Collage pof photos at a large conference

AusDN's Impact 2024 - Phil's Initial Thoughts

Impact 2024 was the annual conference held by the Australian Disability Network, on the 9th May. It was an incredible time for me to be in the room with so many other people on the same journey that our NZDEN network is taking.

It was an opportunity to establish new relationships with some world leaders in disability inclusion, and strengthen some existing international ties. Included in this relationship building, I was able to sit down with Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Vice President and Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft, to interview her for our upcoming conference.

I was able to learn a lot from Caroline Casey, founder of the Valuable 500, there was an instant connection when we met. Her generosity is infectious, and our sharing of stories made it a special experience for us both. Caroline has promised to visit us soon!

There were many insightful speakers and panels, learning from their perspectives and shared stories. I had many key takeaways from the people on stage and who I connected with among the other delegates.

Randy Lewis's story about his work at Walgreens to employ thousands of disabled people was outstanding. My favourite takeaway from his presentation was about when people came to learn about what they had done in setting up a deliberate disability weighted hiring focus for one of their warehouses - "they came for the tips about disability inclusion, they would leave wanting the culture".

There was one panel that I found quite humbling. Chief Executives from five of Australia's leading companies were able to talk, in the safe space provided, about their individual journey. One of them even opened up for the first time about the adult ADHD diagnosis and their family's broad neurodivergence. Not everything was positive, each CE had some difficulties that they currently face. But seeing them all be so open and honest about their struggles and wins was an impactful moment. It reinforces our need to bring more senior leadership to the discussion in NZ.

It was incredible to see to many large organisations talking about the mahi that they are doing in the accessibility space. Not all organisations are at the same stage of their journey, but they were all willing to discuss what they are doing, what their goals are, and their willingness to learn.

The room was filled with employers, employees, and disabled people. Like our Disability Inclusive Pathways Conference, the two communities intermingle and learned from each other. It's always a beautiful thing to watch and be a part of.

I will share some more learnings from this conference over the coming months.