Inclusion benefits us all

Today is International Day of People with Disabilities, and today is the perfect time to celebrate how far the journey has come. From physical access and accessibility to the even bigger challenges we now face — which is the inclusion of People with Disabilities in all roles, from entry-level to all the way up.

As a professional with a disability, I have learned over time that inclusion does not end upon the initial onboarding and it does not end in the first year. Inclusion is something that must last throughout the journey of employees with all abilities. As I have progressed in each role, I have learned that there are more things needed for me to fulfill that more senior role in order to feel inclusive.

For one, traveling practices. Most organizations will only support the funding for paying the employee to travel. I require my Personal Support Worker (PSW) to accompany me and raised this with the Bank. Though funding for a PSW to travel hadn’t been considered in the past, the suggestion was appreciated and approved, allowing me to do my job as a leader as I started gaining a global presence.

Secondly, there were instances where meeting times would change last minute, and it would conflict with the time that I needed to meet my PSW. Now you would think that my historic career has built me the confidence and awareness to be able to ask for things. But you know what? Even I felt that I shouldn’t bother everyone else to book meetings around my schedule because I have a disability. I eventually gained the confidence to start asking for meeting times to change. I would be clear and respond that “I cannot meet at this time due to my support obligations that I need.” At first, I was afraid, but then something interesting happened. My peers that were also caregivers for family reached out to me and thanked me. When meeting times changed last minute, they also struggled in adjusting to support their children. I learned the valuable lesson, that when you ask for inclusivity for yourself, you are also helping others.

I believe that inclusion has to fit in the role. Only until recently have People with Disabilities been able to successfully go to university and then get a job. Naturally (not that I am forgiving it), roles are always based around able-bodied people or those that don’t have other obligations or complexities to worry about. It has not only been a challenge for people with disabilities, but also with gender. In the past, the workplace was built to support the men who came into work, while women were relegated as the caregivers — that has completely changed. Inclusion must follow the role of the person that is diverse, in my case, my accessibility needs.

Recently, someone interviewed me and asked, “How would you describe your perfect inclusive environment?” I responded that I cannot visualize what perfect could look like, in the meantime I would describe an environment that is safe enough for me to speak up and fast in responding.

Think about the things that are limiting you because of your unique circumstances. What’s stopping you from lending a voice? It doesn’t only help yourself, it helps others too. Inclusion benefits us all.

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I have Cerebral Palsy…But it doesn't have me! Passionate about leadership agility to lead modern organizations in continual change.

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Dave Dame

Dave Dame

I have Cerebral Palsy…But it doesn't have me! Passionate about leadership agility to lead modern organizations in continual change.

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