Over the next two weeks we will publish our article which was penned for the Irish Institute of Training & Development TD Magazine. It really is great to see such influential organisations such as the IITD recognising and promoting the contribution people with disabilities make to Irish businesses.
There are 1.3 billion people in the world living with a disability. This is the largest minority group on the planet. In the Republic of Ireland there are well over 640,000 people living with a disability, representing the largest minority group in this country.
Putting these figures into context, in Ireland 1 person in 7 has a recognised disability. When shopping in your local supermarket, working in your socially distanced office, queuing for coffee or delivering training, you are almost certainly always within speaking distance with someone who has a disability.
Having worked as a Disability Awareness specialist since 2008, I have been fortunate enough to work with many progressive organisations who demonstrated a genuine interest in engaging prospective employees with disabilities. Regardless of the level of good will on behalf of these employers, too often their willingness to offer opportunity was frustrated by the widespread lack of disability awareness in Irish workplaces. This lack of awareness often results in misconception, miscommunication, misinformation and inevitably further marginalisation.
The unfortunate reality is that people with disabilities in Ireland lack significant employment opportunities when compared to their non-disabled peers. Research indicates that people with disabilities are less than half as likely to be in employment. According to the statistical institution of the European Union - Eurostat, analysis from a 2019 survey indicated that people with disabilities in Ireland have the highest chance of living in poverty and social exclusion in Western Europe. In fact, we ranked 5th highest out of 31 European countries surveyed for levels of poverty and social exclusion, ahead of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Romania and Hungary, to name a few.
It seems almost paradoxical that in a country which was almost at full employment prior to the pandemic, our largest minority group had a steadily increasing chance of underemployment, living in poverty and suffering from social exclusion. There is a significant Disability Awareness gap in Ireland at present and directly linked to this is a disability knowledge gap.
Addressing this disability knowledge gap is vital if we are to provide true social and economic inclusion for over 640,000 people in Ireland. As professionals who specialise in identifying ways for organisations to evolve and develop, those working in Learning & Development can greatly influence how businesses choose to address the disability knowledge gap.
This must start with a companywide awareness of disability. So, how can L&D specialists ensure greater awareness of disability? Through education, and most deliberately through disability awareness training.
Disability awareness training aims to educate participants around core aspects of disability and disability related issues, with the objective of creating a greater level of knowledge and confidence when engaging work colleagues, customers and service users with disabilities. Training of this kind has rarely been seen as a core aspect of organisational development in Ireland. But as we progress slowly towards greater recognition of the importance of disability inclusion in Irish workplaces, combined with steadily increasing numbers of people living with a disability, disability awareness training is now being considered not just as a module in Diversity & Inclusion training but as an important standalone training programme.
The Learning & Development profession has a pivotal role in ensuring senior management commit to creating greater awareness of disability. As the drivers of key development programmes and initiatives, ensuring that disability awareness training is part of the L&D strategy will result in an organisational shift in attitude towards disability. This is not only a positive shift, but a shift which will result in a host of proven economic, cultural and social benefits, which include:
* Increased innovation
* Improved shareholder value
* Improved market share
* Increased productivity
* Enhanced reputation
* Increased talent pipeline
Disability awareness training must be cross departmental, leveraging interest from all areas of the business including senior management, human resources, IT, talent acquisition teams as well as general employees at all levels of the business.
Part 2 will be published next week.
If you are considering Disability Awareness Training for yourself, your colleagues or your organisation as a whole, please get in touch on (01) 699 1150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (01) 699 1150.