Lazarillo app

Creating a more inclusive world for persons with disabilities

Today, in celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we’re creating awareness about disability inclusion at IKEA.

IKEA has the ambition to be fully circular by 2030 but is also committed to positively impacting people and society as a whole, creating a fair and equal world for all.   

On our journey to become ‘An Inclusive IKEA’, we recognise the importance of disability inclusion and our responsibility in how we do business and our global and local impact. It can, for example, be about our products (e.g. OMTÄNKSAM) and store design, recruitment processes and workspaces, or how we support local communities.  

For our co-workers, disability inclusion is not just about increasing disability representation but also about building disability inclusion capabilities and improving accessibility across all IKEA operations. For our customers, it’s about ensuring a more inclusive customer journey and developing a more inclusive IKEA offer of products and services. For the communities where we’re present, it’s about recognising that many people don’t always have equal opportunities and can find themselves excluded.   

At IKEA and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, we want to change that and create a world where everyone can participate: an inclusive world that honours people’s unique skills and competencies. 

Inclusion through equality and entrepreneurship

Persons with disabilities are the world’s largest minority, making up 16% of the world’s population or more than 1.3 billion persons worldwide. This number increases as the world population ages and chronic conditions become more common. Disability is not a personal shortcoming but a system failure; it occurs when society creates spaces, ways of working, products or services that are not accessible or usable for persons with disabilities.  

Through IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, we partner with social businesses and entrepreneurs who tackle societal challenges, such as making the world more accessible and inclusive for persons with disabilities.   

Our partnerships support social entrepreneurs to scale their work and impact through our accelerator programmes or by doing business with them. These partnerships allow us to support those working with local communities and contribute to an inclusive local economy, an essential step to a fair and equal society.  

Below we highlight a few social enterprises we support who are working to create a better everyday life for persons with disabilities.  
Heca content

Heca: Empowering vulnerable communities in Poland  

Heca, a social business in Poland, plays a crucial role in addressing both environmental and societal challenges. The company takes a holistic approach to create a positive impact, recognising that Poland’s abundant waste materials could be repurposed to develop goods, providing opportunities for stable income to those facing difficulties in accessing job opportunities. Heca focuses on supporting people with physical or mental disabilities and young individuals facing homelessness, offering them training and quality jobs.   

One of the company’s lines of business is Patentu, a producer of hand-crafted quality furniture from recycled materials such as plastic waste collected from corporate partners. Patentu furniture is designed for accessibility, with universal design principles to accommodate the needs of children, older people and persons with disabilities.  

Heca contributes to curbing carbon emissions through Tczew Bicycle Couriers. This bicycle-based urban delivery enterprise trains and hires at-risk youth, many of whom are graduates from Heca’s training programmes. The social enterprise also offers job search mentoring and office spaces to help programme participants launch their careers.  

Heca’s commitment to a more inclusive local economy extends to partnerships with other impact-oriented organisations, creating gift sets with products from partner social businesses for corporate clients. Through participating in our Poland and Romania Accelerator programme, co-created with NESsT, Heca aims to improve its business strategy and internal structures, paving the way for more full-time employment opportunities and training courses.   

Watch this video to learn more

Lazarillo: Navigating a more inclusive world 

Lazarillo, based in Chile, is a social enterprise that develops software products that empower people with disabilities to participate in digital and physical spaces. With over 250,000 active users across 45 countries, the company’s inclusive technology addresses the needs of the millions of vision-impaired individuals across Latin America.   

The importance of Lazarillo’s work lies in its ability to help people with visual impairments find their way in environments not optimised for accessibility. From banks to grocery stores to public transportation, its software enables users to navigate both indoor and outdoor spaces.   

Lazarillo’s recently partnered with the 2023 Pan American and Parapan American Games, held in Santiago, to increase the safety and accessibility of athletes and spectators. By providing accessible routes and points of interest, it facilitated independent navigation for people with reduced mobility and real-time audio messages for those with visual impairments.   

The enterprise first launched as a way-finding app in 2016 to help people who are blind or have low vision reach their destinations. As its user base grew and the company gained insight into the obstacles that the community faces beyond navigation, the app has evolved into a multipurpose platform with automated features that help people with visual disabilities to navigate the web, make online purchases, or submit job applications.  

Specialisterne Foundation: Scaling inclusion for neurodivergent individuals   

Based in Denmark and part of our Dela programme co-created with Ashoka, the Specialisterne Foundation revolutionises employment opportunities for neurodivergent individuals globally, specifically focusing on autism. Even with nearly one per cent of the global population affected by autism, traditional education and training often prove ineffective, resulting in alarmingly high unemployment rates among adults with autism.   

The foundation’s commitment to transforming lives lies in recognising the immense value neurodivergent individuals bring to the labour market. By identifying and developing the skills of potential employees using innovative methods, including Lego, Specialisterne transforms perceived handicaps into a competitive advantage in the business world.   

Since 2008, the Specialisterne Foundation has advocated for the inclusion of neurodivergent individuals in the labour market across multiple countries. The foundation’s assessment and training programme and close collaboration with client companies create a supportive work environment tailored to the specific needs of individuals with autism. Through its participation in Dela, the Specialisterne Foundation aims to spread the idea of neurodiversity, encouraging action for inclusion in communities.   
Specialisterne job launch
Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne, at their job initiative launch.

Jobful: A more inclusive recruitment journey 

Jobful (also known as Playful Software) is a Romanian-based digital solutions agency with a mission to create an inclusive and equitable recruitment journey. Its various platforms, the company addresses the unique challenges faced by marginalised groups, including youth, refugees, and people with disabilities in finding employment.  

The significance of Jobful’s work lies in its human-focused approach to talent acquisition and staff training. Its recruitment platform is designed to integrate with corporate career sites, and currently connects over 40,000 registered users with clients like Coca-Cola HBC, ING Bank, Microsoft, and ERSTE Bank. The enterprise also develops games to improve communication and collaboration skills that enhance the employability of people from marginalised groups.  

Although the number of persons with disabilities in Romania is not small, they are often socially neglected due to the lack of infrastructure, education and awareness. Jobful believes that change begins with each new professional successfully integrated into the labour market, with each person who becomes financially independent and who can enjoy a higher quality of life. 

The enterprise, currently part of our Refugee Employment Initiative, recently launch of Jobs4All to extend its commitment to creating a more inclusive job market in Romania. The Jobs4All platform is specifically designed to connect persons with disabilities to job opportunities. 

Playful Software employees
The team behind Jobful and Jobs4All.
 As we celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, these organisations reflect an ongoing commitment to fostering an inclusive world where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive.  

Read more about other enterprises in our programmes supporting persons with disabilities.