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Disability Strategy


Common problems
Applied Disability Strategy: Eating Elephants

A great deal has been written about and demonstrated regarding the importance of Strategic activity in business. Bosberaads, lehotla’s, Imbizo’s, stratplans, think-tanks, brainstorms, are all common parlance in day to day business.

However, one subject almost guaranteed not to be included in any meaningful strategic thinking, is Disability. How it might relate to Diversity or Employment Equity best practice or compliance, let alone customer service among other things.
Why is there such a gap in strategic thinking and activity in traditional public and private sector organizations?
The answer is largely to do with lack of awareness and experience, the required perspective and most often a simple unwillingness to take this particular bull by the horns.

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Considerable research and experience have been employed by Jeremy Opperman & Assoc since 1999 in observing Disability integration practices within numerous South African businesses and parastatals.
It is clear that certain patterns are common to them all regarding Disability and its infiltration into the secular business world.

For generations, Disability has been regarded from the perspective of welfare or victim. This in turn has created a mindset amongst many role-players, that Disability falls into a somewhat limited and stereotypic category and place as regards “their” role in society and business.

Notwithstanding Disabilities acknowledgment formally within legislation beginning in 1996 with the inclusion of Disability rights in the Constitution and in 1998, with the promulgation of the Employment Equity Act; corporate South Africa has struggled to find a comfortable place and role for this prodigal child of Diversity.

This is not through lack of caring per se but rather through inexperience and a profound lack of knowledge and understanding, which has found corporate and public sector to be struggling to incorporate Disability equitably within its formal structures.

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Identifying Common problems

Some of these common problems include:

• A limited or non existent executive participation or understanding in matters pertaining Disability or for that matter, Diversity.
• An all too common ad hoc and reactive diversity/equity range of activities.
• A limited and narrow focused, silo oriented diversity activity regime. For instance very often only focusing on a Human Resources field of influence, and/or perhaps Corporate Social Investment.
• On going inappropriate, stereotypic or unlawful practices. Mostly involving human resource issues, but also including things like Accessibility and customer service amongst other things.
• There is still little consistency or resilience in any interventions executed.

However, the biggest single common problem demonstrated by the majority of organizations is the lack of a holistic and strategically led approach.
(A Disability policy alone cannot guarantee success.)

In short role-players are often daunted about the perceived size of the problem and where to start. This leads to Disability Equity Paralysis. Which of course is
not unlike Eating an Elephant!

"Eating Elephants" is an exciting and unique applied strategic diversity process
Taking One Bite at a Time.
This four fold approach to Diversity management systematically and effectively addresses the above concerns and deficits, thereby guaranteeing an inclusive, Disability (or Diversity) confident organization.

‘Eating Elephants”, does not advocate a strict step by step approach, but rather encourages an integrated process incorporating all 4 parts. Invariably these parts need to run in parallel and may often feed off or build from each other. However exclusion of one or more of these elements will definitely negate progress and success.

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Four Elements for an an holistic integrated Disability Strategy

  • Leadership
  • Any successful initiative requires a “political” will.
    Without exception, sluggish activity and wholesale non delivery in this area of equity and diversity, can be attributed to non participation at an executive level.
    Lack of involvement simply highlights the lack of knowledge and understanding, which offers no foundational purchase for a successful campaign.
    ? Aware and committed executives ensure sustainability and a return on future investment.

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  • Analysis
  • No change or sustainable action can be expected until a perspective has been gained in terms of what needs to be acted on, what changed and what the status quo REALLY is regarding:
    • Managers understanding
    • Employees with Disabilities experience
    • Policy comprehensiveness
    • Access and the physical environment
    • Thorough assessment of Barriers minimizes wastage and duplication and therefore saves time and money

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  • Implementation
  • Sporadic, ad hoc “events based” activity will not ensure Disability Equity or confidence within an organization.
    ? However planned actions guided by the assessment process and endorsed and championed by executive leadership and strategically aligned to the Company’s policy, invariably succeed and show a return on investment.

    Most importantly, is the planning, budgeting and Implementation of recommendations such as
    • Rolling out of awareness and skills transfer to staff and management
    • Increased recruitment activity
    • Access implementation.

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  • Maintenance
  • All too often, initiatives and strategies peter out if not strategically linked. Energy needs to be maintained in order to ensure sustainability particularly of Disability Confidence.

    Clear strategies, designated functions and demonstrable leadership go a long way to Maintaining a Barrier free environment.
    ? As well as permeating Disability Confidence this also shows an undeniable return on previous investment.
    For more information on our Eating Elephants unique “applied Disability strategy” toolkit

    Contact jeremy@disabilitydesk.co.za