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09.04.2015

DisAbility Management in corporate strategy:
Platform enables companies to exchange information with pioneers like Bank Austria and REWE International AG

  • 15 percent of Austrians live with a disability and one third of the population is affected by a disability, either themselves or through someone close to them
  • Demographic trends mean this group is constantly growing
  • As a company, striving for complete accessibility in all areas – above and beyond statutory requirements – is therefore not just part of social responsibility, it also constitutes a significant competitive advantage
  • This is demonstrated by companies such as Bank Austria and REWE International AG as part of the “DisAbility Performance Austria” platform
  • The aim of this cross-industry initiative is to raise public awareness of accessibility even more, and to motivate other Austrian companies to introduce strategic DisAbility Management as a best practice

"Our objective is to get companies to start thinking differently so that accessibility and inclusion are no longer considered obstacles but as business opportunities; to persuade companies we need prominent partners from the business community that are already active in this field", said Gregor Demblin, DisAbility expert and founder of DisAbility Performance Austria, explaining his motives.

Bank Austria looks back on five successful years of DisAbility Management
"Five years ago, Bank Austria recognised that there were too many people living with disabilities in Austria for us to ignore their enormous potential as employees or customers. With more than 400 employees living with disabilities I am proud today that we have fulfilled the statutory quota since 2013, nearly 50 percent of our branches are fully accessible and by means of video calls, sign language videos and the read-aloud functions on our website we are able to provide the same comprehensive advice to our customers with disabilities as we do to all our other customers", said Willibald Cernko, CEO of Bank Austria, analysing the situation, before adding: "The decision to establish our own DisAbility Management framework was spot on because such a comprehensive programme has to be managed on a structured basis." At present there are already 60 people working in Bank Austria's DisAbility network: employees with disabilities are optimally integrated into daily banking activities and customer care. DisAbility management also promotes long-term awareness among employees for the needs of disabled people, because it is often difficult for non-disabled employees to realise where people with disabilities encounter barriers in their professional lives.

REWE International AG launches strategic DisAbility Management
DisAbility has been an issue at REWE Group since 2008 and through cooperation with organisations such as the Federal Association of People with Disabilities (ÖZIV) or "Lebenshilfe" many worthwhile projects have been launched at the retail firms of BILLA, MERKUR, BIPA, PENNY and ADEG, and at head office / warehouse level. These numerous individual initiatives are now being brought under one strategic umbrella with a DisAbility manager and an internal working group comprising people with and without disabilities. "According to experts, setting up a network within the company is a crucial requirement for successfully implementing the DisAbility strategy and realising specific projects", emphasised Frank Hensel, CEO at REWE International AG. "We are using international examples as inspiration here, but above all we are building on the experience of Austrian partner companies with the platform, especially Bank Austria, which is a pioneer in this respect."

DisAbility performance checks get the ball rolling
Similarly to Bank Austria, REWE International AG also engaged DisAbility Performance Austria to conduct a situation analysis regarding all facets of its business. This DisAbility performance check shows the areas in which the company is already doing very well as regards accessibility and where there is a need for improvement. "This result is squared with the corporate objectives to determine which areas urgently need to be addressed purely from an economic perspective. As these areas vary strongly between industries and companies they are only comparable to a limited extent", explained Demblin. The DisAbility Performance Network is a platform for Austrian companies that have taken on a pioneering role in this key issue for the future: alongside Bank Austria and REWE International AG, such include L’Oréal, Wiener Stadtwerke (municipal works) and Erste Hub.

DisAbility management is more than just physical accessibility
That most companies in Austria barely tackle DisAbility, or only on a very selective basis with lighthouse projects, is principally due to the complexity of the topic and that it plays a role in all areas of a company. "Many just do not know where to begin", diagnosed Demblin. Accessibility must be construed as an all-round concept, encompassing the entire business activity of a company as well as the full integration of employees with disabilities, starting with recruiting, through technically adapted workplaces to flexible working-hour policies, which enable these employees to fully exploit their potential.

In conclusion, all three dialogue partners agree that the Austrian business community needs to start thinking differently. Accessibility and inclusion should no longer be understood as official regulations or purely charitable commitments. Companies have to recognise the massive economic potential and the competitive advantage of structured DisAbility management.

Printable photos are available for download on our website presse.bankaustria.at . Reproduction is free of charge. Furthermore, an easy-to-read version of the press release will be available from Wednesday, 15 April at presse.bankaustria.at.

DisAbility Performance Austria
DisAbility Performance Austria, founded by Gregor Demblin, himself living with a disability, as well as Sandra Turecek and Michael Aumann is an innovative, social business consultancy that helps companies utilise the potential of people with disabilities as customers or employees. Its social mission is to make society fully accessible, starting with the business community.

Enquiries to REWE International AG:
Ines Schurin, Press Spokesperson and Head of Media Relations, REWE International AG
Tel.: +43 2236 600 5261
E-mail: i.schurin@rewe-group.at
Industriezentrum NÖ-Süd, Straße 3, Objekt 16, A-2355 Wiener Neudorf

Enquiries to Bank Austria Media Relations Austria:
Martin Halama, Tel.: +43 (0) 5 05 05-52371
E-mail: martin.halama@unicreditgroup.at
Schottengasse 6-8, 1010 Vienna

Enquiries to DisAbility Performance Austria:
Gregor Demblin, Tel.: +43 676 359 17 18
E-mail: office@disability-performance.com
DisAbility Performance Social Enterprise GmbH
Siebenbrunnengasse 17/1, 1050 Vienna