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New SA Water plan to expand opportunities for people with disability

Launched on 3 December, International Day of People with Disability, SA Water’s inaugural Disability Access and Inclusion Plan (DAIP) for 2020-22 outlines 39 actions the utility intends to take to create more employment pathways for people living with disability

Following a comprehensive engagement process with the community, customers and staff, the utility’s DAIP builds on its Wider World program implemented in 2019, which was underpinned by universal design principles to deliver simplified water bills and meter reading help.

In Australia, the unemployment rate for working-age people living with a disability is 10%, which is double that of those without a disability, and the labour force participation rate is only 53%.

SA Water Chief Financial Officer Jacqueline Guerin said championing the ability of everyone within the community enables creativity and strength through diversity, and offers avenues for more diverse perspectives within the water sector. 

“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,” 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.”

Guerin said the key to achieving greater ability diversity within the organisation was to start with staff, ensuring an inclusive workplace with opportunities that encourage diverse employment and knowledge sharing. 

“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,” she said. 

“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.”

New opportunities

Patrick Squire, a multi-disciplinary graduate with SA Water holding a Bachelor of Mathematics and Computer Science, and a Bachelor of Music, said he’s first year working with the utility has been shaped by valuable connections and support.

“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,” 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.”

Squire said SA Water’s DAIP is an integral step in the utility’s journey towards a more inclusive workplace and community, ensuring employment opportunities for everyone and that 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,” he said.

Take a look at SA Water’s 2020-22 Diversity Access and Inclusion Plan here.