Three Steps to Help Change the Conversation around Disability in the Workplace

One in four New Zealanders have access needs (disabilities) and most of those people could be contributing to our economy if we start to change the conversation around disability in the workplace, says equity advocate Genevieve McLachlan. 

“There are simple but highly impactful changes that organisations can make to help change the conversation around disability, and there are many potential benefits of this for both employers and people with access needs. I grew up with Cerebral Palsy and a vision impairment, so I understand the difficulties faced by others,” says Ms McLachlan.

Living a full life and running a successful business that supports people with access needs through assistive technology, Ms McLachlan is calling for organisations to consider three simple actions – and the first one starts at recruitment. 

“It can be as simple as how a role is advertised. Including information around how your organisation welcomes people with access needs is a great first step. Promoting flexible working – or even being open to job-sharing – widens an employer’s applicant pool and appeals to people with differing needs. Another is providing alternate ways for people to apply for roles.”

The second is changing the lens through which you consider an applicant with access needs. 

“I’d advise employers to look at a person for their merits. Try not to make assumptions. Look beyond their disability. For example, the fact that I can’t drive doesn’t limit my professional expertise. This may take some accommodating on behalf of an employer through flexible working options.”

Crucial also is the role of leadership in changing the conversation around disability in the workplace. “There needs to be true leadership support and strong endorsement for better enabling people with access needs in the workplace. This shift, even though we know it will take time, has the potential to empower the 24% of New Zealanders with access needs to meaningfully contribute to our economy.”

Ms McLachlan says while she has seen good changes in her working life, there is still a way to go. 

In the past 10 years, Ms McLachlan has seen an increase in people with access needs contributing to society through assistive technology, increased employment opportunities and more awareness of accessibility in general.

In the next five years, Ms McLachlan would like to see a reduction in the unemployment rate of people with access needs, currently, 42.5% of people with access needs are unemployed compared to 79% of non-disabled: Standard technology is functional & accessible to everyone, including those with access needs: Accessibility becomes the norm, not an afterthought.

Her ideal outcome would be that people with access needs can contribute to society and the economy and have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers.

Ms McLachlan’s overall goal is to set up a subscription-based service to better support people with access needs who struggle to use their technology & the organizations to employ them, with their technology needs.


Further information: 

Genevieve McLachlan – MNZM for Services to People with Disabilities.

Genevieve McLachlan provides expert guidance and training in making technology accessible through specialised solutions.

She was inspired to start her own business after spending many years working in the Disability Sector and realising there was no one agency providing a holistic approach to assessment and training for people with access needs.

Ms McLachlan grew up with Cerebral Palsy and a vision impairment, so she understands the difficulties faced by people with multiple access needs. Recently, she was a TEDx presenter, talking about her personal story of possibility

Ms McLachlan uses assistive technology daily to enable her to run a successful business. 

She’s passionate about accessibility in general and works with businesses and organisations wanting to make sure they’re fully accessible for the 24% of people who live with some form of access need.

Ms McLachlan has won numerous business awards and in 2016 she was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to People with Disabilities.Genevieve McLachlan

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