The 2022 Harkin International Disability Employment Summit has opened today (7 June) at ICC Belfast. The conference, in partnership with The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement and the Northern Ireland Department for Communities, will welcome over 500 delegates in-person and virtually to positively reframe the narrative on approaching, supporting and enabling persons with disabilities to achieve their career goals and aspirations.
The aim is to lead transformational change before, during and after the Summit to advance equality of opportunity for disabled people in the labour market. Belfast is committed to ensuring it is an accessible, diverse, inclusive and welcoming destination and is investing in its facilities and industry to achieve this.
In anticipation of the Summit’s arrival in Belfast, the positive social impact and legacy has already been felt across the city.
Over 240 hospitality and tourism professionals in Belfast are now trained in inclusion. The training video, curated by Visit Belfast and Group Now, was developed specifically for the Harkin Summit and will now be rolled out across the city’s tourism and hospitality sector to improve inclusion across the wider industry.
As well as investing in facilities, including a peninsular toilet, grab rails and a changing bench to allow more space and comfort for those visitors requiring additional support, the ICC Belfast have worked with the University of Atypical to create a social narrative access video, which will be available for all events going forward.
Over 80 percent of ICC Belfast staff and 100 percent of Visit Belfast visitor servicing staff have also completed the JAM card training. The JAM card, which stands for Just a Minute, has been developed by Belfast-based social enterprise NOW Group, allows customers to communicate their accessibility needs discreetly, highlighting that they may need a little extra time and patience during their visit.
Under Northern Ireland Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey’s direction, the Harkin Belfast legacy initiatives also include 300 ring-fenced employment opportunities for young disabled people, 100 mentoring sessions to be delivered during the Summit, an eight-week Entrepreneurship Course for young people with disabilities in collaboration with the British Council and a Dragon’s Den for disability led enterprises sponsored by Ulster Bank.
Belfast City Council, as part of the new Belfast tourism strategy, will also roll out an accessible tourism programme to build capacity and skills within the tourism sector.
The city of Belfast will continue to utilise the Harkin Summit to learn from global best practice and as a catalyst for further progress and inform future policy work and initiatives in this area.
Julia Corkey, Chief Executive of ICC Belfast, said: “ICC Belfast is very proud to host the Harkin Summit. As we, and our partners, collaborate to attract business conferences and exhibitions to Belfast, it is vital our city continues to make a collective effort to be a welcoming place for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their needs. As our new changing place demonstrates, alongside Belfast City Council, we are committed to investing in our venue on an ongoing basis to ensure that ICC Belfast continues to be an accessible and inclusive place that celebrates diversity.”
Visit Belfast’s Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation, Rachael McGuickin added: “Belfast is renowned around the world for going the extra mile and offering the warmest of welcomes, so it’s hugely important that we ensure that this welcome is as fully inclusive as possible. By working with the NOW Group, we’re able to equip our colleagues and partners with the skills, language and confidence to welcome everyone to Belfast and Northern Ireland and meet the needs of all of our guests and deliver the appropriate assistance if required.“