Develop, support, promote disability leaders

Tag Archive: inclusion

  1. Gaps

    A river flowing through a gap in two steep cliffsGaps

    By Christina Ryan, DLI CEO


    Organisations striving to improve their disability diversity want to achieve substantive outcomes. Many are now attempting to measure inclusion.


    Unfortunately, inclusion is a highly subjective concept so measuring it is challenging. What exactly might measuring inclusion look like, and how can it be compared to inclusion in other organisations so that benchmarking across industries becomes possible?


    Rather than measure ephemeral concepts, organisations could achieve more tangible outcomes by measuring gaps. Disability diversity is either present or it isn’t. Measuring gaps across a range of key areas will indicate what progress an organisation has made towards inclusion, while also indicating specific areas for improvement.


    Openly identifying

    Most organisations run an annual staff census to gauge workforce sentiment across a range of areas, including whether people identify as disabled. These surveys are usually anonymous which means people can safely share information that they otherwise would not.


    For at least the last decade most of these workforce surveys return results showing a level of people with disability that is around twice that of people who are known as openly disabled in that workplace. In other words, approximately half of the disability workforce in most organisations is not being open about their disability. This gap is a key indicator of inclusion because it points to the level of psychological safety that is, or is not, present.


    Comparing anonymous reporting levels to openly known levels is a key gap to monitor. The target outcome is parity between the two figures.



    How many disabled people apply for jobs with an organisation, compared to how many are recruited? This gap speaks to styles of recruitment, advertising, and interview processes; all of which can be adjusted to be more inclusive. Advertising often includes specific requirements which exclude disabled people, and which are often not necessary for the position concerned. Interview processes are held in inaccessible locations or present barriers which do not necessarily produce the most competent person for the job, for example speed writing exercises or rapid problem solving. Adjusting interview processes to reduce barriers has the potential to increase the numbers of disabled people who get recruited.


    Measuring the numbers of people who declare their disability prior to interview, with the numbers of disabled people who actually get a job is another key gap that can be measured over time. The outcome to achieve is application and recruitment levels equivalent to population density.



    A key workforce diversity building block is diverse leadership. It has long been understood that diverse leadership leads to a more diverse workforce.


    Organisations can measure the levels of diversity in their senior leadership teams and on their boards and work to build greater levels across all diversity cohorts. These levels should reflect the population levels of the various diversity cohorts unless the organisation works in a specific diversity area and then the levels would be expected to be much higher for that diversity cohort. The gap between population levels and leadership levels can be addressed through targeted recruitment and career pathway strategies.


    Another element of monitoring leadership is to understand the presence of disability in the broader workforce and whether that is reflected in the presence of disability within the leadership of that organisation. Is disability present across all levels of the organisation or is it clustered at more junior levels? For example, if an organisation has 5 per cent disability levels in its workforce, are 5 per cent of its leadership also openly disabled people?


    Monitoring gaps can provide substantive measurable indicators of how inclusive an organisation is. Monitoring these gaps over time will also indicate whether an organisation is improving. These indicators are not subjective, rather they are based on specific empirical evidence and can be used across a wide range of organisations and industries.


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    Christina Ryan is the CEO of the Disability Leadership Institute, which provides professional development and support for disability leaders. She identifies as a disabled person.

  2. Be That Leader

    Be that leader

    by Christina Ryan, DLI CEO

    A cluster of coloured pencils standing upright.

    Culture comes from the top, from the very top.

    Leaders intervene when they see something. They change the way work is done in their organisations. It is the leadership of an organisation that makes it an employer of choice.

    Leaders are responsible for generating a culture of inclusion, and for making sure that disabled people can get their work done on the same basis as their colleagues.

    Leaders send a strong message when they:

    insist that only one person speaks at a time in a meeting. Many meetings become a competitive solution sharing festival, with people talking over each other and interrupting when they have something to say. Such meetings are noisy and fast paced. They also exclude many people by confusing captioners, denying interpreters the ability to keep up, and by preventing an ability to focus because there is too much noise. Be the leader who insists that only one person speaks at a time. Use a talking stick to help if your team has fallen into the trap of competitive solution sharing. Diverse teams solve problems faster, but only if all team members get to participate.

    cancel the meeting because not all staff members can participate if there is no auslan interpreter or because the alternative format meeting papers weren’t distributed in time. If members of your team are unable to participate, they are unable to do their job. Make sure everyone is prepared for the meeting and has the mechanisms in place that make it possible to participate alongside their colleagues.

    insist on hearing the opinion of every person in the room. Loud raucous meetings are great environments for extroverts who are not disabled. For everyone else they are stressful and hamper thinking and collaboration. Not everyone finds it easy to loudly interject. By checking in with each team member for their views you are ensuring that everyone is part of the collaborative effort. Why are they on your team if you don’t want to know what they think?

    step in when overhearing ableist language. Employers now have a positive duty to prevent harassment in their workplace. For disabled staff, ableist language is harassment. There are many words about disability that are used widely as insults. Nip it in the bud and make it clear that this language is not welcome in your workplace. If your organisation has a revolving door for disabled staff, it is not unlikely that this is a contributor to their sense of being unwelcome.

    ensure workplace adjustments are in place. As soon as you know adjustments are needed make sure they happen as a high priority on your task list. Don’t ask once and assume it has been done, keep checking until they arrive. A team member without their adjustments in place is a team member who can’t do their job and can’t contribute. Make it clear to the team member that it is your responsibility, not theirs, to get adjustments happening and then take responsibility. Don’t exhaust your team member by questioning what they need. Most employees will know what it takes to set them up for success. Your job is to listen and promptly act on it.

    There are many ways that leaders can contribute to a culture of inclusion, a workplace culture that ensures all of their team are able to work effectively and comfortably. A culture that is safe. These are just some examples.

    When you are this leader the message you send to your team, and to the wider organisation, is that being disabled is part of how we do business here, not an awkward add on or the responsibility of individuals who have less power than you do. If your disabled staff don’t need to speak up about inclusion they can put their energy into their work, rather than wasting their valuable time and energy making your organisation accessible.

    Can you be that leader, or are you waiting for someone else to step in?


    Sign up for regular updates from the Disability Leadership Institute. 

    Christina Ryan is the CEO of the Disability Leadership Institute, which provides professional development and support for disability leaders. She identifies as a disabled person.









  3. Recipients – 2022 National Awards for Disability Leadership


    The Recipients:

    National Awards for Disability Leadership 2022 Recipients

    National Awards for Disability Leadership 2022 Finalists

    Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement

    A woman with dark curly shoulder length hair, wearing a red top and glasses.

    Ace Bonato – is a great leader in facilitating social changes through the peer led Social Change Action Group at Diversity and Disability Alliance where disability rights, breaking the barriers, system advocacy, social inclusion, social model for people with disability, circle of support, especially in CALD communities are upheld and tirelessly pursued to ensure a better life quality for people with disability.

    Rights Activism

    A man with dark hair and wearing a black tshirt and glasses.

    Zac Chu – convened Diet to Save Earth (DTSE) to contribute towards the attainment of UNSDGs 2, 3, 12 and 13. He led the campaign of e-petitioning Australia to sign the Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action, and launched the “Be My Proxy” initiative in the last federal election to ‘enfranchise’ underage Australians. His achievements elevate the status of PWD and inspire youths, in Australia.

    Inclusion (working intersectionally)

    A large group of about 30 disabled people smiling, many are in wheelchairs or using mobility aids, others are standing behind.

    Diversity and Disability Alliance – is a user led organisation, run by and for people with disability from diverse backgrounds. An independent collective voice committed to full inclusion, leading the way by delivering innovative peer led programs in order to create social change at individual, community and societal levels. Peer support is the foundation of DDAlliance – maximising knowledge, skills and expertise of people with disability from CALD backgrounds. Innovative programs thrive: Peers come together for mentoring, facilitator training, ‘Peer Cafes’ in numerous languages, learning hubs, peer led research, Circles of Support, and Communities of Practice. Leading by example to create an inclusive just society.


    8 disabled people in front of a wall with University of Sydney in large letters. A person in the front is using a power wheelchair, others are standing behind him.

    The University of Sydney’s Disability At Work Network (DAWN) Steering Committee – is a staff network at the University of Sydney. The network is led by a voluntary Steering Committee comprised of staff with lived experience of Disability. Their mission is to build community and lead change on Disability issues at the University. In 2022 they pioneered multiple programs and initiatives to build awareness and to improve ease of access at the university.

    Social Impact

    A smiling woman with curly blonde hair, she is wearing a white lacy top.

    Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Russell-Farnham – Through her social enterprise, EmpowerME Enterprises, and her work with Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA), Stevie has become a powerful advocate for women and girls living with disability, especially the often overlooked ‘invisible’ disabilities. Her willingness to share, through her speaking engagements and through social and mainstream media, her personal struggles of living her best life with ‘invisible’ disabilities, is a powerful tool for raising awareness of the disability community. Stevie’s communications are about capacity, not incapacity, challenging many of the myths in our society about disability.

    Change Making

    A woman with shoulder length blond hair and wearing a black top.

    Rebecca ‘Bec’ Hogan – works for the ABC in the Emergency Team who advise and help staff during disasters, she specialises in digital emergency broadcasting on social media and online platforms. Bec is also the deputy chair of the ABC disability employee group ABC Inclusive and leads the group in access matters. Bec has worked hard to ensure that people with disability can access ABC emergency information, including educating staff on access tools, creating specific content for people with disability to prepare for disaster, help design ABC website, ensured access in workflows. organising events. Bec led a massive audit of content which resulted in technology roll outs, opportunities for people with disability, and positive culture shifts.

    Arts – co recipient

    A man with dark hair and glasses wearing a black shirt.

    Duncan Steward – Duncan Steward is the founder and owner of Platinum Cre8ive (an organisation specialising in representation of artists with disabilities in the creative arts sector in Australia and Internationally) Duncan is also the co-creator and organiser of the online International concert WhiteStick Fest.

    Arts – co recipient

    A person with bright red short hair, wearing a coloured top and holding a large bunch of purple and red flowers.

    Julia Rose Bak – has been writing about their experience growing up as a disabled person since 2017 when their first article was published in Overland. Since then, Julia has written articles for Bitch, Archer (online and the Disability print edition), Honi Soit, Refinery29, and more, all of which discuss disability, disability justice, access, ableism, and collective liberation for disabled people.





    National Awards for Disability Leadership 2022 Recipients

    National Awards for Disability Leadership 2022 Finalists