Ambassador Profile - Jane Spring
Welcome to the IncludeAbility Ambassador Profile Series. This month we are showcasing Jane Spring.
In March we caught up with IncludeAbility Ambassador Jane Spring.
Jane is the Chair of the Disability Council in New South Wales. She loves travelling, seeing the world and enjoying recreational activities with her friends. Jane is pursuing a non-executive director career and is personally committed to advocating for education, mentoring and networking opportunities that make people with disability confident in the boardroom.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, for example your interests, what’s important to you?
My disability is T10 paraplegia, and I have been in a wheelchair since 1990.
In my professional life, I am pursuing a non-executive director career, with commitment to organisations that make a difference for people with disability and in sport.
In my personal life, I love travelling with friends and seeing the world. Finding wheelchair accessible experiences is not easy. One of my favourites has been travelling on accessible canal boats in the United Kingdom and France.
Can you tell us about some of things you are most proud of, or achievements you would like to share?
Recently, I have joined the board of Royal Rehab, the organisation where I did my own rehabilitation after a spinal-cord injury in 1990. I am enjoying bringing my lived experience to board level conversations about the service we provide to our clients and proud that I am able to advocate for people with disability.
Early in my career I worked at the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and was able to influence disability inclusion in venue design and in day to day operations for the Games. This was definitely a highlight of my career and I see the legacy of this at many sporting venues in and around Sydney.
Some of my favourite achievements relate to being healthy and able to enjoy recreational opportunities with my friends. I work hard at staying fit – going to the gym a few times a week and swimming kilometres in the local pool. I really enjoy ocean swimming and was thrilled recently when I swam the Bold and Beautiful swim at Manly. It’s about 1.7 km and I swam it with my cousin and a friend in a really good time.
Can you tell us about some of the things you are currently working on?
As Chair of the Disability Council in New South Wales, I lead a fabulous group of people with lived experience of various forms of disability committed to giving government good advice on disability and disability inclusion. Some of our priorities include increasing the representation of people with disability at board level, making beaches more accessible for people with disabilities and addressing by the lack of accessible housing. There are many more and I invite people to look at the website to see what we are working on.
As a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors I am personally committed to advocating for education, mentoring and networking opportunities that make people with disability confident in the boardroom. In my role as Chair of the Disability Council in NSW I am advocating for increased diversity on government boards - and for tracking this so we can stay accountable to the community for demonstrating that people in these important strategic roles reflect the community.
Tips and Advice
Do you have any advice for people with disability seeking employment? And people with disability who are already employed and seeking to advance their career?
I have worked in the New South Wales public sector for much of my career. For people with disabilities looking for employment I would suggest looking for roles in the public sector because it is such a big and diverse employer. For people looking to advance their careers, I suggest finding good mentors and sponsors who know your skill set and are prepared to work with you to find suitable roles.
Can you share some advice or tips for employers when recruiting people with disability, or supporting their existing employees with disability?
Genuine commitment to inclusion and making adjustments where they are needed is the most important thing that any employer can do. Establishing trust and making sure that the culture is inclusive and supportive enables everyone to work productively, and to bring the insights from their diverse life experience to the work that they do.
When people with disability are employed in meaningful roles and are confident to bring the benefit of their diverse experiences into their work we all benefit. Making sure that products and services meet the needs of people with disabilities makes things easier for everyone.
A good day for me is one when I forget that I am disabled because everything works well for me. I’d like to thank the many people with disabilities and other advocates that have worked hard over the years to make things easier. There is a lot to celebrate.
What role does lived experience have (or should have) in projects such as IncludeAbility and more broadly in society?
Lived experience in projects such as IncludeAbility is incredibly important, because even when there is goodwill, people do not realise the complexities of living with disability. It is also extremely important that people with disabilities are highly visible in leadership roles.
What is your favourite IncludeAbility resource and why do you like it?
My favourite IncludeAbility resource is around the creation of Disability Employee Networks. These networks provide an opportunity to talk about issues relating to disability and gain support from others. As Chair of the Disability Council, attending DENs provides me with a fabulous opportunity to check-in on how our public sector agencies are going in terms of providing a supportive and productive workplace for people with disabilities. I am always really excited when I hear how the lived experience of people with disability is influencing good public policy and delivery of services to people with disabilities.