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Published on December 4th, 2023

Disability Inclusive Employment at DT Global: The SKALA Experience

A training on basic sign language is given.

The concept of disability inclusion in the workplace is a relatively new idea, and its translation into practice is still in its early stages. In theory, disability inclusion is realised when workplaces shift their intentions and behaviours toward a positive view of difference and diversity. This ensures that applicants and employees with disabilities are welcomed and included in the workplace.

International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is marked on 3 December every year and is an important reminder for employers to review and improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) measures in the workplace.

In line with this year’s theme, ‘United in action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for, with, and by persons with disabilities’, DT Global reflects on making disability inclusion a reality through SKALA – a DFAT-funded program in Indonesia implemented by DT Global.

Strengthening the Australia-Indonesia Partnership Program

SKALA is an Australia-Indonesia partnership program that builds on the successes and learning from Australia’s 17 years of support to Indonesia’s decentralised government system. SKALA works to accelerate the improved delivery of six basic services (education, health, public works and spatial planning; public housing and settlement areas; peace, public order and community protection; and social services) in less developed regions at subnational and local levels. The program places particular focus on ensuring better access for Indonesia’s vulnerable groups, including women and people with disabilities. SKALA will operate in eight target regions across Indonesia, including Aceh, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), Maluku, Gorontalo, North Kalimantan, and Papua Region.

Implementing inclusive measures through SKALA

SKALA is committed to mainstreaming disability and social inclusion in its program structure and is grounded by the principle of equity for all.

In September 2023, Pak Jaka Yusuf, who is visually impaired and requires additional support in the workplace, joined the SKALA provincial team through an open recruitment process as a Gender Equity, Diversity and Social Inclusion Coordinator. In the time Jaka has worked in the team, he has recognised SKALA’s commitment to building an inclusive working environment and valued the support he has received from his colleagues.

“So far, I feel comfortable working with the NTB team … we learn from each other on how to most effectively build support and trust, including professional support.”

“Each of us does not feel awkward in making mistakes. In fact, we learn a lot from it.”

Jaka works with a volunteer who provides him with support to perform his day-to-day work in the office.

Jaka working with assistance from a volunteer. Jaka is using a screen reader software installed on his laptop, while the volunteer provides a verbal description of what appears on the laptop screen.


This marks the beginning of a collective learning journey towards making inclusive employment a reality.

Jaka suggested that “sharing practices and stories around diverse employees will help other team members to get a feel for how to work with people with disabilities.” He also pointed to the use of informal meetings and social gatherings as a potentially effective way to create space for safe and open discussions.

SKALA is actively seeking to build a more inclusive and equitable workplace. The program is continually investing in ways to provide reasonable accommodation for staff members and to raise awareness of workplace behaviour fundamental to working with team members of different abilities. SKALA aims to build a culture of acceptance of difference and understanding, as well as capacity building for staff to work effectively with a diverse team.

To commemorate IDPwD, SKALA held a workshop for its staff members to learn basic sign language in partnership with the Center of Indonesia Sign Language. This initiative was part of the internal stakeholder engagement efforts to build the foundations on how to effectively communicate with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. This highlights the team’s commitment to ensuring a supportive workplace environment for staff with disabilities, including a staff member who has recently joined and is deaf.

Video: Basic sign language training session hosted by SKALA in partnership with the Center of Indonesia Sign Language

The training was attended by the DFAT and DT Global teams and conducted in a hybrid format to maximise participation and inclusivity for those unable to attend in person. This activity also demonstrates alignment with DT Global’s core values, which emphasise diversity and inclusion as fundamental principles. More all-staff DEIA workshops are also scheduled in early 2024.

Responding to challenges

While SKALA has made significant inroads into improving disability-inclusive employment practices, translating the good intentions of mainstreaming disability inclusion into practice has been a steep learning curve.

Some of the challenges SKALA has come across include individuals being reluctant to disclose their disability at any stage of the recruitment process due to societal stigma. There is also the additional factor of cultural norms and expectations affecting openness to discuss disabilities in the workplace.

It can sometimes be challenging for employers to accommodate and support individuals requiring additional adaptations needed for improved accessibility.

Pak Sayed Fachri, SKALA People and Culture Lead highlighted that without the openness to discuss disabilities, “it is challenging to anticipate, address and implement requirements and accessibility features. Additionally, office buildings may present physical constraints and architectural barriers, which can be difficult to modify to create a fully accessible environment.”

“As an employer, the onus is on us to ensure that we provide a safe space for people to disclose their conditions and needs at every opportunity possible.”

“Disability Awareness Training must also be provided to all staff to ensure supportive attitudes towards persons with disabilities and continuous learning and conversation on how we can work together in a more inclusive working environment,” he said.

A learning journey for all

Achieving inclusive employment is complex and cannot always be solved with one single intervention. Consistent with DT Global’s Adaptive Management Framework, an inclusive workplace requires intentional learning about different perspectives, abilities and cultures. This can only be achieved by actively seeking and listening to feedback from employees, especially those from underrepresented groups.

Both the SKALA and DT Global teams strive to continually learn about how we can reduce barriers and better support our colleagues. Responsiveness and purposeful learning are integral to our approach to developing and implementing disability-inclusive and accessible employment practices for all.

SKALA is an Australia-Indonesia Partnership and implemented by DT Global.