SA Water is launching its inaugural Disability Access and Inclusion Plan (DAIP) for 2020-22, made up of 39 key actions to create employment pathways and provide decision-making forums for people living with disability. 

Launched on International Day of People with Disability, the newly-released 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,” Ms Guerin said. 

“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.

“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.

“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 towards 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 ten 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 inspires 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.

“Launching our DAIP is an important step in our organisation’s journey and it 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.”

International Day of People with Disability is observed by the United Nations and celebrated annually on 3 December. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability.

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