City view through telescope

  • Mary Lou Maher, Leadership |

Over the last few years you may have noticed a shift in society, bringing us closer and closer towards a future where everyone feels included. The United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development pledges to “leave no one behind,” and I’m taking a stand to ensure that all persons feel a sense of belonging. We are making progress, but there is still far more we could be doing globally to advance disability inclusion.

This year at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, one of the key topics is how leaders across the globe need to step up to support the more than one billion people in the world living with a disability. Every day, people with disabilities still face barriers in health, education, employment and transport that others take for granted. We need to make changes to ensure that people with disabilities are given the same chance to participate… and to succeed.

Taking action to build a culture of inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s a driver of growth too. People with disabilities have an estimated market value of USD $8 trillion* and becoming disability-smart is a catalyst for making organizations more productive and more effective. Encouraging leaders to talk about disability openly, setting recruitment targets and delivering against them, and proactively mapping career pathways for everyone, regardless of what makes them who they are, are just some of the ways we can help empower change.

We need to see people for everything they bring to the table, not what some may perceive as limitations. One of KPMG in Australia’s Management Consultants, Peter Leek, explained it beautifully: “If I were to describe myself to colleagues, I would say I’m a Senior Consultant in Management Consulting with 3.5 years’ experience at KPMG, and 7 years’ in the Federal Government. Not a disabled person who works.”

So let’s reframe the conversation, because our differences are what make us stronger. Let’s see disability as a strength. Let’s recognize everyone has unique skills, and let’s reap the rewards of an inclusive future. Because if the 15% of the world’s population who are ‘labelled’ disabled felt included and a part of the conversation, imagine how much richer that conversation would be.


*Donovan, R. (2016) Return on Disability: Translate Different Into Value, 2016 Annual Report: The Global Economics of Disability.