[Article first published on LinkedIn]
Like in the famous song, last week saw me strolling ‘sous le ciel de Paris’ (under Paris’ sky) to speak at a European conference on disability at work.
This event, organised and hosted by the French Ministry of Justice (Ministère de la Justice), was an opportunity for experts from Canada, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the UK to exchange with guests and staff from the French ministry of Justice on good practices in Europe and beyond.
The French Justice Minister, Nicole Belloubet, opened the conference by reminding the audience that disability is a priority for the [French] government”. She outlined that the French ministry of Justice continues its work to improve inclusion of disabled staff, taking concrete actions such as increasing links with universities to facilitate the transition from higher education to employment. She also mentioned workplace adjustment process, manager and staff training as well as digital accessibility as areas that are being looked at for improvement.
Over the course of two days, we heard about new and innovative steps taken in France around inclusion of disabled people in the workplace. I will write a separate article focusing on the changes to French legislation and French initiatives in the upcoming weeks.
Sir Philip Rutnam, UK Civil Service Disability Champion shared great insight on the work done in the UK, particularly around the Fast Stream program, a graduate leadership development programme and around and around the UK government Disability Confident scheme, which “supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to your workplace”.
Amongst all the good practices shared, we also heard about the quota system in Germany and how there, disabled staff in the public sector elect a representative who can (amongst many other things) attend disabled candidates’ interviews to ensure the process is fair. I very much liked this democratic process!
The conference’s special guest Yazmine Laroche, Deputy Minister, Public Service Accessibility, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, shared exciting news from Canada. Their C-81 Accessibility Act is currently being reviewed by the Canadian Senate. This new piece of legislation, follows a consultation open to all Canadians and looks at areas including :
- built environments;
- information and communication technologies;
- procurement of goods and services;
- delivering programs and services;
- and transportation.
Canada being a federal country, this Act would only apply to organisations under federal responsibility.
I’ve always believed that there is no border when talking about disability (or any other diversity and inclusion topic for that matter). There is much to learn when looking beyond our own country. If proof was needed, not surprisingly, the themes that were mentioned during the conferences mentioned are similar to the ones we hear about in the UK, amongst which were:
- the need for senior leaders to champion the topic;
- issues around career progression and representation of disabled people in senior leadership;
- training of line managers;
- thinking about disability inclusion at the beginning of any discussion to avoid retrofitting.
- access to employment – including transition from education.
In her closing remarks, Yazmine Laroche reminded attendees that although countries will adopt different approaches to disability inclusion, in every part of society including employment, reflecting our own ways and our culture, people with disabilities need to be included every step of the way.
And that for me is the most important message that was shared with all attendees during these two days. Disability is not just a topic that should be discussed on occasion then forgotten for another year. It has to be included in every aspect of a business if we truly want to build an inclusive workplace and society.