How businesses are measuring and improving access for disabled people in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

BrendaninKSA

Brendan Roach (back row, centre) and Christopher Watkins (back row, second from right) with the team from the Qaderoon Business and Disability Network in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

By Brendan Roach

As I’ve witnessed first-hand in my travels, there are some good things happening in the Middle East in terms of disability inclusion.

I was in Dubai in November 2017 where the government has launched the Dubai Disability Strategy 2020, which aims to improve the experiences of people with disabilities in relation to a number of key areas including health, education and employment. Similarly, work is underway in Egypt on a three year strategy for the ‘empowerment, integration of disabled persons’[1], while the government of Kuwait is committed to achieving its ‘Vision Towards Persons with Disability’[2] by 2035.

In December 2017, Business Disability Forum’s Disability Trainer Daniel Wiles and I were in Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to continue our now four-year involvement in supporting the development of the ‘Mowaamah’ certification system.

This blog aims to showcase the strides taken in KSA to improve business disability confidence.

Background

Much has been written about ‘Vision for 2030[3]’, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious national transformation programme. The plan contains a range of actions relating to economic development including a commitment to enable ‘people with disabilities to receive the education and job opportunities that will ensure their independence and integration as effective members of society’.

In order to increase opportunities for candidates, employees and customers with disabilities, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) in KSA has established a number of key priorities, including the establishment of a nationwide certification System called Mowaamah.

The framework of the Mowaamah Certification system is based on Business Disability Forum’s Disability Standard[4] and enables an organisation to measure its current level of disability performance across a number of business areas. Over the last four years, we’ve worked with the MLSD, Qaderoon Business Disability Network[5] (KSA), disabled Saudi opinion formers, local disability organisations and a group of leading Saudi companies to develop a version that is relevant to the Saudi context.

BrendaninJeddah

Brendan training auditors in Jeddah

Mowaamah is designed to support organisations through three key stages on the journey toward disability inclusion from Induction to Self-assessment and Audit. On this trip, Dan and I were in Riyadh to train a team of trainers who will be responsible for training the auditors who review a company’s submission and allocate a score based on an assessment of the evidence provided.

Support for Saudi business and emerging good practice

AyaDan

Daniel Wiles (right) listening to Aya Jibreal, Inclusive design and communication consultant at Qaderoon (left) presenting case studies of good practice by leading Saudi employers in December 2017

The system is now live and the first tranche of companies are starting to becoming certified as a ‘supportive work environment for people with disabilities’.

It’s no coincidence that these leading companies are also members of the Qaderoon Business and Disability Network. Qaderoon is a business membership organisation that supports organisations in KSA to become disability-smart.

Since its inception four years ago, Qaderoon has supported its members to improve practice for employees and customers with disabilities and there is now a growing bank of good practice case studies which highlight the progress that is being made in KSA. For example:

  • Amr Khashoggi is Vice President of Human Resources and Group Affairs for Zahid Group, a large industrial conglomerate, and also acts as senior sponsor for all of Zahid’s disability-related activity. Amr is a passionate advocate for disabled employees and takes a hands-on approach to improving the company’s disability performance.
  • Tamer Group (a leading healthcare, prestige products and fast moving consumer goods company) employees Fouad Al Attas, an HR business Partner who manages the company’s disability-related recruitment and retention activity. Fouad’s role includes supporting disabled candidates through the recruitment process, upskilling line managers and managing the company’s workplace adjustments process.
  • Health insurance company Bupa Arabia has developed a ‘Disability Framework’ to enable it to make progress on a number of disability-related priorities including improving the accessibility of the built environment, recruitment, training & induction and employee engagement.

Spending time with Qaderoon’s passionate and talented team and seeing the progress they are making is always a highlight of any trip to KSA and I’m looking forward to the next one in 2018.

 

[1] https://www.madamasr.com/en/2016/12/27/news/society/ministry-announces-3-year-strategy-for-empowerment-integration-of-disabled-persons/

[2]http://www.kw.undp.org/content/kuwait/en/home/operations/projects/human_development/achieving-kuwait-2035-vision-towards-persons-with-disability.html

[3] http://vision2030.gov.sa/en/node/8

[4] http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/disability-standard/

[5] http://www.qaderoon.sa/en/

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