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Employing disabled people – the business case

Employing disabled people – the business case

Auckland City and the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Trust invite businesses to attend a special lunch on 4 March to hear two highly respected speakers, Margherita Coppolino and Ann Sherry, talk about the business benefits of employing disabled people.

EEO Trust Chief Executive, Philippa Reed, says that employers cannot afford to neglect the skills and energy of any group of people.

“One in five people living in New Zealand has a disability but many of them are currently not able to reach their full potential in employment. Ms Coppolino has a great deal of experience in working with employers so they can better utilise this latent talent pool,” says Ms Reed.

Margherita Coppolino is one of Australia’s best-known and most influential disability and diversity consultants. She has a strong commercial acumen and frames disability and diversity issues in a commercial context. Since 1993, Ms Coppolino has consulted on a wide range of disability and diversity projects to companies such as AMP, Westpac, Australia Post and Ansett Australia.

Ann Sherry is the Chief Executive Officer of Westpac New Zealand and Group Executive of Westpac New Zealand and the Pacific. In 2003, Ms Sherry was awarded a Centenary Medal by the Australian Government for her work on providing bank services to disadvantaged communities. In 2004, she was awarded an Order of Australia for her contribution to the Australian community through the promotion of corporate management policies and practices that embrace gender equity, social justice and work and family partnerships.

Ms Coppolino encourages people responsible for employment decisions to hear about the experiences of organisations which successfully employ disabled people.

“This is an opportunity to explore the value disabled people can bring to the workforce. Many businesses don’t realise the benefits they can accrue by successfully employing people with disabilities,” she says.

A recent survey undertaken by the EEO Trust found that disabled people feel the attitudes of employers, managers and staff are the main barrier they face in the workforce.

“Businesses need to realise that a change in attitude may make a huge difference to their organisation. The challenge is set for them to expand their labour force through employing people they might not have considered in the past,” says Ms Coppolino.

It is local government’s role to help remove barriers faced by disabled people. Auckland City is known for its lead role in this area.

In July 2003, Auckland City adopted The Auckland Disability Framework for Action to provide direction on how the council can enable and encourage disabled people’s contribution and participation in the city.

The framework’s key actions include: improving disabled access to facilities, events and activities making information more accessible involving disabled people in Auckland City projects and decision making.

Since early 2001, Auckland City has been working closely with a group of people who represent the disabled community and sector. Auckland City’s Disability Issues Advisory Group has input into council policy and planning and the design of council facilities and the city’s open spaces. Members of the group have also been involved in disability awareness training for council staff.

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