Increasingly, companies are acknowledging and prioritizing the value to their organization of having a more diverse workforce. The topic has diffused over into the global mobility space and become a trending topic over the past year. According to a 2017 KPMG survey, inclusion and diversity initiatives are being discussed and considered by 41% of global mobility programs. We are seeing, and are involved in, a greater number of panel presentations at industry events and a growing body of content on the topic.
Much of the focus so far has been related to sexual orientation, gender, race, and socio-economic backgrounds. But one that seems to get a little less attention is the topic of those that are differently-abled and that have their own personal mobility challenges. The article below provides good insight and background on locations that are more easily managed for those that navigate life from a wheelchair.
As the article points out, considering a move abroad as a wheelchair-user brings its own set of challenges and uncertainties. However, there are a growing number of companies that are developing resources and tools for supporting personal mobility that will help them to more readily accept and then manage a corporate relocation or assignment. These companies are tapping into the growing "purple economy" of spending power of people with disabilities. According to this article, The Purple Pound: Making money in the disability market, "the so-called ‘Purple Pound’ incorporates about 20% of all consumers and is valued at £212 billion, in the U.K. only." In the U.S., since 2014, this purple market has grown immensely too. While these companies are not necessarily altruistic, the outcomes are benefiting both individuals and companies that seek to get needed talent in place effectively. Many destination locations have spent considerable time and resources on making their cities and countries much more accessible and are moving towards being barrier-free.
There are a number of different resources provided in the article for mobility professionals and employees to utilize. Business travelers and relocating employees are leveraging Google's Street View and Google Maps (which has a new wheelchair accessible option on the route finder) to better assess the on-the-ground situation that will be waiting for them upon arrival. Here is a quote from one wheelchair user who benefited from using the tool:
“I clicked on the map and was delighted to see a man in a powered chair in front of the hotel. The Google Street View car had obviously followed him some way down the road, so I was able to see that the curbs were dropped. He was dressed in a business suit and was alone in his powered chair, which showed me it was obviously possible to travel independently in a wheelchair around the city.”
Other options like "Can't Wait" and "WheelMate" are app-based tools that show locations of nearest accessible toilets and parking spaces in more than 45 countries. There are blogs like, Spin the Globe and Curb Free with Cory Lee that provide great insights into even more locations with interesting stories and advice to help navigate those locations. As your company continues to send employees all over the world, and provide mobility opportunities for everyone, keep track of these resources and also consider reading our article: "Safety First: How To Keep Your International Relocating Employees Safe."
The report predicts that by 2050, some 900 million people with disabilities will be living in urban areas. There are forward thinking countries such as Singapore, where the percentage of accessible government buildings is now almost 100 percent. In addition, up to 90 percent of the buildings along Singapore’s most famous shopping street, Orchard Road, are now more accessible. The entire 48.9km of pedestrian network in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has been redeveloped with accessibility in mind.