Losing the label – the disabled people you didn’t know you knew


By Bela Gor, Business Disability Forum

Who are disabled people?

Speaking as a lawyer, you might expect me to give you the definition of disability in the Equality Act or the percentage of people in the UK who are classed as disabled. While the definition in the law isn’t perfect, it certainly isn’t the worst I’ve seen.

But I must admit that I find the percentages rather more difficult to work with. I know that as a lawyer I should be good with numbers – but still I can’t picture the 13% or 19% of the UK population who are considered to be disabled, because I am unable to picture a group of 13.3 million disabled people.

What I can picture, however, are the people that I know. I can picture the elderly relatives who no longer want to visit us because with one of them having dementia changing trains is too difficult. I can picture the friend who asked me recently if it was normal to use the meeting room at work to cry. He’s working over sixty hours a week and doesn’t feel he can take a weekend off or even go off sick because that would be letting down his colleagues who would just have to pick up the work he wasn’t doing; not to mention his family. I can picture the dearly loved college friend who always makes time to see me when I’m in London but who I know is often exhausted after a week of navigating work, travel and just life with deteriorating vision (actually I’m more likely to cancel than her because travelling on the London Underground gives me migraines!)

Supermarket worker assisting a customerThere are bright spots. Going home after an exhausting day and asking Alexa (the Amazon Echo) to turn on the lights, read an audio book and set the alarm for tomorrow morning makes life just that little bit easier for someone with finds it difficult to see. The helpful and well trained railway employee who finds the right platform and takes passengers who need assistance to their booked seats on the train heading in the right direction is worth their weight in gold. A counsellor found through the employer’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) who confirms that working over sixty hours weeks and frequently breaking down into tears over small tasks is not “just part of the job” might just turn things round for a stressed out employee.

So I know a great many disabled people. Most of us probably do. What would make the future even brighter would be building a world that accepts that disabled people are us and not them – the faceless numbers. A world that is as frictionless as possible for us all. Disabled people don’t always describe themselves as such.

They/we just need the world to be a little more inclusive and thoughtful because we might be the disabled people we didn’t know we knew.

Business Disability Forum’s event ‘Looking beyond labels: visible and non-visible disabilities in the workplace and beyond’ will explore the same themes as this blog in detail, and give pointers for managers and HR Professionals on how to identify conditions and differences in their workforces and teams.

Capes, apps and AI – what future tech holds for disabled people


Showcase panel discussion photo by Will Houston

The panel discusses changing technology and its effects on disabled employees at the Technology Taskforce Showcase (photo by Will Houston, Enterprise Rent-A-Car)

By Dean Haynes, Business Disability Forum

The first Technology Taskforce Showcase (formally known as the Technology Taskforce SwapShop) of 2018 took place at the tail-end of February, hosted by perennial Technology Taskforce member KPMG at their Canary Wharf offices.

Focusing on the future of technology and disability, attendees were given the chance to see and hear about some of the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and smart technologies, as well as how those with disabilities or impairments can make the most of this emerging tech. The Showcase culminated in a panel session where all of our experts were quizzed by our attendees.

Proceedings got underway with a brief introduction from Tony Cates, Senior sponsor for Disability at KPMG, before he handed over to our venerable compère for the afternoon, Technology Taskforce Manager, Lucy Ruck.

Project Cape

Our first presenters were Sean Gilroy, Finance Business Partner at the BBC, joined by Neurodiversity Project Lead & Researcher Leena Haque, who form part of the BBC’s Project Cape (Creating a Positive Environment). Sean and Leena set up the group to improve the support given to neurodivergent employees, as well as highlighting the skills and talents such individuals can bring to the table. As part of the Project’s work, Sean and Leena spoke about how ever-improving virtual reality (VR) technology can be used as an educational tool, an empathy machine and much more besides; they also demonstrated an immersive simulation that looks at the issues neurodivergent people can face in the workplace. Some attendees at the event were lucky enough to try out first-hand how this technology works, and you can also see how it’s used here on BBC Academy’s YouTube page.

The Welcome and Button app

Next up Gavin Neate, CEO and founder of Neatebox took to the stage to tell everyone how their two apps “Welcome” and “Button” are helping people with disabilities foster a more independent lifestyle, further citing the 13 million people in the UK alone with a disability, and their spending power of £249 billion. With the Welcome app, users set up a profile that is made available to the registered Welcome venue (these venues are steadily growing in number), alerting staff of any assistance they may need. Button tackles the everyday problem of the placement of pedestrian crossing controls for those with mobility or visual impairments. Often these buttons are placed inaccessibly far away from the crossing itself; Button electronically interacts with the crossing, letting users press them “virtually” through their smartphone or wearable device, thereby allowing users to focus on their positioning before crossing.

AI and the future of banking

We were then joined by Technology Taskforce stalwart Paul Smyth, Barclays’ Head of Digital Accessibility, who spoke about how AI will impact on the future of banking and how it will support their customers and colleagues with disabilities. As a longstanding member of both Business Disability Forum and the Technology Taskforce, Barclays have long seen the benefits of shifting their business culture from “must do” to “want to”, by way of including, educating and enabling people. The ever-increasing power of AT and AI will let Barclays offer safe, simple personalisation of their services that works for everyone. Paul also extolled the virtues of open banking, that lets customers use one website or app to access all of their banking services, regardless of provider.

AT benefits

Diane at Showcase by LucyR

Business Disability Forum CEO Diane Lightfoot closes the event

After a quick break, delegates came back to hear from Robin Christopherson MBE (and Archie), Head of Digital Inclusion at UK tech charity AbilityNet. As a blind user, Robin has first-hand experience of making use of AT and shared some of his knowledge, including a demo of Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa. He also talked about how he can control smart technology via the Amazon Echo. There is also a really great clip about the benefits, along with some of the challenges for the more mature generation in adopting this technology. Here is a comedy sketch from American TV show Saturday Night Live that hi-lights the issues.

KMPG and new technologies

KPMG then returned to the stage, with their UK Innovation Lead-slash-Head of Digital Disruption Shamus Rae. Shamus’ “disruptive” role leads on the use of AI to change KPMG’s services and help its customers to embrace these new technologies. With a view to remove the friction or sticking points in customer transactions, KPMG are focusing on four pieces of tech:

  1. Augmented reality (AR);
  2. Mobility;
  3. Removing bias; and
  4. Neural lace.

AR has already hit the marketplace through Google Glass launched back in 2013 and continues to find favour in the tech sphere with Apple looking to release their own version within the next two years.

Mobility is being further improved thanks to AI with the progress being made in driverless cars, minimising or even removing the need for driver interaction, which is hoped will improve efficiency, reduce accidents, and increase people’s productivity (you can use your daily drive to work to actually get some work done!).

Finally, the neural lace, an implantable brain-computer interface that is in development most notably by Neuralink, a neurotechnology company founded by billionaire entrepreneur and engineer Elon Musk (most famously known for Tesla cars).

To end the session, our speakers formed a panel to be quizzed by those in attendance. Lucy got things started by asking what potential dangers there might be with the speed of innovation.

The panel didn’t always agree on what the future would hold, and which were the most important pieces of tech, including a discussion around the pros and cons of driverless cars. And it was suggested that the most important piece of technology we shall use in the future are our smartphones. Just think how these have developed in the last 10 years – what will the next 10 years hold for them!

Business Disability Forum’s Chief Executive Diane Lightfoot rounded up the Showcase by thanking all of our speakers, our generous hosts KPMG and the attendees for joining us.


For more information about our Technology Taskforce please visit https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/membership/technology-taskforce/ or contact Lucyr@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

Why you should have your say on Blue Badges

Business Disability Forum

By Angela Matthews

Should the Blue Badge scheme be extended to people with non-visible conditions?

This question is being asked by the Department for Transport in their current consultation on the ‘Blue Badge’ scheme.

What is the Blue Badge scheme?

The Blue Badge scheme allows people with (predominantly) mobility conditions to park closer to their destination. This is usually related just to on-road parking, but we know through speaking to our Members and Partners that many employers and service providers also use Blue Badges as a way of prioritising parking in accessible parking bays.

The Blue Badge scheme has been in operation since 1970 and, currently, around 2.4million people in England are Blue Badge users. Although the Blue Badge scheme does not exclude people with non-visible disabilities from applying, it is not well-known that people with non-visible conditions can apply.

Our Advice Service receives many calls about parking arrangements for people employees and customers who do not have Blue Badges but would benefit from specific parking arrangements (such as those accessed by Blue Badge holders).

What is the consultation asking?

The scheme’s current eligibility criteria states that Blue Badges are for people who have “a permanent and substantial disability which causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking”.

The consultation looks at who assesses this criteria and as well as the wording of the eligibility criteria. The prosed criterion reads as follows:

“a person who has an enduring and substantial disability the effect of which is that that person is unable to –

  • walk;
  • undertake any journey without it causing very considerable difficulty when walking;
  • undertake any journey without there being a risk of very considerable harm to the health or safety of that person or any other person;
  • follow the route of any journey without another person, assistance animal or orientation aid.”

What do you think?

We would like to hear from the following organisations:

  • Local authorities who issue Blue Badges;
  • Employers who have received questions or have cases where employees use Blue Badges to park at work;
  • Service providers – particularly supermarkets and retailers.

We are also speaking to many disabled employee networks to seek views from people with non-visible conditions who think they would benefit from the revised eligibility criteria.

How to respond

If you would like to contribute to our response by sharing your views and experiences with us, please contact us at advice@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

The deadline for contributions is Friday 9 March 2018.

East and West – Disability across the globe at the beginning of 2018

Business Disability Forum. Marketing photos

By Angela Matthews, Advice Service and Policy Manager

The organisations we work with increasingly require their inclusion strategies to reach beyond the UK and even Europe. Whether businesses have a ‘fixed’ presence in multiple countries, or have employees who are based in or frequently travel to other countries for work, never have organisations had to have a more transnational awareness of disability as it affects business.

The fascinating element of this is, of course, that such a development means we need to think beyond ‘just’ disability; that is, disability does not exist in isolation of its surrounding social context. Race, culture, religion and belief are all social conditions upon which ‘disability’ is culturally perceived, interpreted, and ‘practiced’.

statue-of-liberty-267948_960_720Some interesting statistics emerged from the American Association of People with Disabilities (APPD) earlier this month on the inclusion of disabled people in the US workforce. The initial statistics are somewhat similar to ours in the UK: around 20 per cent of people in America have a disability, and there is a huge gap between disabled and non-disabled people in work. But the statistics on workplace practices in the US are cringing: less than 30 per cent of employers have policies and practices in place to retain disabled employees, and only 40 per cent of employers ask candidates if they need adjustments (‘accommodations’ in America) when they apply for a job or come to an interview. It is no wonder that the employment of disabled people in the US is at an “all time low”. The AAPD reminded us that “Employment is the cornerstone of the American dream”; yet people with disabilities are not accessing this part of the ‘dream’ that is so inherent in the cultural history of their country.


Brendan Roach, Senior Disability Consultant at Business Disability Forum, training auditors in Jeddah in 2017

Moving eastwards, perhaps the most concerning piece of news at the beginning of this year was learning of the draft ‘Delhi Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules’ which, at the time of writing, are planned to form part of India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2016). The ‘Rules’ say, “No person with disability shall be considered to be a subject of research except when the research involves physical impact on his [sic] body.” Disability rights activists in India are voicing concern over these new ‘rules’, as confirmation of these ‘rules’ will mean social research with disabled people can no longer take place; only medical research is permitted. Disability rights activist in India, Satendera Singh, said earlier this year:  “This ‘controversial’ rule on research needs to be deleted. The rules are problematic as they focus on the medical model of disability and excludes qualitative research.”

This seems odd, since India’s Mental Health Care Act, only passed in 2017, explicitly allows research with people with mental health conditions. Not only that, the Mental Health Care Act is also admirably clear on details such as data control, participating consent, and even down to what can be written in research case notes.

Brendan Roach and Eona Kim in Seoul

Brendan Roach, Senior Disability Consultant at Business Disability Forum, in Seoul with Eona Kim, Deputy Director of Employment Development Institute (EDI) in 2017.

This has huge consequences. Social and academic research is crucial for understanding disabled peoples lives, and for providing a process through which disabled people’s voices are represented in published material, in scholarship, and in policy-making. This type of research is how we plan, strategize and evidence how we change things in society for disabled people. Social scientists have long advocated that those who are not ‘studied’ are essentially those who remain ‘unknown’; in the UK, we have a large (and increasing) number of impactful academic disability research centres dedicated to understanding disabled people lives and advising policy makers on disability issues. We have also made strides in getting disability issues into the public domain via huge social research projects conducted by, for example, the Equality and Human Rights Commission on critical elements of disabled people’s lives, from experiencing hate crime to experiences and participation and UK society – all of which have fundamentally relied on qualitative insight and have published ‘real life’ voices of disabled people. Such outcomes are just not possible without social research. Business Disability Forum also conducts a vast range of social research for a range of purposes, from informing our Government policy work, to carrying out research in organisations to (for example) understand barriers to progression or employee engagement.

Prohibiting this type of research with disabled people is a sure way of moving backwards in understanding the lives of disabled people and keeping their experiences silenced. Either that, or clinicians and scientists (examples of professionals named in the ‘Rules’ as being allowed to undertake medical research with disabled people) will be writing disabled peoples lives for them, instead of with them – the very opposite to the “nothing about us without us” ethos that runs deep in the veins of disability rights in the UK, and increasingly beyond.

How businesses are measuring and improving access for disabled people in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Brendan Roach (back row, centre) and Christopher Watkins (back row, second from right) with the team from the Qaderoon Business and Disability Network in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

By Brendan Roach

As I’ve witnessed first-hand in my travels, there are some good things happening in the Middle East in terms of disability inclusion.

I was in Dubai in November 2017 where the government has launched the Dubai Disability Strategy 2020, which aims to improve the experiences of people with disabilities in relation to a number of key areas including health, education and employment. Similarly, work is underway in Egypt on a three year strategy for the ‘empowerment, integration of disabled persons’[1], while the government of Kuwait is committed to achieving its ‘Vision Towards Persons with Disability’[2] by 2035.

In December 2017, Business Disability Forum’s Disability Trainer Daniel Wiles and I were in Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to continue our now four-year involvement in supporting the development of the ‘Mowaamah’ certification system.

This blog aims to showcase the strides taken in KSA to improve business disability confidence.


Much has been written about ‘Vision for 2030[3]’, Saudi Arabia’s ambitious national transformation programme. The plan contains a range of actions relating to economic development including a commitment to enable ‘people with disabilities to receive the education and job opportunities that will ensure their independence and integration as effective members of society’.

In order to increase opportunities for candidates, employees and customers with disabilities, the Ministry of Labour and Social Development (MLSD) in KSA has established a number of key priorities, including the establishment of a nationwide certification System called Mowaamah.

The framework of the Mowaamah Certification system is based on Business Disability Forum’s Disability Standard[4] and enables an organisation to measure its current level of disability performance across a number of business areas. Over the last four years, we’ve worked with the MLSD, Qaderoon Business Disability Network[5] (KSA), disabled Saudi opinion formers, local disability organisations and a group of leading Saudi companies to develop a version that is relevant to the Saudi context.


Brendan training auditors in Jeddah

Mowaamah is designed to support organisations through three key stages on the journey toward disability inclusion from Induction to Self-assessment and Audit. On this trip, Dan and I were in Riyadh to train a team of trainers who will be responsible for training the auditors who review a company’s submission and allocate a score based on an assessment of the evidence provided.

Support for Saudi business and emerging good practice


Daniel Wiles (right) listening to Aya Jibreal, Inclusive design and communication consultant at Qaderoon (left) presenting case studies of good practice by leading Saudi employers in December 2017

The system is now live and the first tranche of companies are starting to becoming certified as a ‘supportive work environment for people with disabilities’.

It’s no coincidence that these leading companies are also members of the Qaderoon Business and Disability Network. Qaderoon is a business membership organisation that supports organisations in KSA to become disability-smart.

Since its inception four years ago, Qaderoon has supported its members to improve practice for employees and customers with disabilities and there is now a growing bank of good practice case studies which highlight the progress that is being made in KSA. For example:

  • Amr Khashoggi is Vice President of Human Resources and Group Affairs for Zahid Group, a large industrial conglomerate, and also acts as senior sponsor for all of Zahid’s disability-related activity. Amr is a passionate advocate for disabled employees and takes a hands-on approach to improving the company’s disability performance.
  • Tamer Group (a leading healthcare, prestige products and fast moving consumer goods company) employees Fouad Al Attas, an HR business Partner who manages the company’s disability-related recruitment and retention activity. Fouad’s role includes supporting disabled candidates through the recruitment process, upskilling line managers and managing the company’s workplace adjustments process.
  • Health insurance company Bupa Arabia has developed a ‘Disability Framework’ to enable it to make progress on a number of disability-related priorities including improving the accessibility of the built environment, recruitment, training & induction and employee engagement.

Spending time with Qaderoon’s passionate and talented team and seeing the progress they are making is always a highlight of any trip to KSA and I’m looking forward to the next one in 2018.


[1] https://www.madamasr.com/en/2016/12/27/news/society/ministry-announces-3-year-strategy-for-empowerment-integration-of-disabled-persons/


[3] http://vision2030.gov.sa/en/node/8

[4] http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/disability-standard/

[5] http://www.qaderoon.sa/en/

Disabled People Going Places in Scotland and beyond – why venturing out of London was such a good idea

The bridge leading to RBS's headquarters in Edinburgh

The bridge leading to RBS’s headquarters in Edinburgh

By Bela Gor

Nearly ten years ago I decided to make Scotland and the beautiful city of Edinburgh my home. During that time my employer has remained the same; Business Disability Forum in London. Over time I have come to realise how London-centric this country (by which I mean the United Kingdom) can be.

That is why I am delighted that Business Disability Forum is now expanding its horizons to work with disabled people, businesses and governments who are committed to improving the chances of disabled people here in Scotland and indeed globally.

Sign for RBS Business School, Edinburgh

The conference was held at RBS Business School, part of the organisation’s headquarters in Edinburgh

I first discussed the idea of a disability conference in Scotland with Stefan Springham at RBS (at his initiation) nine months ago. We’d had a couple of very well attended Roundtables in Scotland and Stefan felt the time was right for something bigger – a proper conference.

We knew we were taking a big step in moving to a full-scale conference, but with the support of our new CEO Diane Lightfoot and encouragement from RBS, we did it anyway and any doubts there might have been were quickly dispelled. The agenda almost wrote itself because there was so much good work to showcase and the conference was fully booked two months in advance.

The Conference took place on 5 December, to mark the UN International Day of Disabled People at the RBS Headquarters in Edinburgh. We called the event Disability in Scotland – Going Places and, if I say so myself, it was a real success. This was down to truly inspiring speakers, a stunning venue and not least, an eager and engaged audience who proved that there really was a demand for an event like this outside London. I knew it was going to go well when the first round of applause was for merely saying “welcome to this first ever Business Disability Forum Conference in Scotland!”

If you want to see pictures from the day check out the BDF Facebook page.

Career development – how disabled employees learn what’s holding them back and how to develop strategies to dismantle barriers

Phil Friend leading a discussion with RBS employees at the Scottish Conference

Phil Friend leading a discussion with RBS employees at the Scottish Conference

Much is said about the disability employment gap but what was clear from the panel discussion led by Phil Friend and disabled participants of the RBS Career Development Programme is the importance of worthwhile jobs that allow employees to grow and develop. Disabled employees from RBS’s Enable network described the “life changing” impact of a career development programme specifically designed for disabled people.

Phil explained that “Personal development programmes provide disabled people with a unique opportunity to explore and identify what’s holding them back and what they need to do in order to be more effective.

“The programme explores what belongs to the individual and what is the responsibility of others. Participants are encouraged to develop a strategy which is designed to dismantle disabling barriers and enhance their personal effectiveness.”

I will be following up from the interesting and inspiring panel discussion with a report that features the participants’ experiences of the RBS programme as well as interviews with career development coaches like Phil, Simon Minty and Kate Nash who have been doing such important work in this area for many years. I have been aware for years of programmes specifically for women or Black and Ethnic Minority employees (BAME) but why are there so few for disabled employees and which one should you go on if you are a BAME disabled woman?

Doing it their way – entrepreneurs determined to make a difference

Niall McShannon talking as part of a panel of entrepreneurs at the Scottish Conference

Niall McShannon talking as part of a panel of entrepreneurs at the Scottish Conference

The entrepreneurs’ panel provided a really different perspective on the world of work for disabled people. These are people, some with disabilities themselves, who have chosen a different path and provided work for disabled people and/or are trying to improve the lives of disabled people in new and innovative ways. Bruce Gunn, Niall McShannon and Gavin Neate provided a frank and often very funny account of what it means to take the plunge and start your own business because as Gavin said “if you want to see change you have to make it happen”

We’ve already invited Gavin Neate from Neatebox to speak at our Technology Taskforce event in London in February on Technology and the Future of Disability. His app could really help businesses change and improve the way disabled customers are served and the beauty of it is that the change will be driven by disabled people themselves asking venues for better service via the technology in their hands.

Find out more about these businesses on their websites:

  • Neatebox: https://neatebox.com/
  • Delivered Next Day Personally: http://www.dndp.co.uk/
  • Clydesdale Community Initiatives: http://www.cciweb.org.uk/about-us

The NHS Scotland and Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living programme demonstrated the power of partnership working and how it can change lives by providing real career opportunities and again meaningful work for a young disabled graduate, Jen Calder, who was able to realise her potential. I’m sure we will be hearing more from Jen Calder in the future.

Transport and tourism – literally going places

Delegates enjoy the Scottish conference

Delegates enjoy the Scottish conference

Finally it is clear that nothing operates in isolation. Employers providing meaningful work and career opportunities is not enough. Disabled people, indeed all people, need to be able to get to work and travel for work and that requires a joined up and accessible transport system and this something that Business Disability Forum is going to concentrate on next year as we continue the Going Places campaign. Contact Angela Matthews if you want to be involved in our research.

We all also need to relax after work and so it is equally important to provide easy access to the many attractions and leisure facilities that the beautiful country of Scotland has to offer. Chris McCoy from Visit Scotland really did show that Scotland is Going Places and leading the way in accessible tourism. You can find the Visit Scotland Business Support accessibility guides online.

So we’ve started to Go Places in Scotland and I can see this campaign really “Going Places” all over the country and the world for years to come. If you want to join us find out more here. 

How national business and disability networks can help create an inclusive global society for persons with disabilities

By Brendan Roach

This is the third and final entry in a short series of blogs in the run up to the UN’s annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on 3 Dec, looking at the role that organisations have to play in transforming society for people with disabilities worldwide.

The theme for this year’s IDPD is ‘Transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all’[1] and focuses on identifying the ‘enabling conditions for the changes envisaged in the 2030 development agenda for Sustainable Development’[2].

The 2030 agenda contains 17 sustainable goals, many of which include a specific reference to disability including Goal no. 8[3] which focuses on ensuring that everyone (including disabled people) have access to decent employment opportunities.

In my previous entry[4] I discussed the practical steps that individual companies can take to improve how they recruit and retain employees and serve customers with disabilities. In this entry, I am exploring the positive impact of peer to peer networking between businesses on the subject of disability.

The first national business and disability network

Business Disability Forum was launched by the Prince of Wales in 1991 (then as the ‘Employers’ Forum on Disability’) as the world’s first employers’ organisation working to the mutual benefit of business people and people with disabilities.

A key driver for the establishment of the Forum was that initiatives aimed at supporting people with disabilities into employment often failed to take into account the needs of employers. Since then, we have grown and now support nearly 300 public and private sector organisations to become disability-smart through the provision of advice and guidance, business to business networking and knowledge-sharing.

Understanding the legal and cultural context in other countries

Around one third of Business Disability Forum’s members operate in multiple countries and they are increasingly looking for support to help them get it right for their employees and customers wherever they are in the world.

Common queries to our Advice Service[5] include:

  • ‘What are our legal obligations in Poland, Mexico…(insert country of your choice)?’
  • Can we gather disability-related data in Germany?
  • ‘Which countries operate a system of mandatory employment for people with disabilities (i.e. a quota)?’
  • How do we find disabled candidates in the Philippines?

We’re starting to see the emergence of a couple of sources of support with these questions. The first is the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Global business and Disability Network (GBDN) which has a small but soon to be expanding collection of country profiles on its website[6]. The profiles include statistics, legal requirements and sources of support in countries such as China and Peru.

Second is the emergence of a growing number of National Business and Disability Networks (NBDNs). Many of these networks are developing or newly established although some such as the Australian Network on Disability[7], Employers’ Federation of Ceylon’s Employers’ Network on Disability[8] and Mexico’s Movimiento Congruencia[9] have been in existence for over a decade.

What are the characteristics of a National Business and Disability Networks?

Business Disability Forum’s CEO Diane Lightfoot and I recently attended a fascinating meeting hosted by the ILO’s GBDN in Geneva of around 15 NBDNs from countries ranging from Canada to Poland and Bangladesh.

Whilst the NBDNs are all different shapes and sizes, the ILO defines our common characteristic as being a forum ‘where companies and other organizations come together to work towards further employment and social inclusion of persons with disabilities.’

Despite some very differing contexts, it was interesting to hear how many of the challenges described by the various networks were shared. For example, many network leaders spoke of:

    • Overcoming stereotypes, poor accessibility and a general low level of awareness on disability issues on part of employers.
  • The challenges of finding qualified candidates with disabilities.


  • Promoting the role of adjustments or accommodations in removing the barriers experienced by people with disabilities.

Linking up with a Business and Disability Network in your country or wherever you operate

The ILO’s Global Business and Disability Network reckons there are currently over 20 national and business and disability networks across the world, in developed and developing countries (many of which, the ILO has directly supported the creation or strengthening of).

The GBDN has compiled a map of all of the networks currently on its radar. This list includes networks on every continent and in countries ranging from the US, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1NA58_l1JLkz0JnzngiTtHvotpFk&ll=-3.81666561775622e-14%2C-38.15607069999987&z=1

Check it out and if you’re a business in any of these countries then why not make contact with your local NBDN? If you work for a global organsaition then how about using your global reach to engage with existing networks and to support the development of new ones?

Lastly, if like us you’re keen to learn more, look out for an upcoming series of podcasts that Business Disability Forum will be producing in association with the GBDN featuring interviews with our counterparts in other NBDNs.

[1] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-3-december/idpd2017.html#Background

[2] http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/

[3] https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030-goal8.html

[4] https://disability-smart.com/2017/11/20/companies-need-to-start-thinking-globally-about-disability/

[5] http://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/our-services/advice-service/

[6] http://www.businessanddisability.org/index.php/en/resources/country-information-profile

[7] https://www.and.org.au/

[8] http://www.employers.lk/efc-news/650-efc-employers-network-on-disability-calls-on-corporates-to-champion-inclusivity

[9] http://www.congruencia.org.mx/