The below is a guest post from Sally Aurisch, General Manager of Projects and Engagement at Blind Citizens Australia.
‘Diversity’, ‘disability friendly’, ‘inclusive’ – these are all terms so freely thrown about these days, but what do they actually look like in reality? And how do they play out in practice?
My name is Sally Aurisch and I work for Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) who are a peak disability body, representing the needs and interests of people who are blind or vision impaired across Australia. People just like me.
We strive to meet these objectives, not just on paper but in every aspect of our operation every day.
The team of 17 is led by CEO Emma Bennison who is blind. Emma moved into the role over three years ago and since her arrival has focussed her efforts on strengthening the organisation’s team, leadership and profile. Of the staff, 75% of us identify as having a disability – a ratio that far outweighs many organisations. The ratio remains similar at both leadership and non-leadership levels.
The organisation is governed by a board of directors who all have lived experience of blindness and vision impairment, with experience in community services, accounting, HR and education.
Our strong disability-led organisation ensures that it strives for best practice in all that it does. From implementing remote working opportunities over two years ago to ensure staff were sourced based on suitability, not location to customising an accessible phone system that can be used by staff anywhere and building a customised membership database that ensures all staff have access to a system that is accessible and functional. That was a large project that I had the pleasure of working on, in conjunction with some wonderful champions at KPMG, and you’d be surprised at how inaccessible so many out of the box CRM’s are!
Our organisation recognises that there is a strong need to increase the employment opportunities available to people who are blind or vision impaired. While Disability Employment Services go some of the way to addressing this need, there are still strong misconceptions and perceptions that result in people who are blind or vision impaired having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
It is for this reason that we created the ‘Eye to the Future’ project, funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency’s Information, Linkages and Capacity Building grants program.
I head up this project, along with a fabulous team, and we have sought to change those misconceptions about the ability of people who are blind or vision impaired to undertake sustainable, meaningful employment of all types.
We have filmed four ‘day in the work life’ videos showcasing the careers of four people who are blind or vision impaired and providing an insight into their daily lives, particularly how accessible technology allows the completion of so many of their tasks.
We also created a series of paid internships, where candidates who are blind or vision impaired were matched with employers to undertake a 6-month internship program.
The project will soon culminate in a series of ‘you can’t ask that’ style workshops where HR business partners, diversity and inclusion managers and anyone else with the ability to influence hiring decisions will be invited to come along to a webinar, meet the stars of the ‘day in the working life’ video’s, as well as staff from BCA and discuss the topic of people who are blind or vision impaired in the workforce; no question or topic will be off limits during these sessions.
You can learn more about this project, and watch the videos via a site specifically created for this project, www.eyetothefuture.com.au
About the expert
Sally Aurisch is the General Manager of Projects and Engagement at Blind Citizens Australia and is also vision impaired herself. She has over 15 years’ experience working in the community and not for profit sector and has developed a love for creating and overseeing projects that focus on engaging people with each other and their communities.
Sally is currently completing a Bachelor of Social Science (Organisation Management) at the University of New England, where she also works as a Peer Assisted Study Session Leader.
Outside of work, Sally helps coordinate her local ‘Stingrays’ program; an adapted version of Nippers that aims to teach surf awareness skills to kids and teens with disability.
For more information about Blind Citizens Australia, please visit www.bca.org.au
Image description: A young woman with light brown hair in a white dress smiles against a backdrop of red bricks and a window.