#DearFutureBoss - Could your workplace be more inclusive?

Ahead of International Day of People with Disability (3 December), global human services provider APM has today announced the launch of its #DearFutureBoss campaign, to give those with disabilities a voice to future-gaze towards a positive world where workplaces are diverse and inclusive.

The #DearFutureBoss campaign is calling for people with disability, as well as their family, friends, carers, peers and employers, to create and post an open letter describing the future workplaces they want to see, be employed by, or be at the helm of. To help further build the conversation, APM is asking people to share their letters on social media using the tag #DearFutureBoss.

The new campaign comes as APM release the latest of their annual industry report*, the APM Disability Diversity and Inclusivity (DDI) Index of Australian Workplaces 2023. The study found that 58 per cent of Australian workers with disability often feel anxious about disclosing their disability with employers. A further 39 per cent report poor performance at work due to hiding their disability and 30 per cent have experienced negative consequences post-disclosure or when requesting support in the workplace.

Although 82 per cent of businesses want to build a more inclusive workplace environment and 82 per cent say they treat people with disability the same as those without disability, the research has revealed people with disability still face a high amount of prejudice, particularly those with non-visible disabilities.

30-year-old Steve Ralph from Hornsby, New South Wales, suffered a spinal injury accident in 2018. He joined the #DearFutureBoss campaign by penning a letter calling for better universal design in workplaces. “I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to collaboratively work to design and advise on the space and physical requirements that I need to participate equally.

“Universal design throughout workplaces needs to be embraced, as it’s essential to enable everyone to participate in the workplace regardless of ability.”

Ellie Cole, record-breaking 17 Paralympic medal winner and OAM, is leading the charge for the #DearFutureBoss campaign as APM’s official ambassador.

Ellie has submitted her own letter highlighting the importance of Australian workplaces needing to show greater commitment to diversity and accessibility and why workplaces should be a space to provide opportunities and education for others to thrive regardless of their differences.

Ellie Cole, APM Ambassador said: “The #DearFutureBoss campaign is a really great opportunity for people to put their voices down on paper and be really vulnerable and honest about the workplaces they want to see in the not-so-distant future.

“It’s no secret that some hard truths will be publicly revealed via this campaign, specifically around how people with disabilities have been historically treated. As an athlete, I’ve been celebrated for my differences. To hear that so many Aussies are feeling ashamed for who they are or discriminated against - for something they can’t change - really breaks my heart.

“Personally, I’d love to see more people with disability climb the corporate ladder and become leaders. Ultimately, this will help to create some crucial change from the top down. Not only do we see such a huge gap in the employment space for people with disabilities, but if you look into the leadership positions you’ll see that the opportunities just aren’t there.”

The DDI Index found that over half of employers (51 per cent) admit to believing that some workers pretend to have non-visible disabilities to receive extra benefits, 65 per cent admit to wanting proof of diagnosis before providing support and 31 per cent don’t think non-visible disabilities are real disabilities, rather illnesses or health conditions.

Fiona Kalaf, General Manager of Projects at APM said: “The DDI Index aims to amplify the voices of people with disability, particularly when it comes to their experiences in the workplace. Since commencing our DDI Index, APM has seen a number of shifts and improvements, specifically when it comes to awareness of the benefits of hiring people with disability. However, there’s still so much more work to be done.”

To assist businesses to build more inclusive workplaces, APM has created a Disability and Inclusion Guide designed to help business leaders to better understand disability diversity and inclusion and the many benefits it has for individuals, businesses and the broader community.

For more information about APM or the #DearFutureBoss campaign visit apm.net.au/futureboss or follow APM on socials @apm.australia and using #DearFutureBoss.