Employment Equity – Workplace Disability
We all know that disability is important, but students with disabilities struggle to source opportunities whilst corporate South Africa experiences challenges in sourcing suitably qualified staff. In an attempt to address this, The Durban Regional Office of Siyakha Consulting hosted diversity drive to create more than just awareness
“Everyone knows there is a problem with regards to the employment of graduates with disabilities as well as the mindset around disability, but little is being done to change these statistics and mindsets,” says Dionne Kerr, Executive Director of Siyakha Consulting. “This was our ultimate aim with this event.”
“We have worked with organisations to drive the issues of transformation for more than 10 years. Events like this follow our approach to motivate graduates to apply for work opportunities after their studies, show the commitment of Siyakha Consulting to the employment of individuals with disabilities, and change the mindset around disability so that it may be seen as a form of diversity in South Africa,” she adds.
Andrew Layman, the CEO of the Durban Chamber of Business, was the guest speaker. He spoke passionately about diversity in South Africa and how people have conceptualised it.
His speech challenged graduates with disabilities to see themselves as contributing members of society and highlighted the need for business to see ‘corporate responsibility as an investment and not a responsibility’.
Layman spoke from the heart about the need for us to commit ourselves to South Africa’s transformation goals and to realise that the next trend in business will start to remove the traditional thinking of a ‘group think’ culture. “There is the opportunity and responsibility for business to create an environment that is rich with diversity. Let this be the culture,” he says.
Presheila Ismail, a civil technologist, spoke to graduates about her experience of disability and stressed that adversity does not mean the end of the road for people with disabilities. Ismail lost both her legs when she was thrown from a train when she was eight. She used this opportunity to show students how she never let her disability hinder her success.
Ismail’s straightforward, clear cut and highly inspirational talk focused on the imperfections of all humans. The clear message was that all of us have disabilities, but that some are more visible than others. “Just because the body is disabled, it doesn’t mean that the mind is,” she said. Ismail advocated a change in students’ mindsets and urging them to be more proactive in their career search.
“To run with your career, you don’t need to be able to walk,” she stressed.
Musa Zulu, renowned artist, poet and writer and Creative Director of Thisability newspaper, inspired the students and graduates with some of his poems most notably ‘I’m Possible’, which focused on eliminating the word ‘impossible’ from ones vocabulary which will enable people to break down barriers and reach new heights through a change in attitude. Zulu captivated the audience with a few of his life experiences and inspired students to not merely accept their disability, but to embrace it and celebrate it with others.
Nevil Balakrishna, Disability Coordinator of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s disability unit, facilitated the event. “Siyakha Consulting represents individuals with hands up – ready to be counted, instead of hands out – waiting for someone else’s gratuity,” he said. The University of KwaZulu-Natal remains committed to working with people with disabilities. “I want to express my sincere appreciationto Siyakha for working with us to achieve these goals. This was the best attended disability event at the university to date.”
Corporates who embrace people with disabilities including Accenture and PGA Architects attended the event, whilst RL Daly and Smith and Nephew sent through presentations.