Building a disability-inclusive future

More than one billion people, equaling 7% of the world’s total population, live with physical and unseen disabilities. The global health crisis has further deepened inequalities, which is why we must take steps to highlight disability inclusion in the workplace.

The theme for this year’s United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons (IDPD) is: “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.” Observance of this day on December 3 will enable everyone at Orange Business Services to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities. This is also a great opportunity to better understand their requirements in the new world of hybrid working, which will help to provide a sustainable career path.

Advancing digital inclusion

Orange has a rich history of digital equality and is committed to building a more inclusive and sustainable society where differences are celebrated, creating stronger communities across the globe.

Aligned with our Engage 2025 strategy, we are committed to skills development to grow our culture of agility and innovation. Integrating people with disabilities into the workplace is an essential part of this overarching vision contributing to the strength of our company, breaking down barriers and eliminating the misconceptions that can hold people with disabilities back in their careers.

As well as creating more opportunities for people with disabilities within our organization, we are also working towards making technology easier to use and more accessible. Assistive technologies can unlock previously untapped talents and create a workforce that better represents those with disabilities. For example, Confort+, a browser extension developed by Orange, improves the user experience for those with motor, visual or cognitive impairments such as dyslexia.

Building back a better workplace

The pandemic has re-directed the attention of employers to the workplace and the health and welfare of their employees. It has seen HR teams look at collaborative tools to support home working. In line with our inclusion policy, we at Orange have paid particular attention to employees with disabilities.

In addition to adapting tools to enable people to continue to do their roles remotely, we have also set up support systems that include psychological and occupational health. Working in tandem with managers, the disability integration team has been highly proactive in supporting disabled employees who may have increased risks.

Removing hiring barriers

Over a decade ago, in a forward to a World Health Organization report on disability, the late Professor Stephen W. Hawking wrote: “In fact, we have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.”

We all must help change mindsets and look at the talents that disabled people bring to business instead of stereotypes. By instigating open and accessible hiring strategies, we are getting there. For example, my colleagues in Orange Senegal have actively built a list of organizations promoting job opportunities for people with disabilities while serving as a way for connected disabled entrepreneurs to link up with businesses. At Orange Business Services in Brazil, we have hosted a virtual job fair for people with disabilities.

In addition, Orange has launched a program focused on recruiting and supporting people with a hidden disability – autism. Mindful that there is a considerable talent drought right now in the technology sector, we have launched a program dedicated to recruiting and supporting people with neurodiverse profiles. It aims to address our talent shortage among IT professions while applying our Diversity and Inclusion strategy. Orange Business Services recognizes that our specific business lines (cybersecurity, AI, cloud, etc.) can benefit from the skills that come with the profiles of the neurodiverse, such as attention to detail and phenomenal memory skills, which are particularly valuable in the field of complex data analysis and complex programming, for example.

Working together to remove prejudices

We believe that diversity is a valuable asset and central to our commitment to improving employability and inclusion for people with disabilities. Together we can mobilize support for greater equality and make our world a more inclusive one that will benefit us all.

Find out more about the Orange Business Services diversity strategy and how we as a company are working to change the way people look at disability.

Mechtild Walser Ertel
Mechtild Walser-Ertel

Mechtild Walser-Ertel is the Global Head of Human Resources and Corporate Social Responsibility at Orange Business Services. She is passionate about building an outstanding employee value proposition that embraces innovation while driving sustainable and responsible growth. Mechtild is keen to promote diversity as central to an organization’s success and volunteers her support as an expert advisor to the company’s DoubleYou Women’s network.