DEI
Global HR Insights

What is SG Enable? Tools for Building a More Equitable Working Environment in Singapore

16 February 2024

12 min read

Kelsey Breton
Kelsey Breton

Diversity is a key driver of innovation, and is particularly important (and impactful) when it comes to leadership positions. 

When we think of diversity initiatives, organizations tend to focus on factors such as race or gender, but often fail to consider ability. 

Persons with disabilities (PWDs)  often face difficulty in getting jobs, let alone reaching a position of power. However, the Singapore government has set a target of increasing the PWD employment rate by 40% by 2030. To reach this target, 10,000 more PWDs require employment, as it stands at 31% as of now. 

Agencies like SG Enable are helping the government reach that target by providing education and employment opportunities to PWDs.

In this article, we will take a closer look at SG Enable, and strategies for creating an equitable working environment. 

What is SG Enable?

Based in Singapore, SG Enable is an organization dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities. They offer various support services, addressing aspects like education, employment, healthcare, and social inclusion. The focus extends to those facing physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory development challenges, with conditions involving total or partial loss of bodily functions. 

The agency, with all its efforts, focuses on creating an inclusive environment, helping people with disabilities to engage in society and actively lead fulfilling lives. Even when we are yet to reach the set employment targets, SG Enable has seen considerable growth in job opportunities for PWDs in growth sectors such as logistics, healthcare, IT, banking, and the public sector. It aims to take the numbers up from here to break the notion that PWDs can only thrive in the F&B and Hospitality sectors. 

SG enable

What are the Services Offered by SG Enable?

SG Enable helps PWDs become independent, confident, and financially secure by providing the following support services: 

  • Employment opportunities: the agency excels at connecting PWDs with relevant skills and qualifications with employers 
  • Disability professionals network: the network helps disability professionals learn more about development in policies, practices, and trends in disability 
  • Consultancy services: the agency helps organizations enable disability inclusion, allowing them to serve consumers with disabilities better 
  • Training services: SG Enable puts enough effort into training individuals with disabilities to help them thrive in their personal and professional development  
  • Financial assistance: the agency provides financial support to PWDs and their families using government grants and schemes
  • Accessibility support: SG Enable recognizes the importance of providing accessible support to ensure PWDs thrive in society without hassle. 

Complications Faced by PWDs to Get a Job in Singapore

Research has shown that of the resident persons with disabilities in Singapore in the age group 15 to 64, 31.4% were employed, 3% were unemployed, and 65.7% were outside the labor force

As we can see from the current status of PWDs, it’s time we make a collective effort to change the percentage of people outside the labor force. But before that, let’s understand the complications faced by PWDs to get a job in Singapore: 

Limited accessibility 

When buildings lack ramps or elevators, it becomes difficult for PWDs to access workplaces or attend job interviews. Transportation hurdles add to the challenge, as inadequate public transportation or lack of private options can make commuting to work difficult. 

Moreover, the requirement for technology in many jobs becomes an additional barrier. If tools and platforms are not designed with accessibility, PWDs may find it challenging to perform essential tasks. 

Prejudice and stereotypes

Employers and colleagues often underestimate the skills and potential of PWDs based on pre-existing stereotypes. Employers might hold unconscious biases that PWDs are incapable, leading to discriminatory hiring practices, such as overlooking qualified candidates with disabilities.

Even if PWDs end up getting employment, they can be subject to hostile work environments that stem from prejudice towards disabilities. They might be excluded from important decisions, social events, or decision-making processes. Such a negative work culture often pushes them to leave the organization. 

Limited job opportunities

People, including PWDs, have a belief that disabilities limit the availability of job options. However, there have been plenty of instances where PWDs have thrived in different sectors, such as technology. 

For example, Mr. Joshua Tseng, who is blind, works as an accessibility consultant with Etch Empathy, an NPO. He looks into and deals with accessibility issues of software like apps and websites. This further helps people with different disabilities access crucial platforms like banking apps more easily. 

Such instances are explicit depictions that limiting job opportunities due to disabilities is a big issue hindering the growth of PWDs globally. 

Lack of inclusive policies

Companies often lack inclusive policies that consider the unique needs and abilities of PWDs. Sometimes, PWDs need help to apply for a job as online application processes are incompatible with assistive technologies. If they get a job, they deal with the absence of flexible work options such as remote work, hybrid setup, or adjusted schedules. 

In fact, employees and managers may not receive adequate training on creating an inclusive work environment. PWDs need to receive dedicated attention and instructions per their requirements to feel more valued and welcomed in the organization. 

Educational barriers

PWDs may need help getting specific educational assistance, like sign language interpreters, note-takers, or adaptive technology. For individuals with visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments, ensuring materials and resources are available in accessible formats becomes vital.

Without this accessibility, their learning and academic success are significantly hindered. Moreover, PWDs often experience restricted opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, internships, and vocational training programs. This limitation hampers their ability to develop practical skills essential for the job market.

Communication barriers 

Many workplaces rely heavily on digital communication tools such as email, messaging apps, and collaborative platforms. PWDs may encounter obstacles if these tools are not designed with accessibility features, such as screen readers, magnification options, or compatibility with assistive technologies. 

Financial barriers

Many PWDs require assistive technology or equipment to perform their job duties. These technologies remain costlier, making it difficult for organizations to acquire and maintain them. 

From the perspective of PWDs, they might need help affording the training programs and educational opportunities required to get into specific sectors. 

Legal and policy gaps

Despite anti-discrimination laws in place, PWD may still face discriminatory practices during recruitment and hiring processes. Some employers may also not provide reasonable accommodations, as the law requires, to enable PWDs to perform their job tasks effectively. 

Moreover, enforcement of disability-related employment laws and policies may be insufficient, leading to a lack of accountability for non-compliance.

wellbeing champions

Advantages of Employing Persons with Disabilities

Employing persons with disabilities can do wonders for your organization. Here are some significant advantages you will experience: 

Innovation and creativity

When employing persons with disabilities, you open your organization to some out-of-the-box ideas. They can bring unique perspectives and problem-solving skills to the workplace. You’ll be surprised to see the innovative ideas that stem from the minds of those who have gone through terrible misery. 

Take Nicholas Huchet, for example, a French Drum player whose right hand was amputated. He then built his own myoelectric prosthesis in a lab using a 3-D printer. Surprisingly enough, the design of his prosthesis cost him only 200 € when the market cost was between 35000-45000€. 

Huchet then moved further to head an association. He started a project to develop affordable myoelectric prostheses and let people participate in the process to help them find the best possible solution for their disability. 

Access to untapped skills

Studies have shown that autistic people excel at paying attention to details, completing tasks efficiently, and showing great dedication to their work. Despite having these traits, a minimal number of autistic people are employed. 

That’s just one example of the potential we miss out on when neglecting people with PWDs. As people that live in a world that may not be fully accessible to their needs, PWD often possess excellent problem solving skills with an innovative approach and a focus on adaptability. 

Increased productivity

Many leaders in the technology arena are putting an effort into breaking stereotypes and experiencing enhanced productivity after bringing PWDs to their teams.

In our conversation with Mr. Rongzhong Li, the CEO/Founder of Petoi, the maker of futuristic bionic robot pets for adults and kids, he told us, 

When I brought in a team member with a disability, their unique perspective and problem-solving skills added a whole new dimension to our projects. It’s not about charity; it’s about building a stronger, more creative team. Plus, it turns out there are tools and strategies that make the workplace even more inclusive. Simple things like making sure your office is physically accessible and using communication tools that accommodate various needs can make a huge difference. Creating an equitable working environment isn’t rocket science; it’s just about being open, flexible, and recognizing the value everyone brings to the table.”

With simple changes in your current practices, you can create an equitable working environment that takes productivity to the next level and boosts employee engagement. 

Positive impact on workplace culture

When an organization actively hires people with disabilities, it demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity. This commitment helps create an environment where individuals of all abilities feel welcome and valued. 

Companies that make an active effort in hiring and helping people with disabilities reach leadership positions and create a thriving company culture that people want to be a part of. Such efforts significantly reduce attrition rates as strong workplace culture and inclusivity foster high levels of engagement.

Tools and Strategies to Create an Equitable Working Environment

Did you know that 160 million people alone with moderate and severe vision impairment (MSVI) are within the working age? In fact, globally, the annual cost of potential productivity losses of MSVI and blindness was $410.7 billion

Imagine the drastic economic impact worldwide when people with the capabilities to contribute aren’t given enough opportunities to do so.

To ensure we reduce this number, here are some ways to create an equitable working environment where PWDs get their fair share of chances, opportunities, and financial benefits: 

Diversity and inclusion training

According to a Harvard Business Review Report that focused on actions taken by organizations around diversity and inclusion, 78% of leaders claimed that they focus on employee training in areas such as bias reduction and inclusion. You can take a lot of initiatives to mitigate bias. As for PWDs, unconscious bias training could be of utmost help. 

Unconscious bias training involves conducting activities where decisions or judgments are made, and participants discuss potential biases. For instance, a scenario might include hiring based on resumes and job applications. 

Participants could analyze their immediate impressions, preferences, or assumptions regarding educational backgrounds, experiences, or disabilities. This exercise helps prompt individuals to recognize unconscious biases that may unconsciously affect their evaluation of candidates.

Closely examining these situations will help participants handle real-life situations differently. It will help them break their set notions and create a more welcoming organization for PWDs. 

Inclusive hiring practices

To create an inclusive workplace, you must cultivate a culture promoting open discussions about disabilities. However, inclusivity should not be confined to the workplace alone; it should extend to the hiring process. Here are some steps you can take: 

  • Craft clear job postings accessible to screen readers.
  • Use flexible interview approaches, such as remote or video interviews
  • Form a diverse interview panel to reduce biases and enhance objectivity
  • Implement online application systems with ease of navigation and submission 
  • Provide training for hiring managers and recruiters on disability 
  • Proactively inquire about candidates’ accommodation requirements and fulfill them

You can also collaborate with disability organizations and participate in job fairs explicitly targeting persons with disabilities. Such hiring practices will show your candidates that your organization respects and values all talent. 

Equal pay analysis tools

To mitigate any pay disparities that may affect PWDs, organizations can rely on compensation data to analyze employee pay across their organization.

Using payroll tools, collecting, centralizing, and analyzing this data becomes more effortless. It also allows you to review payroll variations at a glance. To identify disparities, you can then examine the salary levels for similar roles and responsibilities. Adjustments are also more manageable with these tools as you can quickly assess and make adjustments without disrupting payroll practices.

Flexible work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements benefit employees in various ways. For PWD this may offer additional accommodations for medical appointments, transportation needs, or other particular nuances that may affect their ability to keep regular work hours or commute daily.

Some organizations opt for job-sharing arrangements where two employees share the responsibilities of one full-time position. This can benefit PWDs who prefer a reduced workload or need more time for self-care. 

You should also implement flexible leave policies that accommodate the unique needs of PWDs, including medical appointments, rehabilitation, or intermittent leave. 

Inclusive policy management systems

An organization’s inclusive policy focuses on practices, procedures, or interactions accommodating the diverse needs of all individuals regardless of differences such as race, gender, age, or ability. Whether it’s eliminating gender discrimination, racism, or issues related to disabilities, these policies make for a more equitable work environment.

Ensure you implement frameworks that break the barriers and provide equal access to information, services, and opportunities for everyone, including PWDs. This includes designing and managing accessible websites and digital content, creating physically accessible places, and using suitable communication methods. And can play out in seemingly simple ways that have a huge impact on the employees who benefit from them, such as adding closed captioning to video calls for hearing impaired individuals.

You should also support forming employee resource groups focused on disability inclusion. These groups can provide a platform for PWDs to share experiences, offer support, and collaborate on initiatives to enhance inclusivity. 

Championing Inclusion with Omni

Now that you have seen how SG Enable helps PWDs gain better opportunities, it’s time to update your processes. With the right tools, you can ensure a smooth transition to a more inclusive workspace. 

Omni empowers HR teams with the tools they need to make simple yet impactful changes to improve the accessibility within their organizations. Whether it’s accessible job postings that allow automated interview screenings and scheduling, helping you easily prioritize hiring practices for a more diverse workforce, or access to employee data to swiftly analyze payroll practices or personnel audits. Omni’s highly customizable platform equips you with the tools and systems you need to make updates, save time, and connect with your workforce.

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