Our film festival is nearly here!

By Ebunola Adenipekun

We’re looking forward to hosting our Partners, Members, guests and filmmaking superstars at Business Disability Forum’s Film Festival 2018, supported by Barclays.

We set out a 7 day film challenge earlier this year, themed around “going places”, in terms of travel, career progression and accessibility. The selected finalists of the challenge will show their films at the Film Festival at KPMG on Wednesday 20 June, 2018.

This event will showcase how the next generation of disabled talent perceive and overcome challenges at work, on holiday, and in other areas of life. The winner will be announced on the day.

We took some time out to speak to the finalists to find out what inspired them enter the festival:

Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies in a meeting

Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies

‘Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies’
Group name: Diversity vs Adversity
University: Manchester Metropolitan University
Course: BA (Hons) Film and TV Production

Bettina Tóth

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Tina Toth and I am the writer and director of ‘Kenny Rei and Spicy Ladies’. I am a second year student at The Manchester Film School and I’d like to work in Film and TV dramas once I finish my studies. I have a really artistic approach to filmmaking; I also do oil paintings and graphic design as well. I am 27 years old and although I live in Manchester, I am originally from Hungary. I am a fan of cinema, arts, literature and video games. When my studies allow it, I like to travel and broaden my knowledge with the culture of foreign countries.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
I quite liked the idea of making a film in a relatively short time, and I wanted to try if we can manage to complete everything by the deadline. I was also hoping to get my work seen by the jury and make an impression. Another reason was that we were allowed to experiment with the topic and the way we’d like to express our thoughts about disability.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
Our film depicts life with ADHD and I personally know and have worked with young people who were diagnosed with hyperactivity. I wanted to show that even though they have difficulties with certain tasks, they are able to perform and even outperform their colleagues. I find people with ADHD incredibly creative, humorous, and inspiring. We wanted to film something that shows what’s going on inside their heads, something that is uplifting but thought-provoking, too, at the same time.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
The aim of our film was to show that disability shouldn’t be barrier having success in your workplace or moving up on the career ladder. I think it all depends on the attitude of employers and other employees to make a more comfortable and welcoming workplace for people with either mental or physical disability. We are studying to be filmmakers, and we were taught to be able to bring together all kinds of personalities and talents, and then make something great together. Every workplace should have the same mentality; appreciate the diversity of their employees, use it to their advantage, and then make something great in the end of the day.
Miguel Ramos

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Spanish born and raised, I moved to the UK in 2013. I worked full-time in a restaurant for more than 2 years, until I decided to stop and go back to education – to pursue my dream job! In 2015, I joined the Manchester Film School and now I’m about to graduate from university.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
I am always looking for new exciting opportunities to develop my working skills. When I read the basis of the contest and saw that there was a Film Festival in London at the end of the road and so many Industry Professionals, I knew immediately I had to give it a go. Plus, the social theme was another big incentive. My mother has Polio and I’ve always been very sensitized with the difficulties she has to face in her daily routines.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
At the beginning, I wanted to talk about Autism. However, after doing some research we realised it was quite a sensitive matter which would require more pre-production in order to do things right. Tina, our talented Director, came up with the idea of following the daily life at work of a fictional character who has ADHD – giving it a fresh positive look, yet adding the uplifting message promoting diversity in our society.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
Since English is not my mother language, the biggest challenge I had to face happened in 2013 when I moved to the UK – getting used to a new culture and new ways to express my emotions was really hard at some point. However, with time, emotional intelligence and my determination to move forward, I achieved a good balance in my life – and I’ve even finished a university course thanks to the skills I acquired since I moved to England.


Mike in a mobility scooter


Group name: Edgar Scukins
University: Manchester Metropolitan University
Course: Filmmaking

Edgar Scukins

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Edgar Scukins. I am from Latvia, but I live, study and work in Manchester.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
Yes, one of the main reasons was to share Mike’s story. I am helping him out with mobility scooter repairs. I have known him for over a year. And since the first day I met him, I thought that it would be useful to show people how many things one can achieve, even when diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
Mike inspires me every day. He is always smiling and I have never seen him sad.  When I am struggling with something and begin to complain, I feel slightly ashamed, because I remember Mike immediately.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
I think that the biggest challenge for Mike when he is going places is when something goes wrong with his mobility scooter and he needs to ask for help from people that are passing by. It has happened with him many times. I think that it is still a problem, but since technology is advancing fast, mobility scooters will be made more reliable.


Barrier in human form covered in black


Group name: Wolf Pack
University: University of Wolverhampton
Course: Film & TV Production/Video and Film Production

William Horsefield

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I first began filmmaking at 12 years old making short films on my mobile phone. I found my passion in filmmaking and studied online about making Visual effects. I spent 6 years mastering VFX and gained lot of experience as I had made over 170 short films before I enrolled into Creative Media Production Extended Diploma Level 3 in York College. I submitted my short films to films festivals and won many awards. In 2014, I submitted a pitch idea to the film competition, Dream To Screen and my idea, ‘Welcome to the Deaf World’ was selecting by the actress Helen Mirren as well as film and TV industry experts. I am veteran of 48/72 hours film challenge as I won most of these competitions that I entered before I enrolled into the Video and Film Production from the University of Wolverhampton.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
I love entering the many film competitions as I can but this competition is a bit different and It gave me a chance to make a short film about deaf or other disability awareness in workplace or business. I attended this competition on last year, I noticed that some people in the audience were business owners so I wanted to use my short film to show them that it was not that difficult to work with deaf people.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
My inspiration was coming from some images from google show the art of depression monsters who follow humans and some of deaf people’s experience in working inspired me as well.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
I think meeting with new people who have no deaf awareness is my biggest challenge because when my BSL interpreter is ill, arrives late or doesn’t show this can cause more awkwardness between me and new people. This make it difficult to work together or communicate so, I always pick writing as communication method to talk them but it is very slow and sometimes some people’s handwriting is hard for me to read.

Samuel Ash 

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am currently studying Film & TV Production at the University of Wolverhampton to become a director or a producer. I have a passion for filmmaking and photography, when I grew up enjoying watching films and taking photos, it merged into filmmaking. Adding to my geekiness, I also really enjoy sci-fiction films!

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
This festival gives an opportunity for us, students and with disabilities to be involved and encouraged us to create a film about our experience and how our film can be assisted to improve access and awareness of Deaf people. It is fun to be part of the relatable challenge with fellow filmmakers!

What was your inspiration behind the film?
The festival gave us the opportunity to create a film that relate our own experience and how we can show the solution to break the barriers deaf people face in their everyday lives. The film is about the barrier, and how it affects Deaf people to get employment. We wanted to create a positive attitude by adding humour.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
The barrier is always communication. It frustrates me when I am not able to communicate to collaborate with hearing peers smoothly which shutter my career process and opportunity to contribute.

I have to overcome this by pushing myself to approach a hearing person and communicate them through gesturing. If it failed, it is OK and I have to figure out another way to communicate them which can be writing down or any communication tool that it may work with this person. Confidence is vital.

I think of the quote: “Communication is the key to personal and career success” Paul J. Meyer.

We’d like to thank all the entrants for taking part and a special thanks to our finalists and our sponsors Barclays.

We look forward to sharing the films!

If you’d like to attend, you can find the details for the festival here.

Looking beyond labels: A round-up

By Ebunola Adenipekun

“Something like 96% of disabilities are not physical and yet there is little understanding of what a non‑visible disability is and how to support someone who has one.”

This was one of the thought-provoking points raised by our CEO Diane Lightfoot at Looking Beyond Labels, an event that was created to help people understand and support those with disabilities which are not visible.


CEO Diane Lightfoot (right) with delegates. Photography by Paul Demuth, Demuth Photography

CEO Diane Lightfoot (right) with delegates. Photography by Paul Demuth, Demuth Photography

In recent years, progress has been made with regards to a change in attitudes towards mental health conditions in and out of the workplace, but there is still much work to be done.

The event, in May, was hosted at Deloitte, New Street Square, London and sponsored by Matchware  and chaired by Bela Gor, Head of Legal and Campaigns at Business Disability Forum.

Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns, Resources & Legal at Business Disability Forum

Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns, Resources & Legal at Business Disability Forum

Topics ranged from mental health to inclusiveness of a broad range of non-visible disabilities.

One of the panelists, Angela Matthews, Advice Service & Policy Manager at Business Disability Forum tackled the question of what being inclusive meant when sharing a non-visible disability:For me I think being inclusive gives people a choice. I think it is quite easy to assume that being inclusive means everyone talking about their condition… what inclusion is really about is make sure that someone who don’t want to talk about their condition can remain not talking about it and get adjustments and support at the same time.”

Daniel Wiles, keynote speaker for the day

Daniel Wiles, keynote speaker for the day

Daniel Wiles, keynote speaker for the day, shared his story on his diagnosis of dyslexia as a working adult, stating: “Following [my diagnosis], I had some coaching to help me in my role and that was absolutely fantastic, it really helped my confidence and I introduced strategies of how to organise my thoughts and my work, my thoughts and my work.

“I changed what I wrote, using lots of bullet points. Mind maps to get out my ideas and opinions. I used the ‘read and write’ software and other products available to help check my written work.

“It was a natural progression into a learning and development role where I spend my time now talking to people about disability.”

Conversations about mental health

One of the most powerful points of the day was from Jules Lockett from London Ambulance who said: “Those patients that ring 999 for help, they get the best care. There has been a real cultural change for us to accept that mental health is what we have all experienced. We just don’t like to say those words, ‘mental health…’

Jules Lockett from London Ambulance

Jules Lockett from London Ambulance

“Now [the term] is very common place, [before] people were sort of quite derogatory of people with mental health, ‘oh I have another one of those people on the phone’ and then they would talk about it in the rest and relaxation area. Now we have staff to challenge that and say ‘if you don’t understand that problem then find out before you comment on it’.

“There has been a real shift change for us.  But it is about saying to staff, that it is OK to not be OK, and we have, we follow the “are you OK?” campaign, which was initiated in Australia, I changed it into You Matter, for me our staff matter.  Sometimes we don’t say that, we can’t go up to somebody and sort of say to them, you know you really do matter, without them saying OK what do you want.  I’m not coming in for another shift.  But it is trying to say to people we genuinely care, we are a public organisation, we don’t have a lot of money to hold well‑being events.  If anyone has followed me or followed some of the Time to Change information, I managed to get Prince Harry, he wrote to me and asked to see what I was doing, and I ranged a whole day on £38.64, so if the NHS want to know how to save money, then I’m the recruit.  So, it is really not about thousands of pounds, it is about people’s time, staff want to know they feel valued.  Staff, especially when they are in a public organisation just want to know that people value what they are doing, and it is appreciated sometimes.  That had a positive impact on their mental health.”

CEO Diane Lightfoot. Photography by Paul Demuth, Demuth Photography

CEO Diane Lightfoot.

Diane talked about how important it was to make it easier to have conversations about mental health: “…there is undoubtedly many people in this room here today who have a mental health condition or other disability or protected characteristic in this room alone, and I count myself among them.

“How can we change the narrative? It is partly about language, we need to move away, not only from the subconscious language of them and us, I hope it is subconscious, also from the language we often hear about having to declare or disclose disability.

“I often say you would declare or disclose a criminal record or points on your driving license or you are smuggling contraband or spending too much on your tax repurposes, it is immediately a negative perception, it is important to use language that people feel comfortable in telling you they have a disability and asking for the support they need.”

“The other things that occur to me were we see very often that managers are less confident around making adjustments around neurodiversity and mental health conditions than they are with physical disabilities.  I think for physical disability the confident people were only about 54% so, the bar isn’t very high, there is a long way to go.  Around adjustments we get asked a lot about passports and we are starting to see organisations looking not just at passports within their own organisation, but also where organisations, employees are working on clients premises, making sure they can get that support.”

A picture of a group of people

Networking at the event

The event was followed by networking with ran well into a few hours as people keenly talked about how they can put practices in place, the work of Business Disability Forum continues, without labels.

For upcoming events, visit here.

Take a chance on me – disability employment at Workability 2018

Coastline of Sweden from the air

The coastline of Sweden from the air


By Diane Lightfoot

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to be in sunny Stockholm for the 2018 Workability International Conference (indeed I am writing this flying back over the Swedish coast– it is absolutely stunning. There was also a strong ABBA theme to the conference – hence the title of this blog!).

Every year, Workability International brings together companies, organizations, and governments from around the world to discuss and highlight the ‘actions, measures, and practices that are the most successful in creating inclusive labour markets where more people with disabilities are given the opportunities to contribute’.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Lead the Way’ and I was invited to speak about how Business Disability Forum works in partnership with business to develop tools to help measure and improve their performance when recruiting and retaining employees with disabilities. (A note around terminology here: whilst in the UK we refer to “disabled people” to reflect our belief that it is society which “disables” people rather than it being an intrinsic condition, the broader global – and United Nations – recognised definition is of “people with disabilities” and so I have used this term in this context.)

Providing practical support

The main stage and screen at the 2018 Workability Annual Conference

The main stage and screen at the 2018 Workability Annual Conference

As regular readers will know, at Business Disability Forum, we provide pragmatic support by sharing expertise, giving advice, providing training and consultancy, facilitating networking opportunities and developing practical tools.

As a business membership organisation, we work in partnership with companies and people with disabilities to develop tools that are practical, rooted in the reality of business and credible in the eyes of both business and people with disabilities.

To support this, way back in 2004, we developed the Disability Standard, a tool designed specifically to help organisations measure and improve their performance for employees and customers with disabilities

The Disability Standard (sponsored by our Partner Accenture) sits at the heart of our member offer and is now an online management framework which allows organisations to assess how disability-smart they are across the whole of the business from commitment to HR, procurement, premises and ICT. It reflects our central ethos: that getting things right for people with disabilities is not solely the domain of HR or CSR but needs a whole organisation approach. Essentially, we believe that disability is everyone’s business.

Adapting the Disability Standard in other countries

In our experience, this whole organisation approach to improving the recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities is a fundamental and universal concept.

We love to share our experiences and what we’ve learned over nearly 30 years with governments, organisations and business and disability networks from around the world. We are proud that the Disability Standard now provides the framework for the ‘Access and Inclusion Index’ offered by the Australian Network on Disability and the Ministry of Labor’s national ‘Mowaamah’ certification system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Developing a tool to help global business

stockholm1Globally, an estimated one billion people have a disability (that’s 15% of the world’s population). Nearly half of our members have some sort of an international presence with many employing hundreds of thousands of people globally.

Many have a presence in developing countries where we know that disabled people are some of the most disadvantaged people in the world. So, the opportunity for global organisaitons to make a positive impact – through direct employment and by influencing supply chains – is huge and we are increasingly being asked by members for support in helping them to think through how they can get it right for employees and customers with disabilities wherever they are in the world.

We are already seeing some excellent practice from our members. For example:

But our Partner and Member organisations told us they wanted more! They asked if we could adapt our Disability Standard to provide them with a really practical framework and set of tools that they can use wherever in the world they operate. And of course, we said yes! So, with the support of our Partner Shell, earlier this year we established a Global Taskforce comprising members of our Partner Group including Atos, Barclays, EY and GSK that has come together to develop a tool that will help employees with global responsibility to measure and improve their organisation’s corporate approach to disability inclusion.

Some of the issues the group grappled with include:

  • How to develop a disability strategy that is robust enough to provide a global framework – and which also allows for implementation that is culturally and legally appropriate at a local level?
  • How to ensure that global functions, tools or standards – ranging from e-learning to office design guidelines – consider the needs of users with disabilities?
  • How to ensure that global mobility processes/tools include a focus on accessibility and adjustments to ensure that employees with disabilities can undertake overseas assignments, make permanent moves and undertake international business travel?
  • How to create innovative approaches to recruitment, retention and service provision in any developing countries where they have a presence?

It’s not been entirely straightforward; in particular, the need to maintain an approach to quality that is sufficiently robust and rigorous to be meaningful and credible to business and disabled people, combined with the drive for simplicity and ease of use has not been an easy circle to square! But we think – and we hope – that together we have created something that will have real practical application for businesses and – most importantly – transform the life chances of disabled people worldwide.

The tool is in the final stages of testing and will be launched in July 2018 around the Department for International Development (DfID) Global Summit which we are actively involved in shaping. We are also proud to be working in in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) at the United Nations in Geneva and as part of the #Valuable campaign to get disability on the board agenda of 500 global companies.

Disability matters: it matters in the UK and it matters worldwide. We hope that this new tool will help business – and beyond – to make a real step change in employment for disabled people and – to quote  the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – ensure that no-one is left behind.

Diane Lightfoot


Business Disability Forum

Accessibility of public sector websites and apps: Complete our survey!

By Angela Matthews

Business Disability Forum are seeking your views on Government Digital Service’s consultation on the EU Directive that requires public sector bodies to have accessible websites and apps, coming into force on 23 September 2018.

What does the Directive say?

Public sector bodies need to ensure that their websites and apps fulfil the following criteria:

  • They should abide by the POUR principles (Perceivable,  Operable, Understandable, Robust – further information on this here).
  • They should publish an accessibility statement:
    • listing the parts of the site/app that are not accessible (and why they are not accessible);
    • the option to give feedback on  the accessibility (for example, where an accessibility function is not working); and
    • a link to a ‘complaints’ procedure.
  • They should publish accessibility information of an app on third party app stores (such as Apple App Store or Google Play).

Public sector bodies are required to only action what does not cause “disproportionate burden” to them.

When do public sectors need to comply?

Current public sector websites and apps are required to comply with these changes from 23 September 2020. Public sectors websites that are created after 23 September 2018 need to comply with these changes from 23 September 2019.

What do you think?

Business Disability Forum is forming a response to this consultation. As the voice of business on disability inclusion, we always consult our Members, Partners, strategic alliances, and disabled stakeholders to inform our policy decisions. Inclusive technology remains a key focus for us at Business Disability Forum and we work with hundreds of organisations in the UK and across the globe to support businesses to produce products, services, policies, and practices that increase opportunities and remove barriers for disabled people.

Tell us what your think via our anonymous online survey (via Survey Monkey): Go to survey.

Or email policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

The deadline for responses is 9am on Friday 25 May 2018. Please note the very tight deadline!

Developing a global disability strategy at Accenture

Barbara Harvey, Accenture

Barbara Harvey, Accenture

By Barbara Harvey, Managing Director, Accenture Research, and UK Mental Health Sponsor

For International Women’s Day this year Accenture undertook a piece of  research (published as ‘When She Rises, We All Rise’)  that started out as a project about women but ended up as a project about inclusion. We looked at the workplace cultures of over 22,000 working men and women in 31 countries around the world. We were able to look at the differences between those that worked in very inclusive environments and those that worked in the least inclusive environments and the difference was astonishing.


In the most inclusive environments, we found that men and women were much more likely to love their jobs. They were much more likely to be happier with the pace of their careers and less likely to be planning to leave. They were much more likely to aspire to be in senior leadership and most importantly they were much more likely to advance to senior manager levels in their organisations – women four times as likely and men twice as likely. It turns out that a positive workplace culture works for everyone, but especially for those who are in the minority in the workplace.

The need to retain and grow great people is one of the reasons why our CEO Pierre Nanterme stated his personal ambition for Accenture to be the world’s most inclusive and diverse workplace by 2020. He is not doing that just out of the kindness of his heart. Although, believe me, his heart is there too. He is doing it because it’s a business imperative for us to do it.

With over 440,000 employees worldwide we need talent. We need diverse talent because we need to innovate every single day and you don’t innovate by having a workplace full of the same people. So, Pierre’s passion to create an inclusive workplace extends across every aspect of inclusion that you can possibly imagine. Our research tells us you have to start with three things, you have to:

  1. Make it a strategic priority
  2. Set targets,
  3. Put metrics in place to track progress

You also have to have a leadership team that is accountable for delivering against those targets. So strategic priority, yes, it is.

city01In the context of disability inclusion Accenture has established a global accessibility council. That council includes senior members of our organisation who are responsible to the CEO for delivering against our plans. They have at their disposal a dashboard of metrics that allows them to measure how things are progressing. It includes everything from the culture in the organisation right through to the things like the accessibility of our own technology.

We also use a maturity index and that index allows us to look country by country at where we are on a maturity scale using five different measures: leadership, talent, accessibility, culture and ecosystem. It allows us to pinpoint in each geography what it is that we need to do next and that we need to prioritise something that is particularly important in the field of disability where countries are such different stages and where the local context can vary enormously. When it comes to mental health, our ambition is to make Accenture a place where it’s safe to talk about mental health. But how do you measure that? In the UK we are starting to explore this by using a survey that allow us to measure how willing our employees are to raise a concern about their mental health. Being a global company has tremendous power and brings responsibility and challenge. For example, our mental health programme started in the UK where we now have over 1500 mental health allies fully trained. But the question was how to bring what we do here to the rest of our organisation?

Visitor arriving at reception of an officeWell, it started with an opportunity to present what we were doing in the UK on mental health through an award scheme. We have a global inclusion and diversity award scheme which is designed to help best practice from around the world to bubble up to the surface. Our team were lucky enough to win that award last year and since then we have set about rolling out our mental health programme to countries around the world.  Nine more countries are already up and running  with more to follow.

People often ask how we know whether our programme is working and what metric we have for success, but for me it’s about the individual people whose lives we touch. One small example, following an LGBT discussion on mental health, a young gay man told us  that he was seriously worried about his partner who was living in Latin America and who was experiencing severe depression and possibly at a point where he was thinking of taking his own life. How do you get to someone in a country where it’s illegal to be gay?

So, we used our network to put him in touch with a confidential therapist who helped him talk through the situation he was in. That’s the power of a global organisation – to make the workplace a safe place for all people whatever the local context. But with that power comes with tremendous responsibility to make sure that we take the best of what we do wherever it bubbles up in the world and make it relevant in every single country.

The case for a single standard of accessibility and how your organisation can build one


By Neil Milliken, Atos – Member of Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce

As a business with offices in numerous different countries, we needed a way to champion good practice and improvement in accessible technology beyond the UK.

Doing this stops different teams from pursuing accessibility in diverging ways and instead puts down a single standard for pursuing improvement in an objective way.

The question is how businesses can do it.

At Atos we found a way forward using the Business Disability Forum’s Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM) in 2016. As a member of Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, I had helped design and author the AMM, along with Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, and government departments, so I knew it would work well for Atos.

The AMM is designed to establish a performance baseline for IT accessibility within an organisation. It sets out a series of accessibility requirements based on existing formal standards, and enables users to go beyond minimum compliance to bring greater benefits to their business.

assitive-technology-at-desk-e1522250696637The AMM provides what you could call a ‘passionate metric’ and truth-telling tool. It is based on evidence, using data from current work, but in presenting that evidence against set goals for improvement, it shows a way forward. This objective evidence is key in securing support for managers and senior leaders.

Meanwhile, the presentation of the model as a framework allows for continuous review. We did this every 6-12 months in each office where we ran the AMM, starting with the UK and moving on to the USA and then to Northern Europe.

By guiding teams through the use of the Model and securing the advocacy of senior champions, I was able to oversee continuous development to the point where accessibility became a given in development of IT.

The fact that the AMM is a best practice standard was a great help in taking it to other countries with other legislative environments. It takes the focus of conversations away from compliance towards good practice.

Aside from the formal framework, using the AMM is another way to ‘bang the drum’ for digital accessibility. It provides objective evidence and universal standards for teams to use.

Assitive-keyboardNow more and more companies are working across multiple countries, with different legal frameworks and requirements, there is great utility in having a single ‘standard’ based on best practice and business rewards. In the same way companies hoping to achieve standard practice across different teams in different offices or locations do well to put the emphasis on a single, widely used metric.

About the Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM)

The Accessibility Maturity Model is a management tool developed by Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce, with contributions from Atos, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, HMRC and the Department of Work and Pensions.

The Model helps managers and IT teams to embed accessibility and inclusive design as standard practice.

More information about the Accessibility Maturity Model can be found on our website.

Disability needs to be on the agenda now

Diane Lightfoot

By Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer

On Wednesday 18 April, we were proud to hold our flagship annual conference, hosted at the Royal College of Nursing in central London and generously sponsored by Business Disability Forum Partner HSBC.

Our theme this year was “Disability in the modern workplace” – and we wanted to look at how we can seize the opportunities provided by technology and new ways of working to bring us closer to a world where disabled people, businesses and governments can work together without barriers.

So why did we pick this theme? We’re living – and working – in a world that is changing rapidly. While many of these changes are very welcome, businesses must meet them thoughtfully if they are to continue to work with disabled employees and customers in a productive way.

We hear a great deal about the ageing population and how this means there will be more people with disabilities and long-term conditions working and generally living longer. We know that 18% of the UK population has a disability or long-term condition and this rises to 44% of adults at pension age or over. Linked to this, we also know that 83% of disabilities and long-term conditions are acquired during someone’s life rather than being present at birth.

So, why does disability consistently struggle for airtime in comparison to other protected characteristics? Much is being made (quite rightly) of the gender pay gap, but let’s not forget: there’s also not just a disability pay gap, but a disability employment gap. We know that still, in 2018, half of disabled people do not have the opportunity to work. Based on figures from the Labour Force Survey by ONS, we worked out at what point in the year, if compared with the rest of the workforce, the opportunities for disabled workers would dry up – and this year we estimate that “Disability Unemployment Day” would be 11 August.

And yet, despite all this, time and time again we hear of the struggle to get disability on the board agenda in a meaningful way and of the frustrations when reports about other aspects of diversity make no mention of disability. Far too often, it seems to be the poor relation. This puzzles me, because disability is the only protected characteristic that you can literally acquire overnight. It is not respectful of status, or wealth or class or education – it affects all of us. Far too often, the discussion is all about “them”, those disabled people over there. But actually, it is not about them, it is about all of us.

So we wanted to ask: What does it mean to be disabled in today’s workforce?

Disability in the modern workplace means a modern approach to what we mean by disabilities which are often non-visible long-term conditions. This is important, because one of the major challenges for employers is that they may well not know that their employees are disabled.

Either way, it’s likely that in your professional life – and your personal life – you know many more disabled people than you think you do! Around 96% of disabilities are not visible and our recent study found that 60% of people who had a non-visible disability chose not to tell their employer either at application or once in employment. I often reflect on the fact that if you have a physical disability you don’t have the luxury of choice of whether you tell someone about it – but equally, you don’t have to keep effectively “coming out” over and over again!

At this point you may be asking, why do I need to know? And indeed does it matter if you know if your employees are disabled or have a long-term condition?

I’d respond to that by asking, where is people’s energy going? Is it focused on doing the job or on hiding or working around a condition? One of the increasingly hot topics for our Advice Service – and beyond – is mental health. One of my colleagues remarked to me recently that employers perceive mental health as a problem as they generally don’t find out that someone has a mental health condition until they are not coping or are in crisis. So employers need to create an environment where it is ok to tell and know support will be there; such an environment where we talk about “us” and acknowledge that disability can and does affect every one of us in some way is really important in enabling people to bring their “whole selves” to work.

And going back to the fact that most disabilities are acquired – and the average age of acquiring a disability is apparently 53 – does it make a difference whether someone has a lifelong disability or a newly acquired disability? We know, in particular, that people who experience say sight or hearing loss later in life can feel very vulnerable and isolated and go to great lengths to conceal their acquired disability, rather than asking for the support they need, and the often readily available tools that could make such a difference.

At Business Disability Forum our ultimate goal – and the reason we exist – is to transform the life chances of disabled people as employees and consumers. We want to work with our Members and Partners to put disability front and centre on the agenda at board level, both in the UK and globally. I want to issue a call to arms to business to join together with us to meet the challenges.

This is a time of change. We need to stay alert to ensure that our hard won rights are not diminished, for example by the Trade Bill and the Withdrawal Bill allowing Ministers to make changes to primary legislation like the Equality Act without recourse to Parliament and this is something we are currently lobbying on in partnership with Liberty and Disability Rights UK. If this is a time to explore new horizons we should ensure that everyone benefits and that we take the opportunity to lead the way, enhance the rights of disabled people and increase everyone’s ability to contribute to the success of our country.

Let’s make sure we work together to do that; by joining forces we really can make a difference.