Disabilities articles

When you have additional physical and mental challenges to overcome, it is important that you can avail of additional supports. Accessibility issues, sight and hearing challenges, neuro-diversity and any other challenges need to be addressed and accommodated at home and at work.


Differences divide us, and that’s why we need to find the values that unite us, writes Sinead Donovan. It strikes me that, in today’s world, we are constantly putting labels on things or people. We are either male/female, Gen Z/Gen Y, baby boomers, LGBT+/straight. We have the labels of our culture or our creed, and while I am so in favour of diversity, and have pushed the diversity and inclusion concept incredibly hard within my firm and throughout the work I have done in Chartered Accountants Ireland, I sometimes wonder – have we made too many labels? Are we defining ourselves by labels rather than looking for the commonality and the thread that keeps us all together?   It’s not a new concept but, as perhaps I progress in my career and through management, I sometimes think it’s better to look for what binds us together than at what differentiates us. Maybe by finding those common threads it will enable us to be a more holistic family together, despite our gender, culture, religion, or sexual orientation.  So, I suppose the big question is: are there common threads and, if so, what are they? To me, it comes down to people’s beliefs. Fundamentally, underpinning us all, as it does in our professional careers, are the value sets that define us. For us, in our business unit in Grant Thornton, we have identified those values as: Adaptable; Innovative; Passion for what we do; Collaborative; Going the extra mile; Ethical and professional; and Technically knowledgeable. People may have different values they use to identify themselves, but whatever it is, there should be that common link in us all. With Chartered Accountants, it has to be the value set of ethics. These underpin our profession, despite how wide it has become or the labels we have put on each other as accountants: are we forensic accountants, cybersecurity accountants, auditors, tax advisors? Whatever you are, the one item that underpins us all is our code of ethics.  Ethics is taught in the early days of a student’s profession, sits beside us as a professional, and maybe gets looked at once or twice in our career. However, I would urge that the concept of ethics is used more widely to link us together as one family of accountants – be that Chartered Accountants Ireland, ATI, or membership to any other accountancy body. We have a responsibility to our stakeholders, the people we report to, the people who use our knowledge, and the daily work that must be done in an ethical manner.  As a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee in Chartered Accountants Ireland, I am not saying any of the above to absolve ourselves of the need to identify the differences we all face in life. But what I am saying is, maybe sometimes, let’s just celebrate our similarities and, with that, see ourselves as a family of accountants in the first instance and then ensure any differences that we may have are 100% noted, understood, managed and included because, just as in any family, there are different characters, beliefs, and personalities. And, while there are going to be difficulties, there has to be that underlining acceptance of who we are and what we are. To me, it starts on the journey as a student and, I think, that our profession is more open than it may have been when I started. However, I do know that from our work in CA Support, difficulties, prejudice, and unbelievable stress which may not be acknowledged or identified, remain. So, look out for your student members, your newly qualified members, and even look out for the more experienced members who may be going through difficulties in their professional or personal lives. If I can leave you with one thought, let it be this: let us identify the differences, ensure those differences are respected and brought together in one bucket of inclusion. Importantly, we need to unite in our underlining similarities that we have as Chartered Accountants and use that as a thread to tie us together.   Sinead Donovan FCA is a Partner in Financial Accounting and Advisory Services at Grant Thornton.

Jun 23, 2020

According to the ESRI, current levels of underemployment are now close to those of the pre-crisis period. With the unemployment rate forecast to average 5.4% this year, the war for talent is once again being fought by most organisations. However, there is a largely untapped pool of talent that offers more open-minded employers a competitive edge; 71% of people with disabilities in Ireland are not currently employed and there is little focus on people with disabilities in the workforce. The following five ‘As’ are a useful guide to employers with little experience in this area. Attitude Employing people with disabilities is not a CSR activity; people with disabilities want equality of opportunity, not tokenism.  As the late Stephen Hawking said, “Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it”. Roisin Keogh, CEO of the Irish Wheelchair Association, cites their position as one of the top 1000 companies in Ireland as proof that employing a high proportion of people with disabilities is compatible with running a successful business. Consider also the success of Paul McNeive, a double amputee and former-managing director of Hamilton Osborne King, a business worth €50 million.  Application However, most organisations fall at the first hurdle. Conventional recruitment procedures are often impossible to navigate. Online forms and recruitment software - ironically credited with making more equitable decisions - frequently disadvantage or exclude people with a disability. To encourage the widest possible pool of applicants, consider the process from a number of perspectives – for example, neuro-diverse, visually or hearing-impaired candidates – and adjust your application process accordingly. Accommodation  Organisations often state that they are ‘an equal opportunities employer’ as an indicator that they open to receiving applications from people with disabilities. However, all employers are obliged by law to be equal opportunities employers.  A more positive indicator would be to state that the organisation is committed to accommodating the needs of people with disabilities and inviting applicants to advise if they have any particular requirements at each stage of the process.  A further step would be to nominate one suitably qualified person as a point of contact for applicants with disabilities.  Acquired disability Approximately 85% of working age people with a disability have acquired it. Therefore, most organisations will have to address the issue of how to retain employees who find themselves in this difficult situation.  Many employees fear disclosing a disability to their employers. In particular, they are concerned about losing their job, limiting their potential for promotion or being stigmatised.  One positive action employers can take is to develop a policy on disclosing disability at work. The policy should address issues such as how to disclose, what information will be recorded, what it will be used for and who will have access to it. The policy should also contain positive intent in respect of making any necessary modifications or accommodations to allow the employee continue in their role. Ask  Employers often report that they don’t know how to address the issue of disability in the workplace. Some are worried about using the correct terminology, others are concerned by the potential cost of making modifications to the work environment. In fact, there are numerous resources available to potential employers – they only have to ask. A good starting point can be recruiting an employee on a work placement scheme. There are also peer networks of employers who advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. Resources include My Access Hub, The Irish Wheelchair Association, AsIAm, Arthritis Ireland Fit for Work, WAM (Willing Able Mentoring) and TCPID.    Dawn Leane is Principal Consultant at LeaneLeaders. 

May 14, 2018