Creating inclusive workspaces by empowering employees with disabilities

To the forward-thinking business leaders of today’s world, it’s time to recognise a powerful truth: an inclusive workspace isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic advantage. Hiring and empowering employees with disabilities can significantly drive your company forward, both in terms of workforce diversity and bottom-line performance.


According to McKinsey research, organisations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. Harvard Business Review agrees, stating that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets, while the Boston Consulting Group reveals that diverse management teams lead to 19% higher revenue. People Management says that diverse teams are 87% better at making decisions, most likely because there are a variety of experiences and opinions in the room that can be leveraged for the good of the business, its people and customers.


The key to achieving real diversity begins with an organisational-wide culture that supports diversity, and that can only happen through a diversity strategy.


Remember, there’s more than just revenue and competitiveness at stake. More and more, employees are looking for diversity when choosing their employers. Glassdoor reveals that two out of three job candidates seek companies that have diverse workforces, 47% of millennials actively look for diversity and inclusion when sizing up potential employers, according to Deloitte, and millennials are 83% more likely to be engaged at work at inclusive companies.


Here are 6 key benefits to keep top of mind while considering a diversity strategy:


  1. You will harness diverse talents


The idea that diversity brings varying perspectives to the table, enhancing innovation and problem-solving is not new. What has not always been considered is the value that individuals with disabilities to this spectrum due to a unique set of experiences, skills, and perspectives that can be leveraged to enrich the business environment.


Take, for instance, the experience of someone who is visually impaired. Their heightened sense of hearing or touch might make them particularly adept in certain roles. They might also approach problems and solutions from angles that others might not have considered.


  1. There are economic benefits

A common misconception is that accommodating employees with disabilities is costly and does not provide a tangible return on investment. This myth could not be farther from the truth. In fact, according to a report from Accenture, companies that championed persons with disabilities outperformed their peers, achieving 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher economic profit margins.


  1. Enhanced brand image and loyalty

In a socially conscious world, companies that prioritise inclusivity and diversity are viewed more favourably by consumers. By actively promoting and implementing policies that support employees with disabilities, you’re sending a strong message about your company’s values. This can lead to increased brand loyalty, favourable press, and a competitive edge in the market.


  1. Boosting employee morale and retention

When employees see their peers being treated with fairness and respect regardless of their disabilities, it fosters a positive company culture. Employees are more likely to remain loyal to organizations where they feel valued and see others being valued.


  1. Tapping into a wider talent pool

Nearly 15% of the global population lives with some form of disability. By not creating inclusive workspaces, businesses are effectively sidelining a significant portion of potential talent. By being inclusive, you ensure that your recruitment processes capture the very best, irrespective of physical or cognitive differences.


  1. Legal and compliance benefits

Many countries have established regulations and laws that advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace. By proactively creating an inclusive workspace, you not only avoid potential legal pitfalls and fines but can also avail of grants and incentives designed to promote such inclusivity.


Steps to creating a more inclusive workspace

Audits and training: Begin with an accessibility audit of your workplace. Identify areas of improvement and ensure that all facilities, from restrooms to meeting rooms, are accessible. Training sessions can help sensitise the workforce and equip them with the knowledge to interact and support their peers with disabilities.

Flexible work arrangements: Understand that traditional 8 to 5 workdays might not be feasible for everyone. Offering flexible work schedules, remote working options, or part-time roles can make a significant difference.

Mentorship programmes: Pairing employees with disabilities with mentors can be an excellent way for them to navigate the company culture, while also giving mentors a unique opportunity to grow and learn.

Continuous feedback: Create channels for feedback specifically targeted at understanding the needs and challenges faced by employees with disabilities. Use this feedback to continually refine your policies and practices.

If you are ready to embark on a business strategy with undeniable benefits and create environments where every individual, regardless of their abilities, can thrive and contribute meaningfully, connect with the ICAN team.

A Way To Prepare For An Interview

Recruitment Agencies in South Africa

We know that the job market is saturated. One of the best ways to stand out from the herd is to prep for the interview beforehand. Luckily, we have the know-how of the interview process to give you the upper hand.

1. Research the employer/hiring manager

Understanding the company you’re applying at, their business practices, as well as those interviewing you, will help you prepare for any questions thrown your way. Check out their company website and read any news you can find about them. If you know someone in the company, chat to them too.

2. Scour the web for common interview questions

You can prepare yourself for these questions beforehand by researching common interview questions. You can also ask the hiring manager what form of interview set up you’ll be experiencing. Will it’s one-on-one, or in a group? This will help you put together concise responses to sell yourself. The best way to remember all the information you’ve prepared is to put it into a story. This way, you can engage in conversation instead of having to remember specific points.

3. Dress to impress

Every company is different and they all have their own culture. Plan your outfit accordingly. Rather overdress and underdress. You should also avoid eating or smoking before your interview.

4. Arrive on time

There is no excuse for arriving late for an interview. If some thing catastrophic has occurred, don’t leave the interviewer in the dark. Call them and explain what the situation is. Strive to arrive to the interview 15 minutes early. Don’t forget to put your phone on silent too.

5. First impressions last

Be polite to anyone you meet on the way in your interview. The first impression your interviewer gets from you could potentially make or break your chances of landing the job. When greeting your interviewer, stand up straight, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, and don’t forget to smile.

6. Be friendly, confident, and concise

Once your interview has started, ensure that your answers, as well as their delivery, is on point. Remember, you want to showcase your skills and experience, not ramble through the interview and bore the interviewer. You should also never bad mouth previous employers or colleagues.

7. You need to ask questions too

Asking insightful, researched questions shows you have put effort in to your research. Ask about the follow up technique, and when the company will make their final decision.

10. Say thank you.

Send a follow up email after the interview to thank them for their time. Politeness goes a long way.

Annual Businesswoman

Ali, Managing Director of ICan!, has been nominated for the Business Woman of The Year Award in the category of Social Entrepreneurship.

This year marks the 37th year of these annual awards, which are to take place in September 2017 at Sandton Convention Centre. The Businesswoman Award provides a platform for the inspiration and empowerment of women in business through a variety of initiatives and opportunities for personal growth and development. Apart from creating networking opportunities for its members, it makes a strong contribution towards developing the next generation of women as business leaders.

Ali’s nomination recognizes the good work she has done and continues to do, and, the passion she has for people living with disabilities.

We are so proud of Ali for representing women in business, and we will be rooting for her on the big night!

I Can! Farm

The I Can! Merrivale academy near Howick, KZN has been open for almost a year. It is the first agricultural academy in the group and has 6 classes catering for a maximum of 85 learners at full capacity.

The first group of learners, enrolled on Plant Production (NQF level 1) have almost completed their learnership. During the course of this past year they have been introduced to farming practices and have learned how to grow their own vegetables.

It was hard work at the start. The ground had to be prepared for vegetable planting and this involved many hours of weeding, digging, composting, analyzing the soil type and then adding nutrients to improve the quality of the soil. Seeds and seedlings were then planted into open vegetable gardens as well as into the newly erected vegetable tunnel.

In between class work, the learners would put on their gumboots and overalls and then tend to the rapidly growing spinach, carrot, bean and cabbage plants. Competition between groups was tough and a certain amount of bragging was noticed when some plants grew stronger than others. The learners were delighted when they realized that all harvested vegetables were theirs to take home.

We are extremely proud of our agricultural academy. It is a happy place, where you will hear songs in the morning, excited chatter throughout the day and watch a group of learners realize that you can place ABILITY before disability with astonishing results.

Watch us grow!

Rowan Robinson
Manager: Agriculture and Special Projects

Mandela Day – Vereeniging Academy

Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day) is an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010.

It has become accepted practice in South Africa that on Mandela day we try and dedicate 67 minutes of our time to those less fortunate than ourselves and make a difference in their lives.

This year the I Can! Academy in Vereeniging dedicated 67 minutes of their time on the 20th of July 2015 at Eurisko Centre in Vereeniging. The I Can! learners collected a few items, which enabled them to prepare some warm soup for Eurisko Centre’s residents – including both young and elderly people. Together, learners and residents played games and afterwards enjoyed a wonderful hot cup of soup on a cold wintery day. It was a blessed day as it brought smiles on the faces of Eurisko’s people.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Quoted by: Nelson Mandela

I Can! learners and staff also felt proud of themselves for having made the day such a huge success by being able to feed the needy on Mandela Day. It was a time filled with love and joy and we are happy to report that everyone had a wonderful day.

Liane Chipangura
Operations Manager – Gauteng

Kempton Park News

In order to become a great Facilitator, one must go beyond the textbook and attend workshops and ongoing educational interventions to fully master the practice.

Author unknown

The I Can! Kempton Park Facilitation Team decided to start the journey towards greatness! As a group it was decided to expand on each other’s knowledge and experience by conducting monthly workshops.

Starting from the month of June 2015 this team will meet every month and take turns in presenting information aimed at empowering facilitators with knowledge and improving facilitation performance, with a specific focus on productivity and results.

We had our first workshop in the 4th week of June where one of our facilitators Francinah Tsotetsi presented the following topic: Managing Learners.

We wish the team well as they live by the motto, “I Can! Learn”

Petronella Mthethwa
Academy Supervisor, Kempton Park

Braampark Academy Celebrates Youth Day in Style

Together with the rest of South Africa our Braampark Academy commemorated Youth Day on the 16th of June in remembrance of all the young people who lost their lives on that day.

The Learners dressed in school uniform and came prepared for a range of activities taking place on the day. The activities included watching the movie “Sarafina”, which described what happened during the 1976 Soweto uprising. The learners also had the opportunity of participating in a “Spelling Bee” competition.

Spelling Bee is a competition in which contestants are asked to spell a broad selection of words. The learners were divided into two competing groups. Each group was made up of learners with various disabilities, including deaf learners, learners with intellectual disabilities and those with physical disabilities.

The concept was adopted from the Khaya FM Spelling Bee in partnership with the Spelling Bee organization. The goal is to help enrich an individual’s vocabulary . The competition also encouraged diversity, tolerance and acceptance within the groups. A strong bond was formed between the two groups while the facilitators were given the daunting task of judging the competition.

We thank the Braampark staff for organizing such a great event.

Winnie Mokoti
Operations Manager – Gauteng

I Can! Clean becomes Capacity Clean

In 2014 I Can! started a new division called I Can! Clean with a view to providing employment for our learners that had completed learnerships within one of our academies.

One of the most wonderful cases of inclusion and reasonable accommodation that I have ever witnessed has been through the cleaning division.

One of our academy learners applied for a position within our cleaning division.  We were initially concerned about placing Gugu on site as she is a little person and we thought that due to her not being able to reach most surfaces she would not be able to perform the cleaning tasks required of her.  However, due to her persistence, we placed Gugu in a call centre as a cleaner.

I accompanied her on-site for her first shift and was dismayed at the way all of the call centre agents stared at Gugu the first time she walked down the centre of the call centre area and asked Gugu if she was going to be ok.  Gugu replied confidently that she would be absolutely fine.  To my amazement, I returned to the site a week later to check on Gugu, to find that as she walked through the same area where the agents had previously stared at her and made comments under their breaths, they were now shouting “Hi” and giving her high-fives as she passed by!!!

I learnt two lessons from Gugu.  The first being to never make the assumption that someone cannot perform certain tasks due to their disability: ask the person with the disability first – often something as simple as a step-ladder will enable the person to perform their job just like anyone else!  The second lesson was: don’t let your own fears and inhibitions hold people with disabilities back – trust them and follow their lead.  As the well-known disability slogan goes “Nothing about us without us….”

Since I Can! Clean showed such great potential to ensure employment for our learners, a decision was made to take this opportunity to another level of professionalism by entering into a partnership with Capacity Outsourcing. Through this partnership we are able to assist our clients to provide employment for their learners once they have completed their learnership, as well as access the 5 bonus points under the new Skills Development Codes.  Capacity has staff employed in this division with over 13 years’ experience in the corporate cleaning industry and I Can! has the knowledge and experience on how to successfully integrate people with disabilities into the workplace.

In our experience, cleaning services (specifically office and ablution cleaning) offers the ideal environment for repetitive work which is ideally suited to people with an intellectual disability.

Should you find this solution attractive and in line with your corporate transformation process, we would welcome the opportunity to explain in more detail the impact of this proposition – not only for you as our client, but also for your learner.

Ali Smeeton
Managing Director


Cape Town – Bellville Academy Camp!


On the 27 April 2015 the I Can! Cape Town learners and facilitators left on a three day camp to Apostle Battery Camp in Llundudno. The Camp was planned in light of the learner’s upcoming Modules Main Meals, Light Meals and Bedrooms and Bathrooms which forms part of the Domestic Services Learnership. The camp provided the facilitators and learners with the necessary practical requirements in terms of the kitchen and bathrooms.

This experience was a first for I Can! Facilitators as well as learners, as most of them have never ventured further than the academy or their homes. The camp site is situated facing the ocean and is beautiful and was easily able to house the 67 learners for the three days as well as the 5 facilitators. The kitchen was adequately equipped for the three days, to complete the practical work with the learners. The learners were exposed to a number of activities that assisted them to provide the assessor with authentic and real evidence for their portfolios. The camp in itself was sponsored entirely by the learners who attended the camp and no financial support was required from I Can Management. The three days were planned with each day having a schedule and menu for the different meals that needed preparing. The learners were closely supervised and assisted during this time and they were able to showcase their talents in the kitchen.

It was not only work and no play, the learners also had an opportunity to explore and share their creative talents while they were there. A number of fun activities were planned to stimulate their minds and to encourage team work. A family tree was erected on the wall of the camp, they had a dancing competition and played outdoor games such as basketball and soccer. The learners had a chance to bond with each other and their facilitators. This spilled over into the work place as each team member discovered a new respect and willingness to assist each other at the workplace.

It was truly an unforgettable and enjoyable three days.

Employee of the Month : Vereeniging Academy

Josef Le Grange

Anyone who has ever been to our Vereeniging academy will agree with me when I say that Josef is the first person you see on arrival and the last person you will see again when you leave.

Josef ushers all visitors from the car park, assists them with their belongings and leaves them in the hands of the rightful person to attend to them in the academy. He does the same to the staff when they arrive in the morning and also when they leave.

The academy Supervisor (Francis van der Watt) in her own words told me that this academy wouldn’t function without Josef. Apart from the daily tasks that comes with his position, he goes an extra mile to ensure all staff and learners are catered for. He opens the academy before anyone arrives and he sets up everyone’s work station. By the time the staff get to work, their air conditioners will already be set according to their preferences and their desks will be clean.

Now you could argue that all of this should be part of his job description, however Vereeniging staff will disagree. Throughout the time they have worked with him, staff and learners feel that Josef treats everyone with respect and he is ALWAYS willing to assist with anything, even if it’s not his job.

When I issued staff gifts on the graduation function on the 24th of April, I had so much to say about Josef’s role in the academy and the best way I could describe him was that “Josef is the one who looks after all of us in the academy