“With the enormous disruption this year has brought and as we pause to celebrate the contributions of people with disability on 3 December, I’m proud ANZ’s commitment to disability inclusion has not wavered.” Meg Dalling.
A young woman in a wheelchair inside an ANZ branch looking at information on a digital device.
Held on 3 December each year, International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD) aims to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.
As we approach IDPWD, I found myself reflecting on 2020; a year that has seen our lives turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impacts have been profound, with jobs lost and businesses devastated. We’ve struggled through lockdown, with wide-ranging restrictions on many of the things that bring us joy.
Sadly, there have been disproportionate impacts on some groups who already face disadvantage, including people with disability, who represent nearly 18 per cent of Australians (4.4 million people) and 1.3 billion people worldwide.
The Interim Report of the of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of People with Disability observed “with the exception of people in aged care facilities, no group has been more profoundly affected than people with disability”.
Violence has increased, access to carer support has been impacted, and fear of the virus has exacerbated isolation for some with an underlying health condition.
Recent research from the Consumer Policy Research Centre also shows people with disability have been more likely to ask for payment assistance from their bank or service provider than Australians overall.
However, for all the challenges this year has bestowed, we have also seen great opportunities emerge. In particular, our changing workplace.
While flexibility, including remote working, is a long-established practice at ANZ, this year we have seen it accelerate like never before.
For some people with a disability, this can be life-changing. Reduced commuting for those with mobility restrictions, less time in the office for those with chronic illness, sensory challenges, or who experience anxiety in social settings.
As we connect with one another virtually, we are unexpectedly ‘visiting’ our colleagues’ homes and lives in a way that has opened up conversations and humanised the experience.
We are supporting each other, showing kindness and checking in like never before.
Anna Spiteri, Co-Chair of ANZ’s Abilities Network, says through all of this rapid change, it was important to keep encouraging line managers and people with any accommodations or adjustments in place to be brave and have really open and honest conversations.
“We needed people to be talking openly about how they were going to make the transition to working from home, or working in an entirely new location. We were moving pretty fast at the time and we didn’t get it right in every single case (even for people who weren’t using those accommodations) but we were confident people were able to get where they needed for the long term.”
Anna adds “I think overall we got better at having those conversations, which is really important as we consider moving back to the office on a more regular basis.”
The acceleration to digital also presents an opportunity to lift awareness of the importance of digital accessibility. While digital tools, applications, and platforms have enabled us to move swiftly to remote working, we must ensure they are designed and built with accessibility in mind - otherwise we risk leaving people behind.
Across ANZ, we have been making strides towards embedding Inclusive Design in our products, services and environments. This year, ‘Inclusive Design’ was formally recognised as a core skillset for every member of our design community, and we are upskilling our teams with accessible workshops, events, training and group coaching.
Additionally, all advertised design roles now require applicants to demonstrate they have an understanding of, and experience with, digital accessibility standards. This ensures we are attracting people with these skills and values to ANZ from the get go.
The banking industry is also embracing the move to digital signing for mortgage and other documents, with regulatory reforms fast-tracking the changes during the pandemic. The convenience is obvious - eliminating paperwork for both the bank and customer, reducing cost and time, and improving security. Accessibility benefits are also significant, offering greater independence and dignity to many people with disability.
For example, a person who is blind and uses assistive technology will now be able to read the document at the same time as signing it; a person with motor impairment who finds it difficult to sign with a pen, will also now have the option of using assistive technology to sign.
An ANZ banking consultant guides two customers through a branch; one is a young man in a wheelchair with a speech assistance device, the other is a woman.
Sometimes the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing can be the biggest barrier when engaging with a person with disability and many feel uncomfortable asking the person what supports they might need.
This year, approximately 5,000 of our Australian branch staff have completed disability confidence training, ensuring every customer at ANZ feels welcome and included. Branch managers have been provided with a toolkit to lead open and flexible discussions with their team on inclusive service and communication, while also building awareness of the accessibility services ANZ offers to customers.
ANZ Banking consultant Nuray Kuru says while branch staff implement all of the communication and etiquette expected, the recent staff training huddles have been a valuable refresher to remain observant, aware, vigilant, and human.
“These huddles have increased self-awareness, educated, and enlightened our staff on the importance of making a person with a disability feel welcome and included, while they are visiting our branch.”
Nuray adds, “Assisting a person with a disability and having them leave our branch happy, having possibly added value or made their day that little bit easier, for me personally is fulfilling.”
Continuing our collaboration and shared commitment to disability inclusion, brand ambassador Dylan Alcott and several of his colleagues from Get Skilled Access featured in the training videos, highlighting the importance of universal design when it comes to providing an inclusive customer experience.
Dylan says “The hardware of universal design in branches includes physical things like automatic doors, tactile features and audio functionality on Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), while the software side is our interaction with customers who have accessibility needs. Building our awareness and capabilities in disability and accessibility training will support better customer service outcomes by providing seamless, barrier-free and inclusive outcomes for all people.”
Stepping up our commitment: Valuable 500 campaign
This year, ANZ became one of the first Australian signatories to the Valuable 500 global disability inclusion campaign.
Launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2019, the campaign aims to unlock the business, social and economic value of the 1.3 billion people living with disability around the world.
The campaign has a simple but important goal, to put disability inclusion on the agenda of boards and CEO’s around the world, recognising:
- The business growth opportunity. The spending power of people with disability is US$8 trillion globally (AU$40b in Australia), yet research shows only 4 per cent of businesses consider their needs.
- 80 per cent of disability is acquired during working years. Younger workers, in particular, are passionate about inclusion and expect this at work.
- Innovation requires us to think differently. Diversity is an essential driver, including people with disability who problem solve daily.
Gerard Florian, ANZ’s Accessibility Sponsor and Group Executive Technology, says:
“The Valuable 500 campaign is an important global movement and aligns well to ANZ’s own goals to uplift accessibility and inclusion in every aspect of our business. We are proud to be one of many global signatories- collectively we employ more than 12 million people worldwide. Together we can continue to advance rights and build opportunities for people with disability in our workplace, as our customers and in the community.
While we mark IDPWD this week, I acknowledge the many teams across ANZ who champion, and importantly, take action around disability inclusion every day.”
With the enormous disruption this year has brought and as we pause to celebrate the contributions of people with disability on 3 December, I’m proud ANZ’s commitment to disability inclusion has not wavered.
Heading into 2021 there is still much work to be done, however I am confident we can continue to make a positive impact in this space, and continue on our journey to embed accessibility and inclusive practices - for everyone.
View more on ANZ’s approach to accessibility and inclusion.