Nana Saeed Marfo, Director, Unique Abilities Limited

Nana attended mainstream school with the encouragement and persistence of his mother who fought for Nana to compete with his able-bodied peers to achieve a decent education. In 2003 Nana became a civil servant as an Administrative officer within the Home Office but left the role to further his education in 2008 he returned to the civil service as an Executive Officer to work in the benefits sector for the Department of Work and Pensions as a personal adviser. In 2014 he moved to the HMRC where he became an offshore Tax officer In 2015 he resumed to the Home Office to be a caseworker making decisions on cases of people who had made asylum claims via the third country unit route. Through Nana’s life experience, he has come to realise everybody is different and has a voice, be proud to inspire others to accept who they are. Nana uses his voice within his community to inspire people with barriers. This positive impact enables more voices to be heard.

In a recent interview with Digital First Magazine, Nana Saeed Marfo discussed his experience with disability and social inclusion and equality. He shared his view on workplace equality, how we can promote disability inclusion and equality in the workplace, what challenges they face in the workplace, and more.

Can you provide us with an overview of your role and expertise in promoting disability inclusion and equality in the workplace? How did you become involved in this field?

An overview of my expertise would be the lived experience of disability; through my own lived experience I have come to see the disparities and missing support barriers that are impacting the regular life of a person who’s lives with a health condition has been isolated by lack of awareness and government propaganda.

My roles and impact stem from being a director for a social enterprise formed by myself to break down the systemic chains of mis-inclusion and lack of accountability for social inclusion.

Society always talks about the social model and ways by which disabled people are integrated, but modern institutions still find it hard to relate or put a human touch to assist and acknowledge the voices and presence of a person with a barrier.

What motivated you to focus on disability inclusion and equality in the workplace? What aspects of this work do you find most rewarding?

What motivated me was my experience of being discriminated and isolated from my peers in the workplace. Being treated unfairly as an employee my employment rights were not in balance with the company policy and I was put at a disadvantage compared to my colleagues.  This process made me take on a government institution that I was working for at the time to task to not only teach them to consider a massive turning point with disabled employees but also to update their company policy and re-train management to address disabled employees equally to able-bodied employees.

I later took it upon myself to help follow people with disability to have a voice and presence within their employment journey; I think what makes me feel a glance of joy is when a person with a disability can be an employee without complications and is truly adding to the purple economy.

In your experience, what are some of the common challenges faced by individuals with disabilities in the workplace? How do these challenges impact their overall inclusion and equality?

Common challenges faced by disabled people include being able to enter the labour and acknowledged for their core skills; employers always see the disability before the person and its s major stumbling block in really tapping into unique and talented individuals who can give so much more to the labour market if given a chance. The impact on society is large it defeats the objection of integration and progression in the work environment setting companies back decades due to no modern approaches to diversity.

How can employers create a more inclusive and equitable workplace environment for individuals with disabilities? Can you share examples of strategies or initiatives that have been successful in promoting disability inclusion?

Employers can start by firstly educating higher and senior management using the ladder approach by from the top to bottom scenario; cause in the corporate world the only way change can occur is if people who hold power begin the chain of command and it works its way down to frontline and lower paid staff.

Disability awareness training should be mandatory in every organization and a review every year to see how people with disabilities feel concerning their treatment and accommodation of inclusion has been conducted over the financial year and where improvement can occur.

A successful promotion of inclusion would be proof of confidence for organizations that really take the process seriously it’s a process that sets out the appropriate protocol for being an inclusive company and how best to accommodate people with disabilities. This in hand expands the workforce and opens the employment gap for people with disability.

What role do diversity and inclusion play in fostering workplace equality? How can organizations ensure that diversity is valued and individuals from all backgrounds have equal opportunities for growth and advancement?

The role that diversity and inclusion play in companies is a family-oriented environment of belonging and a deeper understanding of indifference.

With indifference breeds growth to learn that there is more than one way to live in society and to be bright and bold is to accept people from all walks of experience and cultures or physical beings we shall not all be the same for as long as the earth exists, we shall all be different.

What are some of the key benefits that society can gain by prioritizing disability and social inclusion? How does it contribute to overall community well-being and progress?

A key benefit that society gains from being inclusive to disabled people is opening a society that learns how to manage and include people with health barriers. This enables the discussion of disability being normalized and not a difficult conversation to be addressed. Not only does it enable the pay gap to increase within the labour market, but it also brightens the future of companies who take on the disability confident commitment to a new height where we are treated with respect and one of valued for our skills rather than pitied for their barrier.

In your opinion, what are the main barriers or misconceptions that still exist regarding disability inclusion and equality in the workplace? How can these barriers be addressed and misconceptions be debunked?

In my opinion, the misconception stems from the lack of awareness and empathy towards people with barriers. The organizational structure of the coroprate world hasn’t really modified its acceptance of EDI; when I say this people shall say there has been an increase in people with disabilities being employed since 1995.

However, 53.7% of people with barriers is no higher than the 90% of people without disabilities in the workplace and it reverts back to disabled people not being welcome or feeling included leading to more disabled people leaving the workforce.

Disabled people want to feel included and allowed to speak freely without feeling if they speak with a broad acknowledgment, it shall be used against them in their one-to-one process leading to dismissal.

The way we can debunk the cultural misunderstanding of disabled people leaving the workforce is by increasing awareness and doing this from the top of the food chain down only then shall cultural mindsets change.

What advice do you have for employers who are just starting their journey toward creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace for individuals with disabilities? What steps should they take to initiate change and sustain progress?

My advice to employers who wish to really incorporate equality, diversity, and inclusion is to embroil in a steering group with disabled employees. Enable voices and experiences of disabled employees to be highlighted and improved on a year-by-year basis in a feedback-style approach to keep the reputation of the corporate sector modernised.

We currently live in a world where discrimination is unacceptable and being disabled isn’t something to hide anymore.

The disabled community is just as part of a bigger society as anyone else or any protected characteristics and when we analyse the purple economy which is at the cost of £249 billion in my opinion the experience and human rights under the unity nations should really develop an open dialog of diverse inclusion from all aspects of society being employment, housing, health care, and financial funding.

Lastly, can you share any future trends or developments you foresee in the field of disability inclusion and equality in the workplace? How do you think these changes will impact organizations and individuals with disabilities?

What I have seen of late which I feel shall increase is outspoken disabled advocates I feel we have been silent and accepted abuse from the central government, society, and sometimes the media who depick disabled people as superhuman or vulnerable. We are human beings just like anyone else and want fair treatment and social acknowledgment. Things such as NDA which prevent employees from talking about illegal practices shall be a thing where if not analysed shall not be valued and more employees shall talk about companies who fail to meet the standards of fair treatment.

I feel if this is not something society is willing to accept there shall be a civil dispute all in the name of disabled people being accepted and rightfully supported.


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