The Business Case for People with Disability
People with disability have capabilities that make them an untapped source of skills and talent. From an industry perspective, including people with disability in the workforce contributes to higher diversity and creativity and makes a strong business case. In this blog article, Katalis GEDSI Adviser Yulia Immajati calls on more firms in the business community to take bolder steps towards inclusion.
Recent literature about accessibility would tell us there are a lot of sensitivities, if not uncertainty, when speaking to and about people with disability. A large number of institutions have already issued guidelines on their preferred style of communication. What they all agree on is that one should use language that focuses on abilities rather than disabilities.
Rightly so, people with disability do have capabilities that make them an untapped source of skills and talent. From an industry perspective, including them into the workforce contributes to higher diversity and creativity and makes a perfectly sensible business case.
Let’s start by looking into the creative economy of arts.
Classical music is often considered by many as high culture, deriving from a long-standing tradition and along with fine arts, is often referenced as having great value, importance, and significance. Those familiar with classical music would certainly appreciate contributions made by the early 19th century German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven, who despite severe auditory problems (and later hearing loss), went on to write incredible music, including his famous Symphony No. 5.
Dubbed one of the finest artists of our generation, Andrea Bocelli is the world’s most popular living tenor and best-selling artist with a unique blend of opera and pop music. He’s also visibly impaired, having been diagnosed with congenital glaucoma at five months old.
There are many other examples of great artists with disability out there, from American singer-song writer Stevie Wonder to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Closer to the region, emerging contemporary painter Michelle Teear brilliantly celebrates the vibrancy and characters of Australian landscape and people in her paintings, while Indonesian visual artist Hana Alfikih is making a name by visualising her bipolar disorder into contemporary paintings. Sydney’s Studio A or Jakarta’s Dramaturgi Skizoferni are among some great examples of recent pathways towards inclusive creative economy.
Global statistics show an increasing number of people with disability. According to the WHO, there are currently more than one billion people with disability in the world, 20 percent of whom require assistive devices or close personal assistance on a daily basis. Furthermore, the UNICEF notes that one out of 10 children in the world have disability and that they are 49 percent more likely to be out of school. The situation becomes graver when it comes to more vulnerable groups such as women.
In Indonesia, disability prevalence has been sharply increasing since 2009, with more female cases than male in both urban and rural areas (UN 2016). Almost half of people with disability are actively engaged in the labour force. Among them is approximately 2.4 million people living with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), with 500 new cases detected per year, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection.
These figures suggest some priority areas.
Adopting supportive policies and practices across the board. Regardless of the industry, company policies and practices need to provide more inclusive access and resources to support people with disability to perform their tasks. This requires strong commitment from business leaders to translate policies into actionable items. Public–private dialogue on supportive policies would also help.
Creating access and opportunities that are mutually beneficial. With an eye on people with disability as a market segment, there’s a growing call to integrate assistive technology into everyday life, such as on various digital platforms. The availability of affordable high-quality assistive products is a problem for many people with disability, with many assistive devices being imported to meet the demand in Indonesia. Katalis has an interest in identifying opportunities to work with supply chain businesses and Australian and Indonesian governments to improve access to affordable assistive devices.
Increasing the number of teachers and trainers with inclusive education backgrounds. Considering the high unemployment rate and the likeliness of Indonesian children to be out of school, pathways to an inclusive education, both vocational and regular, will lead to a higher quality labour force. From a health perspective, inclusive education is often recommended as fundamental therapy for children with autism. A concerted effort needs to be made to increase the number of teachers and trainers with the capacity to provide an inclusive education with sensitivity towards different needs of girls and boys.
Supporting physical infrastructures. Research shows child-friendly physical infrastructure can be related to high levels of children enrolment, attendance, completion rates and even learning achievements. In addition to closing the gap on teachers and trainers’ skills, it is equally important to ensure the building and upgrading of education facilities for children with disability. The same applies to childcare facilities and nursing houses.