SG Enable is a government affiliated social agency that aims to enable PWDs across different life stages by providing services and information and really focuses on Singapore as a whole, which makes them a vital stakeholder in terms of gaining a more holistic perspective on inclusivity in Singapore. I decided to attend the ‘Inclusive Business Forum’, a webinar organised by SG Enable regarding disability inclusion in the workplace, in order to gain more insight as to what businesses are doing to create a more inclusive environment, why inclusive hiring is beneficial, and how PWDs can make strong contributions to society.
As the first session of the webinar began, I was already intrigued by the words of the first guest speaker, Ms Jenny Lay-Flurrie, a PWD from Microsoft, about how inclusive hiring is “not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do”. I learnt that the financial results of companies that hired PWDs were significantly better than those that did not, which is a clear indicator that PWDs are able to bring something different to the table. Ms Jenny mentioned that we need to “see disability as a talent pool”, which I think is vital because PWDs may approach things from a different angle that can in-turn almost ‘force’ businesses to think outside the box and ultimately perform successfully. This made me realise that inclusion is not simply about improving the quality of life of an individual or group, but rather has more to do with the entire community or nation because a collective effort to be more inclusive would essentially result in a stronger ecosystem. Furthermore, inclusion is a matter of choice, meaning you can either be inclusive or exclusive, therefore I think it is about whether businesses or people are in the right mindset to take a step forward and bridge the gap between people with and without disabilities.
Of course changing the mindset is not only the most crucial catalyst for change, but also the most challenging aspect to combat. “Mindset and policy change is a big thing”, therefore it is vital to “build momentum” by taking small steps. This idea was highlighted by Ms Gloria Chua, from GovTech, and opened my eyes to the fact that changes in mindset is related to changes in the culture. Therefore, attending workshops, educating oneself on why and how to be inclusive, looking into efforts made by other companies and organizations, or simply just bringing up the idea of inclusive hiring with a manager, are all small actions that can be taken in order to get the ball rolling and I think experimentation is a key aspect that ultimately changes perspectives and attitudes.
The opportunity to undergo a new paradigm shift to make the workplace more inclusive is laid out in front of us right now, especially given the current COVID-19 situation. This was something all the speakers could not stress enough of because technology plays a huge role when it comes to supporting PWDs and can really help an individual maximise their full potential. Remote work not only helps to remove logistical barriers, but also challenges companies to become flexible and adapt to new circumstances, which is crucial for the adaptation to the new norm of inclusive hiring and disability inclusion.
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