The 2019 Disability-Smart Awards – submit your entry today!

Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum

There’s still time to enter this year’s Disability Smart Awards – but hurry because the deadline is fast approaching!

A collage of four photos: Winners and nominees from Disability-Smart Awards 2018, as well as the audience clapping

Winners and nominees from Disability-Smart Awards 2018

 

There are many awards out there, so why do I think that the Disability-Smart Awards are so important? Well, of course, they are our awards – so I would, wouldn’t I? But in all seriousness, I believe that awards which mark the great work, commitment and achievements of our members (and non-members too; you don’t have to be a Business Disability Forum member to enter though of course we’d love you to join us!) and that’s really important in inspiring others and leading the way.

As I’ve said many times – including in these blogs – disability is too often seen as the poor relation when it comes to diversity. It is too often – still – parked in the too difficult, too sensitive, too complicated box. And too often the fear of getting things wrong means that people do – or say – nothing. But it really doesn’t have to be like that. Often the best solutions are the simplest – and often too the cheapest. Some of the greatest innovations we see around removing barriers are those that cost nothing and actually make the workplace a better place for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, disability is the only strand of diversity that can – and most likely, will – affect us all. So surely it is the one that really deserves our focus – and our celebration of when we get it right.

There is, rightly, a focus on media and social media around what doesn’t work for disabled people and issues that urgently need to be addressed if we are to achieve our goal of a truly equal and inclusive society for all. But equally I think, we need to focus on the successes and to recognising the many businesses, projects, programmes and initiatives that are truly innovating including disabled people, whether that’s in product design, as consumers, as employees, nationally or globally.

So, our Disability-Smart Awards are there to showcase amazing practice, to inspire others and to lead the way – and to recognise those businesses, teams and individuals who really have gone the extra mile and encouraging others to do the same.

We know that winning means a lot to our entrants; last year, Microsoft won the technology category last year for using cutting edge technologies to ensure their widely used products were as accessible to as many customers as possible. Hector Minto, Microsoft’s Tech Evangelist for Europe, Middle East and Africa, spoke about the impact of the Disability-Smart win at our Annual Conference in April and said:

“Winning the Disability-Smart award was very good for us, not just because of the Windows work but for what people don’t see, which is the number of employees with disabilities working as engineers on the product. It is not somebody doing something for people with disabilities, it is blind engineers, it is deaf engineers, it is people working and bringing their life experience to our product to make it better. “There is so much built into the product that empowers people routinely. But it really took the Disability Smart Award to get the message out clearly to the business world and the education world.”

And it’s not always the big companies that win – last year West Midlands Police beat stiff competition from EY and Guidant Global to win the Positive Cultural Change award, thanks to their focus on great evidence (well, they are the police…) and data – something which is often hard to come by.

Last year too, we introduced the popular Disabled People’s Choice Awards – with Liverpool Football Club as the runaway winner – and new awards for Global Leadership and for Diversity and Inclusion Practitioner. This year, we have also added new awards for Disability Smart Design, Disability Smart Influencer, Disability Smart Customer Service and Disability Smart Communications & Marketing Campaign.

The full list of categories for 2019 is:

  1. Disability Smart Senior Champion Award 2019
  2. Disability Smart Design Award (new category)
  3. Disability Smart Workplace Experience Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  4. Disability Smart Influencer Awards 2019 (new category)
  5. Disability Smart Technology for All Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  6. Disability Smart Customer Service Award 2019 (new category)
  7. Disability Smart Communications & Marketing Campaign Award 2019 (new category)
  8. Disability Smart Global Leader Award 2019
  9. Disability Smart Multinational Organisation Award 2019
  10. Disability Smart Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner Award 2019
  11. Disabled Peoples’ Choice Award 2019

You can find out all you need to know to enter here: https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/our-services/disability-smart-awards/

Entries close on 6 September and the awards ceremony which is once again being sponsored by our Founder Leader Barclays, takes place on 23 October at the Locarno Suite at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. I will once again be co-hosting alongside Paralympian Stef Reid; those who were able to join us will know just what a fabulous and entertaining host she is!

I hope that you’ll be inspired to enter this year’s awards and remember: You have to be in it to win it!

Diane Lightfoot
CEO, Business Disability Forum

Meet Disability-Smart Award Winners: Microsoft

Microsoft won the technology category at last year’s Disability-Smart Awards for using cutting edge technologies to ensure their widely used products were as accessible to as many customers as possible.

Hector Minto, Microsoft’s Tech Evangelist for Europe, Middle East and Africa, (pictured right alongside Michael Vermeersch, left), spoke about the impact of the Disability Smart win at Business Disability Forum’s Annual Conference in April.

He said: “Winning the Disability-Smart award was very good for us, not just because of the Windows work but for what people don’t see, which is the number of employees with disabilities working as engineers on the product. It is not somebody doing something for people with disabilities, it is blind engineers, it is deaf engineers, it is people working and bringing their life experience to our product to make it better.

“There is so much built into the product that empowers people routinely. But it really took the Disability Smart Award to get the message out clearly to the business world and the education world.”

Michael and Hector from Microsoft

At this year’s ceremony there are a total of 11 Awards to compete for with four completely new categories. 

Categories for the 2019 Disability-Smart Awards are as follows:

  1. Disability-Smart Senior Champion Award 2019
  2. Disability-Smart Design Award (new category)
  3. Disability-Smart Workplace Experience Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  4. Disability-Smart Influencer Awards 2019 (new category)
  5. Disability-Smart Technology for All Award 2019 (sponsored by Microlink)
  6. Disability-Smart Customer Service Award 2019 (new category)
  7. Disability-Smart Communications & Marketing Campaign Award 2019 (new category)
  8. Disability-Smart Global Leader Award 2019
  9. Disability-Smart Multinational Organisation Award 2019
  10. Disability-Smart Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner Award 2019
  11. Disabled Peoples’ Choice Award 2019

To find out more about the awards categories and how to enter, visit our awards page.

All entries must be received by 6 September 2019. Winners will be announced at the Disability Smart Awards Ceremony on 23 October 2019.

Find out how you can attend here.

Why should you attend our Career Development Course? Part 2.

Business Disability Forum in association with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh is delighted to be able to offer new career development courses specifically designed for disabled people. The programme will be delivered by highly experienced personal development coach and Business Disability Forum Ambassador, Phil Friend and his non-disabled colleague Dave Rees, a trained expert in neuro linguistic programming.

Robert Oldham, Continuous improvement manager at Royal Bank of Scotland (pictured right) did the course and said:

Robert Oldham

Robert Oldham

“During the course I learnt that I am disabled [Multiple sclerosis (MS)]. Before then in staff surveys I would tick the no box when asked if I had a disability. After the course I ticked yes. Technically I meet the legal definition but more importantly, I acknowledged that the world as it stands isn’t geared to be inclusive; not through ill-intention but through lack of understanding. People think about and design for the majority. The course gave me the confidence to talk about myself and my health condition.

“In large businesses you get to go on many courses. Usually it’s a nice day out but it doesn’t change anything. With this development programme, you get a nice lunch but there are real action takeaways and practical tools that will help you. You learn that you’ve got an impairment and you can’t do anything about that. You can, however, do something about being in an office not getting the support you need and not getting ahead in your career. You really can do something about that. I had to write a one page summary about me which said “this is me and I have MS and this is what I need from you”. I sent it to my manager with a guide about MS from the MS society and said “ask me anything you want”. My manager responded really positively. She said that no one had ever done that before. She found it informative and said that she now realised that fatigue is one of my biggest challenges. On a bad day it’s better for me to go home early to get some rest as it meant I was more productive when I returned rather than just being present at work and unproductive.

“This one page summary is kind of like an alternative CV – without cub or scout badges you’ve earned. It says “this who I am; this is the health condition I have; this is how it affects me and this is what I need from you to be the most effective individual I can be”. When I first started it was the length of War and Peace but getting a friendly pair of eyes to review it helps you to refine it. Often you can think something is really important only for someone else to tell you that it really isn’t that important. My previous manager was my friendly pair of eyes and she gave me some great feedback.

“In 2011, just after the height of the financial crisis Lloyds (then Lloyds TSB) was restructuring and I left the organisation. It took a while to find a new job and I was very aware that setting up as a contractor wouldn’t work for me as it didn’t offer the same protection as a large organisation. I joined RBS in November 2012. I confess that I joined without telling them I had MS. On my first day I had coffee with my manager and told him. I wanted to show how committed and capable I was so didn’t share my one page summary with him but I did give him the MS Society guide. He turned out to be a terrible manager who didn’t understand MS at all and I had challenging time but I’ve stayed with RBS in a variety of roles.

“Now I’m part of health advisory team in RBS. We provide adjustments for people across the bank. When RBS said it wanted to introduce a career development programme for disabled it re-jogged my memory about the course. When you get comfy you get out of good habits. I was one of guest speakers on this course – explaining what RBS had done in the disability space. I was also one of founding members of ENABLE, the staff disability network.”

People who have been on the course at RBS describe it as ’empowering’ and ‘rewarding’ and said that it has given them confidence and broken down barriers. The course enables you to meet people who have a lot of commonality in terms of challenges even if they aren’t just like you. We’re all disabled.  The key thing for me is that it helps you find your identity again and gives back confidence that you might not even know you’ve lost. After the course I was able to reground and re-focus.

The Career Development course helps you to learn that things are still possible. It gives you tools and strategies to manage your disability that allows you to be as effective as anyone else. In the last few years my fatigue levels have gotten worse and I don’t have energy for home and work life and so I have to consciously choose where I expend my energy and I’ve chosen prioritise home life. I have three children who keep me busy. Conscious decision making is one best things I’ve learnt.  One of biggest challenges is that no one can tell you what your disability will mean for you in years to come. I have a degenerative neurological condition so it will get worse. I’ve lived my life not paying too much attention to that because no one knows what’s going to happen next week or next month or year. I’ve learned to ignore it in a productive way.

Find out more about the Career Development Programme here 

 

Why our response to London’s car-free day is about more than just inaccessible transport

Angela Matthews, Business Disability Forum

Angela Matthews

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Research

For those who have not been following our transport-related activity during the last week, we spoke out about how Sadiq Khan’s announcement of a car-free day in London has given no visible consideration to its impact on disabled people.

The announcement of a day to “promote walking, cycling, and use of public transport” is striking since recent campaigns have highlighted the frequent obstructions on pavements disabled people experience, and the inaccessibility of public transport disabled people experience every day. This also comes shortly after Department for Transport’s launch of the Inclusive Transport Strategy and their revision of the Blue Badge Scheme, which has been updated to be more inclusive to people with disabilities and conditions which are less immediately visible to others.

But, not only are many disabled people prevented from having clear, accessible streets to navigate or from using transport that is reliably accessible on a car-free day, they are also prevented from taking part in a public awareness campaign that is about London’s air pollution – and I’m quite sure even some disabled people are concerned about our environment.

This brings us to another fundamental cause for concern that emerges from this debate: the exclusion of disabled people from public social action campaigns. Disabled people’s representation in environmental activism is not a new issue. ‘Green’ movements have increasingly acknowledged the shift that is needed in making this global campaign accessible to everyone. Environmental activist groups and organisations have acknowledged what we would have previously called the “business case” for making their campaigns accessible to disabled people; that is, simply, if they make their campaigns accessible, millions more people can be involved, meaning the bigger and more likely their campaign is to succeed.

This ‘no brainer’ approach only skims the surface. There is a more critical issue at root here. If social action is not open (that is, accessible) to every person in our society, it is not inclusive, democratic, or representative. There is no equal citizenship – for any of us – until everyone is enabled to take part. For a Government in a country which is said by others to excel in human rights and which is hailed for how far we have come in terms of disability inclusion, we have got this car-free day radically wrong.

Denying participation by inaccessibility to even one person, let alone a whole ‘group’ of people, is the active silencing of voices. And we need to consider, is this really who the UK want to be?

Read information about our accessible transport survey, open until 10 July 2019

Further thoughts from Business Disability Forum on inclusive transport:

Why should you attend our Career Development Course?

Business Disability Forum in association with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh is delighted to be able to offer new career development courses specifically designed for disabled people. The programme will be delivered by highly experienced personal development coach and Business Disability Forum Ambassador, Phil Friend and his non-disabled colleague Dave Rees, a trained expert in neuro linguistic programming.

Read about Jack Whyman Farina’s experience – in his own words – of the programme below:

“I work for RBS in Finance as a Reference Data Manager. We look at the systems and general ledger of the bank and end to end systems to ensure everything is going smoothly. If everything is working you shouldn’t need to know we exist

When it was first suggested to me that I should go on Phil Friend’s career development course for disabled employees I didn’t think I would get much from it, I was quite content and didn’t think there was much for me to learn. It was talking to one of the co-chairs of ENABLE, the staff disability network that changed my mind. If a senior manager like him had found it useful who was I to say no to going? He said the course had given him a greater understanding about other people. Learning more about empathy made him approach situations differently and he felt it gave him an additional string to his bow.

Expectations

I wasn’t 100% sure what I was expecting from the course. I was a little worried that it was going to be a bit too basic. I was content with who I was. I’ve contacted organisations outside RBS for advice such as the Number 6 Autism Initiative charity in Edinburgh where I met someone who helped me to understand my diagnosis of Asperger’s. Basically I didn’t have high expectations of the course.

My biggest fear was that it would all be classroom style learning. At school I found this style of teaching really difficult because I learn in a very interactive and cognitive way. I have dyspraxia as well as Asperger’s so a “copy and paste into your notebook” way of learning really doesn’t work for me. At school, homework that should have taken twenty minutes took me two hours. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Phil and David, his co-trainer, involve everyone from the outset and the whole course is completely interactive.

Challenges

People with Asperger’s stereotypically find empathy difficult and I found this the most challenging part of the course. I was feeling quite content with who I was but I was with individuals, all at different levels within the bank who were at very different stages of their impairment. Some were very raw and upset and others, like me, were happy and content with their lives. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to empathise because I wouldn’t understand their situation. I think the dictionary definition of empathy is very arrogant. How can anyone know how someone else feels?

Jack Whyman Farina - a man looking to his right

Jack Whyman Farina

Revelations

I still don’t believe I know how others feel but the biggest breakthrough for me was learning about the Kubler-Ross Grief Curve on the course. Phil and David showed us a visual bell curve and graph. The Kübler-Ross model talks about the five stages of grief that most people experience when faced with any sort of loss such as a bereavement or relationship breakdown, job loss or acquiring a disability. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

It was a revelation for me and I learned too that I’m different. I go from shock to acceptance skipping the other stages and then move onto how to get on with it. This struck me so hard because they explained by way of an example. If there are going to be redundancies in an organisation, the manager gets told first. They then go through the curve earlier and are ahead of staff who find out later so when their staff are going through denial and anger, the manager might have moved onto acceptance and will want people to get on with it when they are not ready. People need time to go through the curve in their own time. This was huge for me because I don’t go through that curve but I got to see what a neuro typical person would go through. This helped me to see that although I think I’m being constructive and moving forwards, others might need longer to go through stuff in their head.

People on the course were at different stages in their lives. We all learned the same information but everyone took something useful away from it. The course worked for people who had just acquired their impairment through to people like me who had a lifelong condition. That was why it was so impressive

I would 100% recommend this course to other disabled people. I have a mentee who has Asperger’s and I’ve signed him up for the course. He’s probably not as far through the cycle as I am and still feels nervous about his condition. I took so much from that course and for him to be able to get those things that I’ve tried to say to him re-affirmed in a far more eloquent way will really assist him.

Next steps

Since the course I have been promoted from Systems Analyst to Reference Data Manager. That was not all Phil’s doing, I played a part (!) but the course helped me to articulate things I was already confident that I could do. As a Manager I can now cascade what I’ve learned to the team. It’s not about saying things exactly the way Phil did but evolving and taking what was on the course and putting it in my own words. I use stories from my own life to help other individuals with their work and environment.

I was diagnosed quite late when I was 22. I’m only 25 now. The reason I got diagnosed was because of my partner. There were things I didn’t understand about her and that she didn’t understand about me. My diagnosis was an Epiphany. It allowed her and me to do some research and work out how we should go forward and deal with each other. We now have an amazing relationship and hardly ever argue and when we do, it’s very matter of fact and we agree to disagree. That was a huge moment in my life and I feel like this course was the next chapter. It took me from a basic to an intermediate level in my understanding of myself and to the next level of growth.”

Find out more about the Career Development Programme here 

The great big workplace adjustments survey: now open!

By Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Advice

Reasonable adjustments. Workplace Adjustments. Workplace support. Supporting you at work. Working in a different way. Being you.

All are terms commonly used by organisations to describe how they remove barriers for employees at work. The language is important. The process behind the language is even more important. But getting experience of both right is crucial.

It’s crucial for a number of reasons. At legal compliance level, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where they know or could reasonably be expected to know that an employee has a disability or long-term condition. At good practice level, employers want to ensure all employees can work in a different way whether or not the employee says they have a disability or condition. At leading practice level, workplace campaigns and communications focus on how enabling employees to work in different ways is integral to workplace diversity and allowing people to simply ‘be themselves’.

Male colleagues discussing using a tablet

Here at Business Disability Forum, our advisers advise people managers and departmental leaders every day on adjustments policies and related employee caseloads. Many of our consultants are commissioned to work with businesses on improving their adjustments processes; and almost all of our policy work comes back to how Government, employers, and public life in general removes barriers for individuals. Get a service provider’s or employer’s workplace adjustments processes robustly designed and defined in a way that suits who the business are, how they work, and what they need, and that organisation is well on its way to delivering an inclusive pan-diversity employee experience that meets the needs of every single employee, whatever they are going through in their lives, and at whatever stage in their career.

Yet, anyone keeping an eye on HR press or employment case law can see the adjustments processes employers have and continue to invest in are continuing to fail them and cost them greatly – both financially and reputationally.

And so we want to find out what works, what doesn’t, what managers love, and what employees loathe. This is why we have released The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey which will grasp a picture of how both employees and managers across the UK feel about adjustments, how they are discussed in the workplace, how effective they are, and how far everyone who needs adjustments actually have them in place.

Whether you are an employee, a manager, or someone else managing people and processes in your organisation, we are asking you to share your experiences of requesting and getting adjustments, or arranging and providing them for the people you manage.

You can complete the survey here.

Please share it with your colleagues, managers, and employee networks. The survey closes on Monday 8 April 2019 at 8am. Please do get in touch if you would like to complete the survey in a different way (email: policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk).

We’re looking forward to hearing what adjustments in an ever changing workforce are helping and hindering you, your managers, and your leaders to do and to be.