There is much evidence that, if properly supported and implemented, actions to include people from CALD backgrounds with disability into all aspects of the community benefit everyone. Below we focus on three important areas of civil life, communities, schools and businesses, in which there is ample evidence that inclusion works for everyone.
Communities that strengthen engagements and connections across diverse community groups are more cohesive and socially harmonious.
The Intercultural Cities program of the Council of Europe has shown that actively engaging in intercultural initiatives has resulted in positive effects such as improved urban safety, decrease in intensity of conflict and better neighbourhood relationships. In Australia, one of the arguments for the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme was, that the inclusion of people with disability will positively impact on the Australian economy. Various estimates suggest that the NDIS will:
- Increase GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by $18- 23 billion per year
- Produce $1.5- 1.9 billion in savings of Commonwealth spending
- Increase employment of people with disability by up to 40,000 people and ensure around 34,000 unpaid carers will return to the workforce
Download a great infographic on this from National Disability Services.
Social inclusion is the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society, by improving the ability, opportunity and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity. There is some evidence about the link of social inclusion and mental health and wellbeing. Download the Social Inclusion Factsheet from VicHealth.
There is also a growing body of evidence pointing to the economic and social costs of social exclusion (for example https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/social-inclusion).
Inclusive schools don’t just benefit children from CALD backgrounds with disability. They benefit all children, by creating environments where each child can grow and develop. Overall the following positive impacts of inclusion on students without disability have been found:
- Reduced fear of human differences, accompanied by increased comfort and awareness (less fear of people who look or behave differently);
- Growth in social cognition (increased tolerance of others, more effective communication with all peers);
- Improvements in self-concept (increased self-esteem, perceived status, and sense of belonging);
- Development of personal moral and ethical principles (less prejudice, higher responsiveness to the needs of others); and warm and caring friendships (Staub & Peck, 1995).
Some research also suggests that involving children with disability in schools may also positively impact the overall quality of teaching. If you are interested in learning more, download this report.
Studies of multicultural classrooms and whole schools have produced similar evidence. Students benefit from the diversity in their school by demonstrating greater empathy and flexibility, being more effective communicators and having more open minds. Teachers develop cross-cultural skills, including a deeper understanding of the impact of culture on themselves and their students; schools, meanwhile, benefit from multiculturalism by strengthening their spirit of cooperation and teamwork. For more info:
- How Students Benefit from School Diversity
- The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms
Finally, businesses prosper when they focus on people’s skills and capabilities rather than their disability and ethnicity. The late Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc observed:
“It is those who haven’t experienced diverse perspectives and outlooks in life who tend to provide very linear and unimaginative solutions to problems. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
How does diversity benefit your business?
Think about what a Peacock might offer in a land of Penguins:
There is a significant body of research conducted since the 1960s indicating that businesses who employ diverse teams benefit from:
- Diverse cultural perspectives that can inspire creativity and drive innovation
- Local market knowledge and insight that makes a business more competitive and profitable
- Cultural sensitivity, insight, and local knowledge that means higher quality, targeted marketing
- Drawing from a culturally diverse talent pool, which allows an organization to attract and retain the best talent
- A diverse skills base, which allows an organization to offer a broader and more adaptable range of products and services
- Diverse teams who are more productive and perform better
- Greater opportunities for personal and professional growth
When in comes to employing people with disability, the Australian Network on Disability lists a range of benefits for businesses, including:
- Diversity attracts and retains from the widest possible talent pool, and employees in inclusive workplaces are likely to be more engaged, motivated and productive. Employees will also stay with your business for longer.
- Employees and customers are more loyal to organisations that demonstrate they value diversity and inclusion and that their workforce reflects the community as a whole.
- Having employees with disability can help you to understand what your customers or clients with disability may need, and give you an edge over your competitors
- Workers with disability show they often have lower absenteeism and employee turnover and low incidence of workplace injury.
Are there any downsides to inclusion?
Yes they are. In relation to cultural diversity in the workplace there is some evidence that suggests that the benefits can only be harnessed if some of the challenges are effectively addressed. Those challenges include:
- Colleagues from some cultures may be less likely to let their voices be heard
- Integration across multicultural teams can be difficult in the face of prejudice or negative cultural stereotypes
- Professional communication can be misinterpreted or difficult to understand across languages and cultures
- Different understandings of professional etiquette
- Conflicting working styles across teams
There are plenty of children and young adults with disability and their parents talking about the trails and tribulations, the bullying and the daily battles required to just survive, let alone learn, in mainstream schools. There are almost daily example of people being at the receiving end of ignorance, fear, individual and systemic racism and ableism, xenophobia, stereotyping and discrimination.
Inclusion needs to be supported and actively pursued to be successful.