Employment for people with disability was firmly on the agenda at the Australian Disability Network IMPACT Conference 2024.

Held in Melbourne on May 9, the event attracted hundreds of representatives from across the disability sector for a packed schedule of seminars as well as an expo featuring various disability services.

A highlight was that every panel of the day included a guest speaker with lived experience, with the focus firmly on giving people with disability a voice and agency in their experiences.

Throughout the day, employers – including the CEOs of some of Australia’s biggest companies – shared stories of how they’re taking action to hire and retain more disabled staff.

Randy Lewis, former senior vice president of supply chain & logistics at United States chain Walgreens, delivered a keynote on how Walgreens had transformed its supply chain by creating an inclusive workplace for people with disability, taking a flexible approach to work and asking staff themselves what they needed to thrive at work. Since changing its strategy, the company had seen increases in positive metrics around retention, teamwork, appreciation and more, he said, adding that most workplace adjustments cost very less.

Another focus of the day was accessibility in all spaces, and what it might take to achieve this.

In a morning keynote, former UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on disability and accessibility, Professor María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, spoke about the relationship between digital accessibility and human rights, and how new technology and software can help people with disability access information in the digital age.

Elsewhere during the day, panellists shared strategies for recruiting and retaining staff with disability, including putting in place specific, measurable policies, and addressing bias within the workplace and its managers.

Also at the conference, the winners of the Australian Disability Network 2024 Disability Confidence Awards were announced.

Coles Group took out the award for Access & Inclusion Index Top Performer 2024.

“We cannot be what we cannot see, and the Disability Confidence Awards show us how we can all play a role in changing attitudes and systems to increase inclusion in the workplace by following the lead of our amazing award winners, nominees and our Access and Inclusion participants,” said Australian Disability Network CEO Corene Strauss.

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