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Championing inclusion this Global Accessibility Awareness Day

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
Championing Inclusion This Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Today (16 May) is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a time to reflect on the inclusion of people living with disability and drive home the importance of creating a workplace that addresses and champions these differences.

One billion people across the world are living with disabilities, with visual, hearing, motor, and cognitive impairments being the most common.

Employers can use GAAD to raise awareness of the challenges faced by workers with disability and reflect on their own policies and procedures.


John La Scala, lead accessibility consultant at Design Confidence (Sydney), commented on the importance of this date and how continued support and awareness are crucial in creating a safe and inclusive workplace for disabled workers, especially in the digital age.

“The importance of Accessibility Day lies in its role of raising awareness about the crucial need for digital access and inclusion. As employers, it provides us with an opportunity to pause and reflect on how we can foster a more inclusive and accommodating workplace environment, benefiting both our employees and consumers. In today’s digital age, where the majority of businesses rely on digital platforms for marketing and sales, it’s imperative to ensure that our digital footprint is accessible to all,” he said.

“We must ask ourselves whether we are adequately addressing the needs and requirements of the over 1 billion people worldwide who live with a disability. This reflection prompts us to consider if our digital platforms are designed to be inclusive and accessible, ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can fully engage with our products and services. By embracing Accessibility Day, we reaffirm our commitment to creating a more equitable and accessible world for all.”

Embracing digital inclusion has become a key concern as some information is only accessible online. Speech pathologist Cathy Basterfield noted working towards more welcoming spaces in the digital world.

“Everyone has the right to the same information and resources as their peers, and the right to access it in a way that works for them,” Basterfield said.

“It means designing for users who can’t navigate two-factor authentication, or who may not understand how to use a one-time access code … If information is to be online, it needs to be accessible.”

The consequences of not providing an accessible workplace can reach further than excluding disabled staff. Legal trouble can arise and tarnish a company’s image.

La Scala said: “From a legal standpoint, failing to provide an accessible workplace can lead to a claim being made at the Australian Human Rights Commission. Australia has introduced the Disability Discrimination Act, which requires businesses to ensure accessibility for employees and customers with disabilities. Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines, penalties, and legal actions, damaging the reputation and financial stability of the organisation.”

“Secondly, not providing accessibility can lead to discrimination against employees with disabilities, resulting in decreased morale, productivity, and retention rates. Employees may feel excluded or marginalised, leading to a negative work environment and higher turnover rates. Additionally, inaccessible workplaces may limit the talent pool available to the organisation, as individuals with disabilities may choose not to work for companies that do not prioritise accessibility.”

Further, these issues perpetuate exclusion and inequality. Nobody wants to have these perceptions associated with their name, and the backlash could be severe.

“In summary, the consequences of not providing an accessible workplace are far-reaching and can have serious implications for legal compliance, employee wellbeing, customer satisfaction, and societal progress. I think it is extremely important for organisations to prioritise accessibility and ensure that their workplaces are inclusive and accommodating for all individuals, regardless of their abilities,” La Scala said.

Hybrid and remote working has blurred the lines of employers’ responsibility. Still, leaders have an obligation to provide a safe and accessible workplace for all workers.

According to La Scala, to ensure a safe and accessible workplace in remote and hybrid settings, employers can:

  1. Invest in digital accessibility.
  2. Implement flexible work policies.
  3. Provide accessibility training.
  4. Foster communication and collaboration.
  5. Offer ergonomic support.
  6. Conduct accessibility assessments.
  7. Establish accessibility policies.
  8. Continuously improve accessibility initiatives.

“By taking these proactive steps, employers can create a safe and accessible workplace for remote and hybrid workers, fostering inclusivity, productivity, and wellbeing for all employees,” he said.



Disability is a persistent condition that limits an employee's capacity to carry out routine tasks. It refers to anything permanent or likely to be permanent, may be chronic or episodic, is attributable to intellectual, mental, or physical impairment, and is likely to require continuous support services.


According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, discrimination occurs when one individual or group of people is regarded less favourably than another because of their origins or certain personality traits. When a regulation or policy is unfairly applied to everyone yet disadvantages some persons due to a shared personal trait, that is also discrimination.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.