Disability may be different to what you think.

That was the opening message from Commonwealth Bank’s Katherine Alderson at an event hosted by Enable, the employee network that advocates for people living with disability, carers and people who are neurodivergent. 

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“Disability can be temporary. It can be situational, or permanent,” said Ms Alderson, who works in the bank’s Customer Service Network and is co-chair of Enable. “Inherited, or acquired. From very young children through to teens and adults and older people. Disability can be visible and non-visible.”

She explained there are 4.4 million people in Australia with disability. “That’s one in five of us,” she said. “Almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life. It is for this reason that everyone at CommBank has a responsibility to understand and advocate for accessibility and inclusion. When we design for inclusion, everyone benefits.”

The event, held to coincide with the International Day of People with Disability on 3 December, officially launched Commonwealth Bank’s Accessibility and Inclusion Strategy 2024–2026.

"This new strategy is the culmination of extensive engagement with our people, our customers and communities, through a process of what we call ‘human-centred design’,” said CommBank’s Customer Advocate Angela MacMillan. “It’s strategic, it’s comprehensive, and it’s informed by many of you here today.”

The strategy sets out the bank’s commitment to “Dignity by Design” – the goal to design inclusive products, services, experiences and workplaces that provide equitable access and dignity for customers, people and communities.

“Dignity by Design, at its heart, is about embedding accessibility and inclusion into everything we do,” said Caroline Ghatt, the bank’s Senior Manager of Accessibility and Inclusion, in a panel discussion with Ms MacMillan and Group Executive, Retail Banking Services Angus Sullivan.

“We know that when we get this right for our people and for our customers, it creates an incredibly positive impact,” said Ms Ghatt. “Dignity is important for everybody and it benefits all of us.”

Angela MacMillan, Caroline Ghatt and Angus Sullivan in conversation at the Enable event Angela MacMillan, Caroline Ghatt and Angus Sullivan in conversation at the Enable event

Mr Sullivan underscored the importance of CBA’s role in accessibility and inclusion, as a bank that looks after a “full-breadth” of Australians. 

“Unless organisations like CBA step into the Dignity by Design space, and design our products and services in a way that keeps them simple but still usable for many Australians, there won’t be enough options left for customers to go to,” he said.

“Enable is very excited to support the launch of the new Accessibility and Inclusion Strategy,” added Enable co-chair Bronwyn Carson, whose address at the event also shared the results of an internal poll of CommBank employees asking what inclusion means to them. 

“The themes that we’ve seen coming through talk to equity, dignity and belonging for all,” she said.

The event opened with a conversation between CommBank Pararoos captain David Barber and Jeremy Boyce, and CommBank Paramatildas co-captain Carly Salmon and Georgia Beikoff. Led by Matthew Barran, a general manager in CommBank’s business bank, the discussion touched on the recent Para Asian Cup, highlights of the players’ football careers, and the importance of accessibility and inclusion in sport.

“One memory I’ll cherish forever is an eight-year-old girl [who has cerebral palsy], who was one of our mascots, who came into our dressing room after the game [at the start of 2023],” shared Ms Beikoff.

“The next day her dad messaged me on Instagram and said ‘Thank you so much, because she has reached that age where she’s realised that life is going to be tough, and life is going to different to all her friends at school. You guys [the Paramatildas] have flipped her world completely upside-down and you’ve given her so much confidence. 

“I think that’s really special.”

CommBank’s Chief Operations Officer Sinead Taylor closed the event by highlighting how important it is for the bank to consider the needs of all customers in its decision-making.   

“Dignity by Design is core to inclusion and ensuring that everyone feels seen. We want every one of our customers to have a fantastic experience when they deal with us and we have an obligation to consider this in everything we do each day,” Ms Taylor said. 

Attendees at the event, held at CommBank’s office The Foundry in South Eveleigh, Sydney, also included blind chef and star of a new children’s book Cooking Up a Storm Craig Shanahan, Vision Australia; and representatives from the Australian Network on Disability.

To learn more, visit: commbank.com.au/accessibility

Banner image: CommBank's Matthew Barran leading a discussion with Pararoos captain David Barber, Paramatildas players Georgia Beikoff and co-captain Carly Salmon, and Pararoos player Jeremy Boyce.

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