Remove barriers and you hardly need workplace adjustments

December 2023

Asim* became a double below-knee amputee at 11 years old, so he has prosthetic legs and sometimes uses a wheelchair.

Asim is an HR project manager who has worked in several NSW Government agencies over the last decade. He has been in his current role for almost a year.

Asim is passionate about disability inclusion, and says a lot comes down to having appropriate buildings and open-minded managers who focus on outcomes and productivity.

“If you build an accessible environment, you hardly need workplace adjustments. In newer buildings, workplace adjustments are low to no cost. The cost is especially low if you see it as a whole-of-government rather than an individual manager responsibility. If the workplace is inaccessible, the person with disability is sometimes blamed for the high adjustment costs.”

Asim’s first day at a new role in 2020 was a positive experience. “I got there, and the manager saw that I was having a hard time walking. And he said to me “get your laptop and go home. If you want to work from there, that’s fine. Let's figure out how we do this work online.”

Asim says that most government jobs can be done from anywhere these days, with the standard use of cloud technology, collaboration tools like MS Teams and the cultural shift since the COVID lockdowns.

“The flexibility stayed after the pandemic because everyone was benefitting. Flexible working and working remotely has increased productivity and accessibility.

“It takes good managers, people willing to do be open-minded about how the work can be done. A good manager allows you the flexibility and in return they get the best out of everyone in their team, and the work gets done.”

Asim describes his first experience of applying for a workplace adjustment passport as “insanely good”.

“I filled out a form on my first day, with just enough details to explain my issues and what I needed. The process was done with dignity. I didn’t feel that I had to re-prove myself over and over again. I was asked once, and I had the approval in a timeframe that allowed me to just get on with working.”

“As part of the workplace adjustments passport, I asked for flexible working and an accessible parking spot in the building. The requests were approved the same day. The parking was done in 3 hours!”

“The cost to the business was almost nothing.”

Asim’s negative experience came when he changed departments. His new role was in the building next to his old one. He already had a workplace adjustments passport, including access to the underground parking shared by the two buildings. But it turned out there was no way to simply transfer his workplace adjustments. He suggested it should be as easy as transferring leave, for example, when you move between NSW Government agencies.

The accessible parking was no longer available to him in his new department. His new manager now pays for nearby parking for him when needed.

“Reduce the barriers, and then people don't have disabilities, just diversity,” says Asim. He points out that anyone who needs glasses is really part of the disability community without realising it. “It's just that getting the glasses is so easy here.”

Asim believes that people leaders should be required to have the ability to lead all types of people. He suggests that diversity inclusion and accessibility could be added to role descriptions. “Some directors are not aware of accessibility or inclusion because it's not in their role descriptions. It's not part of their KPIs. So, make it part of their KPIs.”

“Remove barriers and you hardly need workplace adjustments.”

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual

Information alert

For more workplace adjustment information, NSW Government managers and employees can visit the Public Service Commission website or contact their Diversity & Inclusion, Work, Health & Safety or HR teams. You may also wish to reach out to your Disability Employee Network (DEN).

If you have trouble accessing workplace adjustments or experience disability discrimination at work, please contact Anti-Discrimination NSW on 1800 670 812.

Last updated:

01 Dec 2023

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