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The Disability Inclusion and Integration Seminar is the result of an impactful partnership between Old Mutual, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Transformation Integrated Africa (TIA), a specialist employment equity, transformation and diversity consultancy.
The aims of the partnership include raising awareness of disability inclusion as a critical business imperative and sharing valuable research, information and practical guidelines to overcome misunderstandings, solve specific challenges and increase representation and integration of persons with disabilities in the workplace.
The event was supported by business leaders and representatives from the South African Board of People Practices, corporates, Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA), and disability interest groups.
Benjamin Norman, Old Mutual’s Head of Transformation, pointed out that 15% of people are living with disabilities, according to the World Health Organisation. “Given that such a large proportion of our population are persons with disabilities, it is alarming that disability continues to be so misunderstood. By addressing this lack of awareness and sensitivity we can combat the difficulties and hardships experienced by persons with disabilities.”
TIA’s CEO, Trevonica Naidu, echoed these sentiments and said: “Issues relating to reasonable accommodation, the correct definition of disability, workplace sensitisation, encouraging disclosure, as well as eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities remain serious concerns.”
In his presentation, Advocate Bokankatla Joseph Malatji, Commissioner at the SAHRC, explained its challenging mandate to promote and protect the human rights of persons with disabilities, and provide education and training on those rights.
“Today is an important day for human rights,” he said. “The research and studies conducted by the TIA over the last 18 months and the guidelines, standards and toolkits they have now made available provide us with a wealth of information and insights previously lacking in this important arena of employment equity. We are delighted to make this material freely available to use and download on our website www.sahrc.org.za in the disability focus area section under Publications.”
The sharing of the latest research and toolkits was facilitated by the TIA and law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH). Smaiksha Singh, Director: Employment Law at CDH, also presented legislative guidelines and highlighted the need for employers to know their moral and legal obligations.
Singh said that issues relating to “dignity” and how people are treated have serious legal implications for employers. She encouraged employers to invest in the education of their people on disability risks and good practices as soon as possible.
Clarence Nethengwe, Managing Director of Old Mutual’s Mass and Foundation Cluster, said: “As a responsible business committed to conducting business in an ethical and socially responsible manner, it is important for us to help make a material impact on this human rights issue.
“By actively addressing two of the key focus areas recently agreed upon between our business and the Economic Development Department - employment and empowerment - we are pleased to demonstrate our commitment to the creation of a fair and equal society. Old Mutual aims to lead by example and we look forward to enabling even more positive futures for all.“