Akshay CM Is Bringing Disability Diversity And Inclusion To The Workplace

The first steps for any company include establishing a clear commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through written policies and communicative values.

Why does disability awareness matter in the workplace?

Disabilities awareness means understanding and recognizing the challenges, experiences, and rights of people with disabilities. It’s about being kind and sensitive to individuals who have different physical, intellectual, sensory, or mental abilities.

By increasing disabilities awareness, we can create a more inclusive society where everyone has equal opportunities, no matter their abilities.

The main goals of disabilities awareness are:

  • Including everyone: Disabilities Awareness wants to make sure that people with disabilities are treated with respect and included in society. This means they should have the same chances as everyone else in things like school, work, transportation, and public places.
  • Fighting stereotypes: People with disabilities often face unfair judgments and misunderstandings. Disabilities Awareness wants to change these wrong ideas and show that disabled individuals are just as capable and valuable as anyone else.
  • Understanding and caring: By learning more about disabilities, we can better understand the difficulties people may face. This helps us be more caring and supportive of those who need help.
  • Standing up for rights: Disabilities awareness involves supporting the rights of people with disabilities. This includes ensuring they have equal opportunities and access to needed services.
  • Celebrating achievements: We should celebrate the accomplishments of disabled individuals in different areas of life. This way, we show that having a disability doesn’t limit someone’s potential.
  • Making things accessible: Accessibility is important in disabilities awareness. It means making places, technology, information, and communication easy for people with disabilities to use.

Disabilities awareness can be promoted through educational campaigns, workshops, and events, and by showing positive portrayals of disabled individuals in the media.

To understand more about issues of bringing awareness and inclusion to the workplace, we sat down to have a chat with Akshay CM, who works as a DEI and Talent Management Consultant.

Who is Akshay CM professionally?

As a talent management professional specializing in Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI), my role is multifaceted and crucial in creating an inclusive work environment. I work closely with my organization, DDB MUDRA, to develop strategies that foster diversity and offer equitable opportunities for all employees.

This involves assessing existing policies and practices to identify areas of improvement, designing training programs for employees to educate them about DEI and its core values, and establishing inclusive recruitment and internship practices.

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I collaborate with top leadership to create initiatives aligned with organizational values and goals, establish metrics to measure progress and develop Employees Resource Groups (ERGs) to provide support and foster a sense of belonging.

Ultimately, my work revolves around creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and cherished.

A significant amount of your work revolves around accessibility issues, how did you become an advocate for it?

As someone with multiple invisible disabilities, I have personally experienced challenges in accessing employment opportunities and fully participating in society. This realization compelled me to become a vocal advocate for accessibility issues.

I embarked on a journey to understand the barriers and limitations faced by individuals with disabilities in various workplaces.

Proactive steps for companies to foster inclusive work environments

Disabilities are of various kinds, there has been a push in corporate spaces to accommodate all kinds of people, what are the first steps a company can do to help its employees?

The first steps for any company include establishing a clear commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through written policies and communicative values. Conducting a thorough accessibility audit of physical spaces, digital platforms, and communication channels is essential.

Providing reasonable accommodations and implementing comprehensive training programs to educate employees about disability etiquette and the need for an inclusive workplace is crucial.

Actively hiring and promoting individuals with disabilities ensures acceptance in the organization. Cultivating an environment of open dialogue and feedback, where employees can express their needs and concerns without fear of retribution, is also important.

Collaboration with disability-led organizations and advocacy groups provides insights and partnerships that support disability inclusion

  • Establishing a clear commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through written policies and communicative values.
  • Conducting a thorough accessibility audit of physical spaces, digital platforms, and communication channels.
  • Providing reasonable accommodations.
  • Implementing comprehensive training programs to educate employees about disability etiquette and the need for an inclusive workplace.
  • Actively hiring and promoting individuals with disabilities.
  • Cultivating an environment of open dialogue and feedback.
  • Collaborating with disability-led organizations and advocacy groups.

Raising awareness and supporting in the workplace

What do invisible disabilities mean, and what can a regular office worker do to help spread awareness?

Invisible disabilities refer to conditions or impairments not immediately apparent to others, such as chronic pain, mental health disorders, and certain neurological conditions.

Regular office workers can help spread awareness by educating themselves about invisible disabilities, fostering an inclusive culture where individuals feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities, and practising inclusivity in communication.

Avoiding assumptions about individuals’ abilities and limitations, offering support to colleagues with invisible disabilities, and respecting their boundaries and preferences regarding support are crucial steps.

Collaborating with leadership and the human resources department to create policies that support individuals with disabilities is also important.

  • Educating themselves about invisible disabilities.
  • Fostering an inclusive culture where individuals feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities.
  • Practising inclusivity in communication.
  • Avoiding assumptions about individuals’ abilities and limitations.
  • Offering support to colleagues with invisible disabilities.
  • Respecting their boundaries and preferences regarding support.
  • By collaborating with leadership and the HR department to create supportive policies.

Promoting accessibility in workplace

Digitization and advancing technology have often evolved from the need born out of disability, yet modern tech is still very much ableist; how can corporates help in this matter?

Corporates can play a vital role in making technology accessible and inclusive for everyone, including those with disabilities.

They can promote accessibility by consulting with people with disabilities during the technology development process, conducting testing with diverse groups, and following accessibility standards.

Investing in inclusive design and regularly updating accessibility features, applications, software, and websites are essential steps to address ableism. Corporations should stay updated with accessibility practices and address any challenges that arise.

  • Consulting with people with disabilities during the technology development process.
  • Conducting testing with diverse groups and following accessibility standards.
  • Investing in inclusive design and regularly updating accessibility features.
  • Addressing challenges and staying updated with accessibility practices.

Gender bias in disability issues

Do you think, even in the space of disability issues, gender biases can seep in?

Yes, even in disability issues, gender biases can manifest in various forms. Disabled women may face stereotypes that diminish their capabilities and opportunities, and they often experience double discrimination based on their gender and disability.

Gender biases can result in additional barriers to accessing employment, promotion, and fair compensation. Representation of disabled women is lacking in decision-making processes and policymaking roles related to disabilities.

Taking an intersectional approach that recognizes various forms of discrimination is crucial. Awareness-raising, amplifying the voices of disabled women, challenging stereotypes, incorporating an intersectional lens in policies and initiatives, and collaborating with women’s rights organizations are essential steps to counter gender biases.

  • Awareness-raising and challenging stereotypes.
  • Incorporating an intersectional lens in policies and initiatives.
  • Amplifying the voices of disabled women.
  • Collaborating with women’s rights organizations.

Empowering students and researchers with disabilities

You have also spoken about the disparity in academia, especially the lack of respect for intellectual labour. What can students/researchers with disabilities do in cases of exploitation and discrimination?

Students/researchers with disabilities can seek support networks within their institutions, such as disability support services and student organizations. Documenting and reporting incidents of discrimination, engaging with sympathetic administrators, familiarizing themselves with institutional policies, and filing external formal complaints are practical steps to address exploitation and discrimination.

External support from organizations specializing in legal advocacy can provide guidance and representation.

Advocating for policy change through peaceful protests and student groups, as well as collaborating with disability advocacy groups, can help address these issues.

  • Seek support networks within their institutions.
  • Document and report incidents of discrimination.
  • Engage with sympathetic administrators.
  • Familiarize themselves with institutional policies.
  • File external formal complaints.
  • Seek external support from legal advocacy organizations.
  • Advocate for policy change and collaborate with disability advocacy groups.

Future of inclusion and diversity

What are your goals for the future as a disability-diversity advocate?

My goals as a disability-diversity advocate include promoting education and awareness about disability issues, influencing policy changes at both national and organizational levels, collaborating with disability organizations and stakeholders, supporting research and innovation, empowering individuals with disabilities to become self-advocates and leaders, and continuously learning and growing.

  • Promoting education and awareness about disability issues.
  • Influencing policy changes at national and organizational levels.
  • Collaborating with disability organizations and stakeholders.
  • Supporting research and innovation.
  • Empowering individuals with disabilities to become self-advocates and leaders.
  • Continuous learning and growth.

Conclusion

What is your message to our readers who want to work in management and concentrate on DEI?

My message to readers interested in working in management and focusing on DEI is to continuously raise awareness about disability issues, strive to influence policy changes, collaborate with relevant organizations, support research and innovation, and empower individuals with disabilities to become self-advocates and leaders.

Education and awareness are crucial, and it’s important to develop educational programs, workshops, and resources to empower people with disabilities. Engaging with disability support services, student organizations, and advocacy groups can provide guidance and resources.

Keep learning and growing in your journey towards promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion.

  • Continuously raise awareness about disability issues.
  • Strive to influence policy changes.
  • Collaborate with relevant organizations.
  • Support research and innovation.
  • Empower individuals with disabilities to become self-advocates and leaders.
  • Engage with disability support services, student organizations, and advocacy groups.
  • Keep learning and growing in the journey towards promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion.

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This interview has been jointly conducted and transcribed with Anushka Thapliyal.

Image source: Created on CanvaPro

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Aritra Paul

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