Over the next two years, creating more employment pathways and providing a greater role in decision-making forums for people living with disability is among a series of initiatives set to be delivered by SA Water, aimed at ensuring accessible water services for every South Australian.
These initiatives make up 39 key actions in SA Water’s inaugural Disability Access and Inclusion Plan (DAIP) for 2020-22, which was launched in late 2020 and captures the shared experiences and insights from a comprehensive engagement process with the community, customers and staff.
The DAIP builds on the utility’s industry-leading Wider World program implemented in early 2019, underpinned by universal design principles to deliver simplified water bills and meter reading help.
SA Water’s Chief Financial Officer, Jacqueline Guerin, said championing the ability of everyone within the community enables creativity and strength through diversity.
“It’s vital we reduce the barriers faced by people living with disability. We are stronger together and by recognising the value of everyone in our community, we will all create a future where equity and fairness are supported,” Ms Guerin said.
“We’re building an even more accessible and inclusive organisation, and our plan will guide how we embrace and celebrate the active role of diversity in the way we operate and deliver safe, reliable water services.
“Key to achieving this is our people, and by shaping a workforce with an inclusive culture that encourages opportunities for everyone, we will mirror the communities we serve and enhance accessibility to our services.
“An internal network group made up of 15 SA Water staff is helping to support DAIP actions and initiatives, ranging from people living with or caring for someone with a disability, to those who want to be advocates within the organisation.
“Through workshops which began earlier this year, we’re also working directly with our customers – including those living with a disability, the elderly and people with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds – to identify how we can improve in areas such as accessible communication and access around our temporary worksites.
“Through sharing their lived experiences, we will be able to further develop our understanding of people living with a disability and influence the services we deliver now and into the future.
“Our plan is aligned to the themes and priority areas of the South Australian Government’s first Disability Inclusion Plan, Inclusive SA, and includes specific actions such as delivering ‘living with disability’ awareness training to our people and developing partnerships with education providers to promote career opportunities.
“Accessible communities, sustained education, and social and workforce inclusion are fundamental to moving toward an inclusive future and we’re proud to play a role in advocating for equality.”
In Australia, the unemployment rate for working-age people living with a disability is 10 per cent, double that of those without a disability, and the labour force participation rate is only 53 per cent – compared to 83 per cent.
A multi-disciplinary graduate with SA Water holding a Bachelor of Mathematics and Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Music, Patrick Squire said he’s formed valuable connections and felt supported during his first year.
“The opportunity to work in such a diverse, engaging workplace where I’m valued for my abilities has empowered me to thrive and gain an abundance of experience, while building meaningful relationships with those around me,” Mr Squire said.
“Disability is nothing to shy away from – it should be embraced. We all have unique abilities beyond physical ones, and the strongest part of me is the idea of who I am and what I can achieve.
“Awareness and education inspire change, which will ultimately lead to a positive impact on the lives of our communities and by sharing experiences and learning through people with disability, we can achieve equality.
“This important plan means so much to me personally, as it’s a demonstration of our commitment to ensuring employment opportunities for everyone and that our customers are able to access essential services based on their individual needs.
“I find the easiest way to live with a disability is to surround yourself with people whose presence you enjoy and make you feel included, and there’s no shortage of them within SA Water.”
To read SA Water’s 2020-22 DAIP, visit sawater.com.au.