Breaking down employment barriers globally

Tiziana Oliva

Tiziana Oliva, executive director of global influencing and impact, looks at how the Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) programme is addressing the disability employment gap in Kenya and Bangladesh.

This is an exciting, ambitious project with scope to make a big impact in Kenya and Bangladesh. i2i will make positive changes for the individuals involved.

Many people may think that everyone has the same opportunities when it comes to getting a job in 2019. But for people with disabilities in the UK and around the world, discrimination and disadvantages remain rife. This leads to a devastating waste of talent. Not to mention the financial implications for the individuals and their families..

Every 3 December is International Day of People with Disabilities. The theme this year is ‘The Future is Accessible’. To ensure that it is, a lot needs to change. Particularly when it comes to employment opportunities.

Our i2i project

We run a range of programmes around the world to help make employment more accessible. Our newest such venture is our ‘Innovation to Inclusion’ project, or to give it its shortened name, i2i. The programme is funded by UK Aid

As part of this, we’ve been working with a group of expert national and international organisations to address the disability employment gap in Kenya and Bangladesh. Working together, we will improve the skills and confidence of 10,000 people with disabilities. After working with us, we want them to have improved job prospects. And eventually find great employment opportunities. 

Why i2i is needed

Our early research found people with disabilities often lacked the confidence to apply for jobs in the first place. Sometimes because of past experiences of discrimination. These fears are not unfounded. Our investigations showed that some employers were completely unwilling to consider disabled applicants. People also feared future employers would not be accommodating to their disability.  

When starting the project, we knew we would need to equip people with skills and confidence. But we also need to remove the challenges and barriers to inclusive employment that already exist within workplaces.

How i2i will work

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals include the call to provide decent work and economic growth. Projects like i2i do just this. Improve work opportunities for people with disabilities and tackle barriers to inclusion. So how exactly will i2i work?

First off, we will forge valuable relationships with at least 80 companies. Together, we’ll ‘bust the myth’ that making adjustments for disabled employees is expensive or lengthy. We’ll also show how assistive technology can play an essential role in creative inclusive workplaces. As well as providing people with disabilities more opportunities to succeed. 

We’re also going to link up with Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs). i2i will support them to amplify the voice of people with disabilities. For a society to be inclusive, there must be laws to help ensure people are being treated correctly and offered equal opportunities. i2i will work with the 20 DPOs involved in the project to help advocate for better laws.

Working with DPOs

Improving data collection on disability is crucial. We know that right now, there is not a clear picture on disability around the world. So, i2i will work with DPOs to help local governments improve the way they collect information around disability. Equipped with clear cut data, we can then help shape inclusive employment and social protection laws. 

We’ll also be working with DPOs to gather stories and evidence of the challenges faced by people with disabilities when finding work. These stories will be powerful tools when advocating for change. They will also be essential in demonstrating the benefits of meaningful employment. 

We chatted to Nancy Nteere of Action Network Disabled Kenya (ANDY), one of the DPOs we’re working with. ‘I am super confident [in the success of the [project]’ she said. ‘I am 100% sure  it can be done, it just needs good coordination, a good entry point and a good buy in from the private sector!’

Only the start

This is an exciting, ambitious project with scope to make a big impact in Kenya and Bangladesh. i2i will make positive changes for the individuals involved. But it can also benefit family members and the wider community. And, ultimately other people with disabilities in other countries.

 The project is just getting started, so watch this space!