Disability inclusion is a mindset, not a numbers game

Global, December 3, 2015

Aegon has achieved one of the primary goals of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities this year: Awareness.

While local regulations make establishing a concrete number of disabled employees difficult, local initiatives paint a very positive picture.

"Globally, we don't measure how many disabled employees we have, because that would be discrimination in itself. We take the best person for the job," says Head of Global HR, Carla Mahieu, adding that this includes people with physical disabilities, but also numerous employees with less obvious disabilities, such as visual impairment.

Arjan Aegon employeeUnlimited talent

Aegon has worked with Dutch recruitment company Onbegrensd Talent (Unlimited Talent) since 2012. The recruitment agency has around 3,000 job seekers on its books who have a physical or mental disability.

In 2013, Arjan was the first Aegon employee to be recruited via Onbegrensd Talent. "I only have 20 percent vision," he explains. "You might not think it, but working with a computer is actually an advantage. I simply make everything larger on the screen. It's much quicker than putting all sorts of paper under a magnifying glass," he says.

Sanja from Onbegrensd Talent

This year, Sanja, who suffers from severe arthritis, was one of a number of new recruits. "My disability is immediately obvious. I walk strangely," she explains. "This already sets the tone during a job interview," she says, "You can almost hear the recruiters thinking, 'She'll need assistance and she's slow', but I've got a lot of other qualities."

Providing the right tools

During her interview with Aegon she explained that she can't sit for long periods of time. Aegon's response was: "That's no problem, our desks can be raised to standing height with the press of a button."

It goes without saying that Aegon's offices are adapted to accommodate people with a variety of disabilities. At Aegon Sony Life, the company's joint venture in Japan, they've taken this enthusiasm for inclusion out of the office as well.

Screenshot of the disabled toilet AppOut of office

Groups of volunteers from the company are helping to map all the public bathrooms which are wheelchair friendly and suitable for people with special needs, into a Smartphone application with geo-location function.

Not only are the toilets mapped, but details about the facilities offered are also uploaded, such as if the bathrooms have support handles, if there is space for helpers to enter, and if emergency alarms are available.

"This week, we'll be surveying the Omotesando area, where our office is located," says Akira Havermans, Assistant to Chairman at Aegon Sony LIfe. "The illuminations, which attract a lot of people, will start next week, so our goal is to map all of the bathrooms in the area so that everyone can enjoy the event."

I'm a strong believer that our company must reflect the society we serve, and that means being as inclusive and welcoming a place to work as possible

Alex Wynaendts Aegon CEO

Initiatives like this, which support inclusion, often fall 'beneath the radar' but are commonplace at Aegon. As Carla says: "Putting a number to the people in our organization with disabilities is not helpful, we'd rather work toward creating an enabling environment not only for our employees but in the communities we serve."

It's a view, Aegon CEO Alex Wynaendts shares: "I'm a strong believer that our company must reflect the society we serve, and that means being as inclusive and welcoming a place to work as possible."