At Disability Expo 2024, we are fostering inclusive cultures and redefining workplaces through insightful discussions, resources, and connections.
Tanya Marwaha is one of our Champions for the Workplace & Inclusive Cultures priority action area. In this exclusive interview, she shares her experiences of living with Fibromyalgia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, her advocacy journey and what ignited her passion for working with employers on becoming more inclusive and accessible.
Can you share a bit about your lived experience with disability and your background in advocacy work? How have these experiences shaped your perspective on workplace inclusion?
Tanya Marwaha: Since the age of 13, my disabilities have greatly shaped who I am, my experiences and the path that I am on now. After eventually being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome at 19, I embarked on a journey of advocacy because the lack of awareness and inclusivity had led to many challenges for me.
Especially coming from the South Asian community where disability is so heavily stigmatised, it made it even more important for me to use my voice and advocate for disability and inclusivity.
When I was diagnosed, my biggest worry was about how I would find a workplace that would be truly inclusive to me and my disabilities. Through my experiences with workplaces as a young disabled candidate and employee, I often came across barriers to inclusivity and accessibility; this ignited a passion for me to work with workplaces to ensure they are inclusive and accessible.
What motivated you to get involved in the Disability Expo, and the Workplace & Inclusive Cultures area in particular?
Tanya Marwaha: Getting involved in the Disability Expo was an easy decision for me, it is so important and exciting for me as an advocate in this space to get involved in an incredible initiative that brings together all stakeholders in the disability space and provides them with resources and knowledge.
The Workplace & Inclusive Cultures area was of particular interest to me as I have spent the past couple of years working closely with a variety of businesses and workplaces to improve their disability inclusivity and accessibility, whether this be in the recruitment processes, retention or the everyday employee experiences.
What are the main issues faced by people with disabilities when it comes to work and career? What do you think the root causes are, and what are some of the solutions?
Tanya Marwaha: From what I have observed and experienced, many workplaces, despite having good intentions or thinking that they are inclusive, are not actually very disability inclusive. This because disability inclusivity in the workplace is much more than only providing reasonable adjustments, it needs to be embedded into their culture, everyday interactions and experience for all employees.
A great way to understand how workplaces can be more disability inclusive can be through listening to and amplifying the voices of employees with disabilities to understand their needs and work towards building a more inclusive culture and processes.
Another issue I find is that it is hard for people with disabilities to connect with inclusive employers, especially in a competitive job market, it can feel difficult to have the opportunity to find disability inclusive employers. The Disability Expo is a great way for this to be overcome, as attendees can directly connect with employers and businesses who are taking part in the summit and feel empowered in their career journey.
Your advocacy work extends into the realm of mental health, particularly through the Championing Youth Minds project. In what ways do these two realms intersect, and how can fostering inclusive cultures in the workplace contribute to better mental health outcomes for individuals with disabilities?
Tanya Marwaha: My passion for advocating for disability and mental health is rooted in the fact that both of these experiences for me have been so closely intertwined; I cannot talk about my mental health difficulties without speaking about my disability and vice versa.
My mental health has been greatly impacted by the experiences of both inclusive and not inclusive workplaces, which is why it is so important for me to advocate on this, and I am proud to be a Champion of this area. Ensuring the workplace culture is inclusive is fundamental to encouraging positive mental health outcomes for people with disabilities, they should feel heard, seen and that they are thriving in the workplace. Workplaces that fail to be inclusive have an immense negative impact on the mental health of employees with disabilities.
The Workplace & Inclusive Cultures area aims to foster meaningful discussions and connections. What outcomes do you hope to see for the delegates who engage with this content and how can these discussions contribute to more inclusive work environments?
Tanya Marwaha: I hope that the delegates who engage with the Workplace & Inclusive Cultures area feel confident and empowered in their knowledge in how they can create and contribute to inclusive workplace cultures as well as their own career journey. This opportunity provides a safe space of learning, challenging existing practices and meaningful connection.
These discussions are immensely beneficial for all stakeholders involved. Whether you are representing your workplace, or here to connect with inclusive workplaces, there will be so much knowledge to gather, resources to leverage and connections to create.
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