UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities: One colleague’s experience
- Posted on December 3, 2019
- Estimated reading time 6 minutes
International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) falls on the 3rd of December each year, with the aim of promoting the participation and empowerment of people with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.
We are marking IDPD because at Avanade we’re committed to cultivating an environment where everyone can do their best work and bring their whole self to work. We care for our employees and value what each individual has to offer to an inclusive workplace. Avanade recognizes that diverse teams and an inclusive workplace are critical to innovation and sustainable growth.
Our colleague Junaid Raja, a Senior Consultant in the U.K., has decided to share his personal story to help increase awareness of people living with, and thriving despite, their disabilities. Junaid lives with a hearing impairment caused by tinnitus, a variable loud noise in the ear which can vary any time of day. We asked Junaid some questions, and here is his story:
When it comes to the workplace, what’s your experience been at Avanade as an employee with a disability?
Absolutely unimaginable. It feels so unreal that a company such as Avanade exists in the real world where people with disabilities can unleash their talent with the feeling of truly belonging just like everyone else, the feeling of being cared for, included and valued for what they can bring to the table irrespective of disability or any other differences. I have worked with all types and levels of analysts, consultants, managers, directors and Avanade has such an amazing culture where you never feel that your disability is perceived as a hurdle. My knowledge and my talent are what counts, not my disability.
At what point did you share with Human Resources, your manager and colleagues about your hearing impairment?
I was open about it right from the beginning of my first phone interview with Avanade. The recruitment team was amazing and helpful, discussing with HR what adjustments could be provided to support me in the process. At Avanade, I feel so grateful to have this huge family that I know I can turn to anytime I need help. It also encourages me to give back more to the team and do as much as I can for them.
What would your advice be to anyone affected by a hearing impairment or any other disability or long-term condition to have a supportive team and fulfilling career?
Trust your talent more than your disability. Go for a company and colleagues that will be always available for you and a fabulous HR team such as at Avanade.
I still remember the conversation after my first project with my then project manager, sitting after work hours and his words were “trust your ability more than your disability.” It makes a real difference to have a colleague, most important of all a manager, who believes in you.
Speaking about society and workplace experiences, do you still see issues within the workplace?
There will always be issues; however, it’s important we understand that educating people regarding these issues helps us understand people and their disabilities better. Especially with smaller companies, there is a lack of training due to financial constraints and this is where problems often arise. Many of us may not know this, but in the UK for example, there are grants to help companies to obtain equipment (and beyond) for people with disabilities such as the government scheme Access to Work. We should all be united and working towards a disability-friendly workplace and fostering workplace cultures in which people living with impairments or health conditions feel more confident to be open about what they need at work. This will enable them to do their best work and have a fulfilling career.
In your view, what barriers are preventing some people with disabilities from excelling?
In some organisations the human aspect of disability is overlooked, which can make people with disabilities question themselves and their value. It could even make someone feel like a burden. I personally agree with the social model of disability, i.e. people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. This model helps us to recognise the barriers we need to remove in order to empower people with disabilities, both in the workplace and in wider society. Negative attitudes based on stereotypes or prejudice can prevent people with disabilities from having equal opportunities. The day everyone treats people with disabilities equitably is the day when we will no longer need to talk about disability.
Do you see society moving in a positive direction when it comes to disability?
Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a change in the positive direction, but there is still yet a long way to go. We need to support disabilities of all kinds, visible and invisible, inside and outside of work. At the most people just need support to raise their confidence and it only requires a little amount of effort from us. We can all become allies and advocates to support colleagues with disabilities.
From your perspective, what are some actions that others can take to help foster inclusive behaviours and attitudes, both in and out of the workplace? What do you wish others could be educated on that might help?
Foremost of all, it’s the support that is available at work that is a key enabler; understandably there are some disabilities that may require specialist support and for those we should be engaging with specialist charities who have worked over countless number of years with such disabilities to support businesses on their disability confidence journey. We need to stop defining a person by their disability and start being creative and ambitious with them. We need to treat people with disabilities the same as everyone else, so they can feel motivated and involved in everything inside and outside of work, which will allow them time to build their identity and sense of self-worth.
How can technology and innovation make our world more accessible to all?
Innovation in technology is the one thing that has assisted in making people with disabilities feel integrated in society and in the workplace. I have always trusted that technology will advance with time. Over the years I have been following the advancements in hearing aids, and today I wear hearing aids that allow me to attend meetings without having an extra pair of headphones. They are made for iPhone and I love it when I go all mute on the train!
Do you have a call to action for those reading this?
Yes, I encourage everyone to join the conversation around disability. Take International Day of People with Disabilities as an opportunity to learn more about disabilities and how you can better support friends, family, colleagues and clients with disabilities. Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility.