
By utilising specialists, an organisation can leverage expert knowledge and experience. In addition, specialists provide an objective third-party that employees can engage with. This can help to maintain trust and ensure that people feel that they have a 'safe' space to disclose their questions and concerns. Lastly, specialists are able to advise an organisation on the best way forward in managing the outcomes of the awareness campaigns.
A well-planned strategy is the cornerstone to successful, sustained disability awareness campaigns within an organisation. Ongoing, consistent communication should be its primary function, keeping disability top of mind.