On 20 September 2016 Progression’s Assessment Centre, Access@Progression, hosted its first ever disability panel event at the Southern Sun Hyde Park. The 4-hour session, presented in a Q&A format, allowed a panel of experts to answer employers’ questions and unpacked best practice approaches to integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. The event was well attended by HR Professionals, Employment Equity Managers, Occupational Therapists and other specialists in the disability field.
Panel speakers included Keshika Naidoo (Occupational Therapist), Justene Smith (Disability Specialist), Donne Lance (Clinical Psychologist), Laurentia Truter (Disability Law Expert) and Tarryn Mason (Event Host and General Manager at Progression). Each speaker brought their own unique knowledge, insight and perspectives to the discussion and were able to talk delegates through the various approaches and considerations when implementing a Disability Employment Equity Strategy.
Delegates were provided with a workshop-style booklet that included a high level model which they could use as a tool to unpack some of the more complex discussions around disability. The panel-style format of the event proved to be a great success with engagement from all delegates.
Tarryn Mason, the host and Progression’s General Manager, comments, “I think that the discussion format is the key when unpacking the practical elements to disability integration into the workplace. While the general questions around disability integration were covered, we also had some very specific scenarios that were put forward. This meant that as well as gaining insight into the broad topic that is disability in the workplace, delegates were able to have specific questions pertaining to their current environments or situations addressed.”
Some of the more generic questions that were answered included: How do we introduce Disability Awareness & Sensitisation into the workplace? When is it appropriate for an organisation to conduct a Disability Disclosure Audit? What process needs to be followed when implementing reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability?
A question that was also top-of-mind for many delegates was whether there is a list of disabilities available that allows for a simpler verification process. “This is a question that we are often asked in our line of work,” says Tarryn. “It needs to be unpacked in accordance with the definition of disability in the workplace in terms of the Employment Equity Act – which does not lend itself to a definitive list of any kind. Although we often categorise disabilities as mental, physical or sensory it is possible for a condition or its symptoms to present itself across multiple categories, and is something that can only be verified by healthcare professionals or occupational therapists. That is why it is important to capacity build managers and HR representatives to develop an understanding of what disability is.”
Other topics that were raised at the event included the need for corporate South Africa to become more involved in drives for inclusive education within South African schools. “Progression’s model encourages companies to extend their inclusive policies and procedures beyond their current workforce and make provision for the integration and up-skilling of individuals at a more grass-roots level,” comments Tarryn.
Progression looks forward to facilitating similar events regularly in the future as a supplement to its Annual Disability Conference. Large companies who want to engage with this type of discussion can work with Progression to host a panel event as part of an in-house awareness campaign or a Disability Employment Equity Strategy.
Click here to watch the Disability Panel Event overview video