The Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise's (BMEE) mission is to promote economic growth in the local region, though advocacy, investment and industry development. But often, the ways BMEE support the local community are not necessarily visible.
When the opportunity arose to partner with DARE Disability Support on the 'Are You Inclusive?' initiative, BMEE saw the chance to contribute to the Blue Mountains' economic bottom line in a most socially-minded manner.
Funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme and its community-focused "Information, Linkages and Capacity Building" Program, 'Are You Inclusive?' is a free training program specifically designed to help local business and service providers make their industry and the wider community more accessible and supportive of those with 'invisible' disabilities like intellectual disability, autism, Down syndrome and acquired brain injury.
'Are You Inclusive?' was launched in Springwood earlier this year and, due to its successful take-up, the roll-out is now continuing across the Blue Mountains.
"In the few months since we've launched the program, we've had 53 businesses sign up, an 86 per cent on-the-spot sign up rate for businesses that were approached, and the training completed by over 110 business staff," said Dr Annie Brennan, DARE's Disability Inclusion Ambassador.
This is a great example of collaboration between government, education, business and the community sector. The program is supported by Blue Mountains City Council, Rotary Clubs across the Mountains and the program will be completed by students attending the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School. Further funding has been sought by DARE Disability Services to instigate a national roll-out of the program and encourage 'Are You Inclusive?' as the standard for a more inclusive Australia.
'Are You Inclusive?' was conceived in response to research that shows that whilst businesses and service providers are very conscious of providing access to support those with physical disabilities, very little study has focused on accessibility for customers whose disabilities or needs are less obvious.
If you'd like to register your business, fill out the online form on the 'Are You Inclusive?' website; www.areyouinclusive.com.au. Dr Annie Brennan and her team will then follow up with a welcome pack.
Here at BMEE, we believe everyone in our community deserves to interact with services and local businesses with ease and dignity, and that everyone in our community should feel part of our community. We look forward to seeing which businesses in the Blue Mountains join the program.
Bernie Fehon, OAM, is CEO of Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise