Santander: Being honest about challenges – and overcoming them

By Sam Buckley, Business Disability Forum

An honest approach to learning from the experiences of disabled employees at Santander is reflected in a new case study that shares the stories of two recruits with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The case study, aimed at people thinking of applying for jobs at the bank, takes an different approach to similar documents by others in presenting a very honest account of the high points and low points in the journeys of two new starters.

Jon Butler, who line manages the two employees summed up the message of the case study: “I’m super proud of both of them, but there’s a lot we can learn from their experiences.”

Daniel

DanSantanderDaniel joined Santander after university, and despite initially facing challenges found that with the right support he flourished in his role in the bank’s contact centre.

Upon taking up management of Daniel and Isabel, Jon researched Asperger’s Syndrome to identify potential adjustments to put in place, and continuously checked with them on how he could support them both.

Daniel said: “I’m now much happier and more confident in my job than I was before. It’s amazing what having the right support can do. What’s more, I’ve recently started taking on extra roles. I now audit and coach my team for risk and I’m an active member of Santander’s Disability Support Forum, attending quarterly meetings in Milton Keynes.”

Isabel

IsabelSantanderSimilarly to her fellow new starter Daniel, Isabel initially faced barriers when starting work but was enabled by workplace adjustments. With these, and the support and understanding of her manager Jon, Isabel was able to thrive.

“Continued support at the start of a career and reasonable adjustments really make a difference,” Isabel said. “I’ve received many ‘Thank Yous’ and recognition awards and have become a digital advocate, presenting to other teams. Our Retail Business Manager recently presented me with an award for  positive customer feedback.”

Jon said: “It’s tough reading about the challenges Daniel and Isabel had to overcome at the start. When I first met Daniel and Isabel, what impressed me was their passion; the job was vital to them, an opportunity they couldn’t afford to lose. Daniel and Isabel pointed me to articles and videos to better understand Asperger’s and we focused on getting through probation by planning for success.

“We developed coping strategies together, including preparing for change, handling conflict and emotional customers. I also had a lot of support from Health, Safety & Wellbeing. We met with our Regional Health & Safety Consultant, who helped agree and set down some reasonable adjustments. Something as simple as 20% adjustment on call length has helped Daniel and Isabel develop their communication skills and had a real positive impact.

“Fast forward 18 months and both of them are delivering outstanding service.  Daniel supports our team to improve their risk performance and Isabel delivers digital advocacy training to new joiners.”

Daniel added: “It’s absolutely fantastic to be a Co-Chair of our disability support network, Enable! I’ve worked in disability support before now and it’s something I’m very passionate about.

“When I joined Santander as a customer service advisor three years ago as my first full time job, I never imagined that this is where it would lead. I didn’t even realise that a business like Santander would have something like this in place. It’s an absolutely incredible thing to be a part of though and it’s wonderful to be able to do what I love, to support other colleagues and to have a team of people who are dedicated to helping others.

“It really is inspirational and I can’t wait to see where the future takes us.”

To read the full case study, click here 

Partner Group Reception 2018: Bringing your whole self to work

By Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

“Bringing your whole self to work no matter your disability, this will be the ‘New Normal'” stated John Brady, from Royal Bank of Scotland, host of Business Disability Forum’s Partner Group Reception.

John Brady, RBS at the lectern

John Brady, RBS

This key point honed in on the theme of the event as we rang in our new financial year:  ‘Identity’, as we also heard from disabled people about how their disabilities inform and overlap with their own identities.

Business Disability Forum’s Partner Group Reception, held at the RBS / Natwest building in Bishopsgate was turned into a Summer Serenity Garden on 26 July.

Floral archway entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

It felt fitting, given that it was one of the hottest days of the year, to ‘bring the outside in’ for the event, creating a tranquil indoor garden for our Partner Groups to network and talk about the themes of the Reception.

Signs to the Serenity Garden & Bar as well as the Lecture Theatre

Signs to the Serenity Garden & Bar as well as the Lecture Theatre

Oliver Lam-Watson talking into a microphone

Oliver Lam-Watson

As we turned to the speeches, one of our speakers was Oliver Lam-Watson, who won second place at our Film Festival in 2017. Oliver’s speech asked the question: “Is your identity something that other people give you or something you create for yourself?  The choice to create it for yourself can be a profoundly personal journey.”

This was a question Oliver had faced himself, in the form of preconceptions and assumptions by his peers about what he could or couldn’t do. Oliver has lived by the maxim that having a disability doesn’t mean being any less able to do whatever you want, and in addition to being a filmmaker Oliver is hoping to qualify for the next Paralympics as part of Team GB. In conclusion Oliver made a great point about disability and identity; that it needs to be something that is not imposed on someone by society.

Lucy Ruck talking

Lucy Ruck

We also heard from Lucy Ruck, Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce Manager, about being an amputee has shaped her life and ambitions – from being a trainee hairdresser to taking on leadership of our Technology Taskforce which turned 10 this year. Before losing her leg after she was hit by a train when she was 17, she had never met a disabled person before in her life and she became disabled overnight. And she has shared a conversation about it with Diane Lightfoot in our new podcast series “Who are we? The people behind the job title”.

BDF - Partner Group Reception

Diane Lightfoot and Interpreter

One point that was raised was that some people don’t feel disabled enough to use that term or label, Graeme Whippy asked, if you adopt the social model of disability should you only use the word disabled about yourself if you have encountered barriers that disable you?

Graeme Whippy

Graeme Whippy, Disability Consultant

All the speakers had internally decided that their disability was just part of who they are and as John Brady also pointed out, once a disability is acquired you adapt to the “new normal” and society and employers need to accept and adapt to the new normal too.

Everyone is a three dimensional fully rounded person who can be “shallow as well as deep” in Fazilet Hadi’s words, and has different identities professionally and personally.

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB standing at the lectern

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB

A closing thought was that for organisations to succeed on disability they need to “maintain the tension”, that meaning continuing to focus on what needs to be done.

Other highlights of the event included the Roving Artist who impressed guests with his beautiful silhouettes – and of course, the networking!

A big thank you to everyone who attended!

Roving Artist and guest holding the guest's silhouette

Roving Artist (left) and guest

We look forward to hosting our Partners next year, find out more about our events here.

Changing the world for disabled people: the Technology Taskforce @ 10

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By Sam Buckley, Business Disability Forum

On a cold day at the end of January 2008, a small group of people met to discuss a great big idea – using the power of corporate technology leaders to improve the life chances of hundreds of millions of disabled people worldwide.

This was the beginning of Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, which in 2018 works with businesses both domestic and multinational to ensure that technology empowers rather than limits disabled people.

When this group first met, things were a bit different – the iPhone was only a few months old, Google’s Android operating system hadn’t hit the market yet, and the explosion in popularity of tablet computers, smart TVs and e-books was still several years away.

Most importantly, a large amount of the software and gadgets we used day-to-day still weren’t  accessible. The Technology Taskforce set out to change that.

‘Fix the technology!’

“The demand for the taskforce came directly from our business members,” said Susan Scott-Parker, Founder and Honorary Vice-President of Business Disability Forum. “The idea emerged from my conversations with  John Varley, then global CEO of Barclays and our President,: every time he asked his disabled colleagues for advice on how to improve the bank’s disability performance they told him – simply, ‘fix the technology!’ In response he rang me and said we had to do something.”

The idea behind the Technology Taskforce was to bring together corporate technology leaders – people who had the power to ensure that technology could be enabling rather than present barriers.

Simon Minty, Business Disability Forum Associate

Simon Minty, Business Disability Forum Associate

Simon Minty, broadcaster and Director of Sminty Ltd, said: “We knew we were on to something. The original aim was with the combined purchasing power of those in the room, to make technology providers start making their software more accessible.”

Fast-forward to 2018, and features that improve access are increasingly included as standard on consumer products by companies such as Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon. Voice-activated software, screen readers and easy-read formats are becoming the norm for disabled and non-disabled people alike.

The Technology Taskforce is still going strong and has brought major technology suppliers aboard such Microsoft and SAP. The group has had a major influence on numerous businesses and organisations, including technology providers. Its tool for measuring how the accessibility related performance of any business technology is within a business, the Accessibility Maturity Model is being used on a global scale, by multinational organisations like Shell and Atos.

10 years of progress

Its Members past and present have left the Technology Taskforce empowered and equipped to drive major changes to the way technology is used in organisations large and small, transforming the way they approach disabled employees and customers for the better.

The Taskforce still counts organisations including Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, KPMG, Deloitte, BBC, Barclays, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Atos and various government departments such as HMRC, DWP and Environment Agency among its members.

Sean Smith, who worked at the HMRC until his retirement last year, hosted the first meeting.

Sean said: “I remember how exciting that first meeting was. I thought it was going to be a short-term project, but I ultimately remained a part of the Taskforce for the best part of ten years. Immediately, I saw that so many organisations were in the same position of not knowing how to make their computer systems useable for disabled people, and needing to influence the IT industry as a group.

“The Taskforce quickly became a place where those who wanted to make changes could share their experiences in an atmosphere of shared goodwill, motivation and, sometimes, sympathy, as pushing for accessible tech from inside complex organisations can be tough! We knew that no organisation could make the changes we wanted to make alone—leaders had to come together to push for them, and that’s exactly what the Taskforce enabled them to do.

“It’s not too much of an overstatement to say that we were coming together with the aim of sharing the experiences of disabled people and changing the world.”

Still growing and innovating

Long-time Taskforce Member Neil Eustice of KPMG became involved after overhearing colleagues in IT discuss accessibility challenges with commercially available software. Talking to disabled employees and solving problems with non-accessible technology, Neil realised that something more fundamental needed to change.

“Technology advocacy can be a lonely business, but in the Taskforce I found a group of people with the same aims and concerns. Our meetings were great place to share ideas,” Neil said. “For anyone new to the world of accessible technology, the meetings are incredibly useful, and the Taskforce was hugely important when it came to making KPMG more disability-smart.”

“It’s great to see that the Taskforce’s influence is still growing, as tech companies like Microsoft join the fold and the digital world continues to change. Ten years on, there’s still a real buzz every time the group meets.”

CEO Diane Lightfoot. Photography by Paul Demuth, Demuth Photography

Business Disability Forum CEO Diane Lightfoot

Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer at Business Disability Forum, said:

“We have seen a real sea-change take place in the accessible tech world. What was once the exception has become the norm, and accessibility is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it is a prerequisite.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of our work is seeing people from a diverse range of organisations come together to advocate for disabled people and accessibility. Our Members and Partners bring big ideas with them to our taskforces, and as the success and the staying power of the Taskforce show, these are big ideas with even bigger impacts.”

Graeme K Whippy OBE is an independent disability consultant and was Senior Manager, Group Disability Programme at Lloyds Banking Group when he joined the first meeting of the Taskforce.

Business Disability Associate Graeme Whippy

Business Disability Associate Graeme Whippy

Graeme said: “In 2008 we had two major goals in mind. First was to get IT access on the to-do list of technology leaders at major companies. Second was to use our collective voice to torpedo the argument we faced when asking suppliers for accessible technology: that no one else was asking for it, so why were we?

“Since then, we’ve seen software houses do a complete 180 in their approach to access. Ask a technology supplier for accessible technology today and you will never hear them say ‘no one else is asking’ or use that as a justification for failing to provide the accessible option.

“And a lot of that is down to the influence of the Taskforce on technology suppliers, many of whom, like Microsoft, are leading the way.”

Susan Scott-Parker

Susan Scott-Parker, Founder and Honorary Vice-President of Business Disability Forum

Susan Scott-Parker, reflecting on the tenth anniversary of the Technology Taskforce, said: “Had we known the scale of the challenge, I must admit we would not have launched with our naively optimistic message: ‘We have a 3-year timeframe!”. But this is all the more reason to be proud of the Taskforce’s ‘staying power’ and its pioneering accomplishments – and grateful to the many technology professionals who have combined their dedication, expertise and corporate purchasing power to improve their own organisational accessibility performance while collectively creating a more efficient ICT marketplace.

“I am confident that with the on-going focused leadership from senior technology executives across the UK, the Taskforce and BDF will continue to drive the practical business improvements which in turn enable fair and equitable treatment for customers, colleagues and potential colleagues with disabilities.”

Lucy Ruck speaking at Business Disability Forum's conference in 2017

Lucy Ruck speaking at Business Disability Forum’s conference in 2017

We’ll leave the final words to the Technology Taskforce Manager, Lucy Ruck: “It’s been a pleasure and a delight to work with such an enthusiastic group of individuals that have a real passion for improving the lives of their disabled customers and colleagues through inclusive technology. What is special about this group is that you have competitors in the room who are all working together for the greater good – and it actually works! I am really proud of the resources they have developed, especially the Accessibility Maturity Model, which is a world leading tool. We are always looking for new members to join the Technology Taskforce, so please get in touch and see how you can look to shape the next 10 years!”

A special thanks is due to the organisations who first came together to form the Taskforce: HMRC, Lloyds Banking Group, Kingfisher, DWP, KPMG, Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s, the Serious Organised Crime Agency [the precursor to the National Crime Agency], AbilityNet, Aspire, Bupa, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and Goldman Sachs.

Want to find out more about joining the Technology Taskforce and pushing for accessibility in tech? Contact Lucy Ruck at lucyr@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk to find out more.

What winning the Senior Disability Champion award meant for Tony Cates, KPMG

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Tony Cates accepted the award for Senior Disability Champion remotely

By Sam Buckley, Business Disability Forum

We run our Disability-Smart Awards to show what organisations can achieve by becoming disability-smart—welcoming the biggest possible group of customers and employees and creating a welcoming, open and supportive place to work.

One of our most important awards is for Senior Disability Champion, recognising leaders who act as a powerful voice for disability inclusion in their organisations.

Last year, our award for Senior Disability Champion went to Tony Cates, UK Partner at KPMG.

Tony set out to change the way businesses work with disabled people across the UK and beyond, following a simple mission statement: “Empowering people with disabilities to be the best they can be is the right thing to do.”

Reflecting a year on from receiving his Award, Tony said:

“Since winning the BDF Award last year, KPMG have been involved in some exciting activities in relation to disability and mental health. I am the board level sponsor for disability and mental health at KPMG – and have been championing this agenda for a number of years. Something I have observed over this time is that there is still a real lack of visibility and representation of both disability and mental health at board level.

“Everyone has their own story or perspective on how disability and mental health issues are present in their lives. Personally, having hearing loss on one side has made me acutely aware not only of the challenges a disability or health issue may present, but also of the additional skills and capabilities that can be developed in response to these challenges.”

“We want KPMG to be a magnet for all talent. That means accessing the widest possible talent pool, which we will only achieve if we treat inclusion and diversity as a board level issue.

Tony’s work has included sponsoring support networks for disability and mental health and also sharing expertise with companies that KPMG works with across the UK. Colleagues have said that Tony “is known not just internally at KPMG, but he is an executive disability champion who is recognised elsewhere across multiple sectors.”

This leadership has seen KPMG gain one of the highest scores in Business Disability Forum’s Disability Standard, an internationally used tool measuring organisation’s commitment to disabled people, in 2017.

KPMG gained a Silver status, the second highest certification under the assessment, with Tony Cates’ leadership cited as a key driver of the achievement.

Tony was also instrumental in KPMG gaining the highest-level of accreditation in the government’s Disability Confident scheme, becoming one of the first organisations to do this since Disability Confident was launched last year.

“I set up a Disability Steering Group that looks at disability and mental health holistically, with heads of all key parts of the business represented and reporting in to me. In fact the steering group was set up following our Silver award on the Disability Standard in July 2017, with the aim to make improvements across the firm. Business Disability Forum have helped us to set out our action plan. They also provide us with great support and consultation from our BDF Consultant, Brendan Roach. We also took part in the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index, and were awarded Silver, something we are very proud of but keen to push forward and improve upon.”

Want to put your organisation forward for an award, or celebrate a champion of disability? You can enter our Disability-Smart Awards online now. You can find out more by clicking here.

Disability-Smart Awards: Why it matters.

By Ebunola Adenipekun

Business Disability Forum believes inclusive and accessible customer service should be standard practice and that every workplace should be a great place to work. The Disability-Smart Awards aims to showcase and celebrate the most innovative and inclusive practice among employers and service providers. 

Mark Lomas, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, HS2 (below), who was one of the judges from the Awards last year, and will be rejoining the judging panel this year, said: 

“Being a judge on the Disability-Smart Awards panel is a great way to learn. Some of the submissions were absolutely brilliant – and I can be really difficult to impress! I really enjoyed it! And one of the things is to understand some of the innovative work that goes on and the impact that it makes.

“It’s encouraging to see so many organisations try and get better at becoming disability-smart. It’s great to see the breadth, the innovation, creativity and impact for customers, employees – and the public in general. It shows the impact you make when you do something a bit different.

Mark Lomas

Mark Lomas

“What companies can learn from these submissions is the impact it makes on different levels: for individuals, teams and across organisations as a whole.

“Why is it important to be a disability-smart organisation? Who wouldn’t welcome more creativity? A different way of thinking? To innovate? Yet, no-one means to go into a boardroom and exclude 20% of the population that could do that, so the work that people are doing here helps inclusion happen.

“I hope you’re inspired to submit an award!” 

Entries for all categories are open until Thursday 20 September 2018, so there’s plenty of time to get a submission together for one of our seven award categories:

1. Senior disability champion of the year
2. Inclusive service provider of the year 
3. Positive cultural change of the year
4. Workplace adjustment innovation of the year
5. Influential business of the year
6. Technology initiative of the year

7. Disabled People’s Choice Award for the most inclusive service provider, employer or experience’ 

Disabled People's Choice Award logo - purple and white

Disabled People’s Choice Award

We want to hear from you! Have you received great customer service? Don’t forget to tell us what organisation deserves an award in your opinion! Vote today!

Winners will be announced at the Disability-Smart Awards Ceremony in November 2018 (date and venue tbc).

Judges for all of these entries include leading experts in the area of disability, representatives from Business Disability Forum’s Member and Partner organisations and disabled opinion leaders.

Send us your entry today!

Disability-Smart Awards: The impact of winning an award

By Ebunola Adenipekun

Lloyds Banking Group – Last year’s winner of the “Nothing About Us Without Us” Award

Awards can make an impact, as one organisation shows here below:

Winners of last year’s customer-led ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ Award Lloyds Banking Group’s David Oldfield, Group Director, Commercial Banking, and Group Executive Sponsor for Disability (below) said:

Lloyds Banking Group David Oldfield, Group Director, Commercial Banking, and Group Executive Sponsor for Disability

David Oldfield, Group Director, Commercial Banking, and Group Executive Sponsor for Disability at Lloyds Banking Group

“One of our key achievements in 2017 is that we won the ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ Disability-Smart Award, recognising that we include disabled colleagues and customers in discussions and decisions which affect them.

“We won this award for the work we do through initiatives such as focus groups, the Assistive Technology User Group (ATUG), and the partnerships we have with various charities, including our Charity of the Year, Mental Health UK. These initiatives provide invaluable insights to help us make our organisation as inclusive and accessible as possible for disabled customers and colleagues.

“It’s terrific to be recognised by Business Disability Forum for displaying best practice.”

Business Disability Forum believes inclusive and accessible customer service should be standard practice and that every workplace should be a great place to work. We want to know where you have seen this done at its best.

Our new ‘Disabled People’s Choice Award for the most inclusive service provider, employer or experience’ is an opportunity for us to recognise an organisation that really cares about its disabled customers, service users and employees of an organisation that has been selected by disabled people.

If you have great experience of a business, organisation or employee that has made a real difference in your life or the life of a disabled person you know, then please do get in touch.

Perhaps an employer or a shop or small business? From libraries and schools, to charities or health providers, let us know what company, small business or individual sole owner that you, a friend or family member really values and should know how much you appreciate them.

Entries for all categories are open until Thursday 20 September 2018, so there’s plenty of time to get a submission together for one of our seven award categories:

1. Senior disability champion of the year
2. Inclusive service provider of the year
3. Positive cultural change of the year
4. Workplace adjustment innovation of the year
5. Influential business of the year
6. Technology initiative of the year

7. Disabled People’s Choice Award for the most inclusive service provider, employer or experience’ 

Winners will be announced at the Disability-Smart Awards Ceremony in November 2018 (date and venue tbc).

Judges for all of these entries include leading experts in the area of disability, representatives from Business Disability Forum’s Member and Partner organisations and disabled opinion leaders.

Send us your entry today!

Business Disability Forum film festival 2018: the winners!

By Ebunola Adenipekun

We were wowed by the level of entries at this year’s Business Disability Forum film festival, hosted at KPMG offices in Canary Wharf.

Entrants submitted their films to win a work placement with a film production company.

Sponsored by Barclays, the film Festival was the result of the 7 day film challenge to university students and graduates.

The challenge called on students from all over the UK to create a film that embodied the brief.

A picture of a director's chair

We released the official question via email on Tuesday 27 March with 7 days to create the film and submit by Tuesday 3 April 2018. The question was:

‘What does going places mean for you?’

In the end, we chose five pieces of work from students and graduates as well as topical films from Barclays and KPMG, with disability-related perspectives, seeking to challenge assumptions and attitudes and open eyes to the reality of living with a disability.

Winners at Business Disability Forum Film Festival 2018

The winner was Diversity against Adversity from Manchester Film School with their film ‘Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies’, made by Miguel Ramos and Bettina Toth.

This humorous and thought-provoking story was about a man with ADHD and his allies in the workplace.

Runner up was Wolf Pack from the University of Wolverhampton with their film ‘Barrier’, about a deaf man who against ‘barriers’ goes on a job interview. They were last year winners Samuel Ash and William Horsefield.

Third place was Edgar Scukins from the Manchester School of Art with his film ‘Mike’, about the protagonist who has cerebral palsy.

We also awarded highly commended prizes to Luke Trower for ‘Going Forward’:

as well as John Ford, Zoe Norgrove and Ritesh Vara for ‘Stick With It’:

The entries were judged by leaders from the world of TV, film and disability: Oliver Kent, Head of Continuing Drama Series, BBC, Ioanna Karavela, Producer, 90 Seconds, Noeleen Cowley, Partner, Banking Operations and Customers, KPMG, Helen Cooke, Founder and CEO, MyPlus and Tara Jelley, Barclays UK Head of Technology Transformation & Accessibility Sponsor.

Prizes awarded at the film festival

Prizes awarded at the film festival

Diversity against diversity, the team who created ‘Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies’ won a full day’s work placement/training session with video production company 90 Seconds, with personal insight into how to succeed in the media industry, as well as profile creation on their job platform. Other prizes included: work experience with film production company 1stAveMachine, An Amazon Echo (donated by Enterprise-Rent-A-Car), A Google chromecast (donated by Texthelp), A £300 Amazon voucher (donated by Lexxic) and An Xbox One S (donated by Microsoft).

Barclays also showed their film:

The film festival proved to be a great opportunity to network too as the prize winners had conversations with the various Members and Partners at Business Disability Forum, as well as the judges.

Camera prop at Business Disability Forum Film Festival 2018

Camera prop at Business Disability Forum Film Festival 2018

A big thank you to everyone who came along and we look forward to seeing you next year!

Click on this link to find out more details about our upcoming events