Working together to drive the disability agenda is #Valuable

By Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum

Business Disability Forum is delighted to be an expert partner of the Valuable500 which returned this week to the World Economic Forum in Davos. It’s been a brilliant and exciting year with #Valuable founder Caroline Casey seemingly circumnavigating the globe in her tireless efforts to engage with CEOs of some of the world’s most iconic brands.

The results speak for themselves: after launching just one year ago, an amazing 240 global leaders have personally committed to putting disability on the board agenda, signalling a huge and vital step forward in the inclusion agenda.

Many of them are Business Disability Forum Partners and Members and we work with them to provide pragmatic support and advice to support their “Disability Smart” journey. For if #Valuable and the Valuable 500 is the (very compelling) “why”, winning hearts and minds, we at Business Disability Forum are the “how” – helping business put the practical actions in place that turn commitment into reality.

The UK has long been at the forefront of driving the disability agenda forward – Business Disability Forum itself was set up almost 30 years ago as the world’s first disability business network – but though huge progress has been made, disability has too often been seen as the” poor relation” in diversity terms. Thankfully, however, in the UK and globally, there is now a growing awareness of disability and an increasing recognition that it is part of being human: it is the one strand of diversity which can and most likely will affect every one of us, whether we acquire a disability ourselves or are close to someone who does.

The 300+ companies that we work with already recognise that disabled people are not only a very large and important talent pool but a hugely significant consumer market too. And, as global brands start to focus on getting it right for this customer group, they will no doubt realise one of our core messages: that when you get it right for disabled people, you get it right for everyone.

And it’s not just about customers; businesses are also increasingly recognising that it is no longer OK to have an external brand that doesn’t match their internal culture and values (and vice versa) – so a focus on the employee space is really important too. In December 2019, Unilever – the first company to join the #Valuable campaign and whom we are proud to count among our Partner group – announced their commitment to becoming the employer of choice for people with disabilities, and a vision that 5% of their workforce worldwide will comprise of disabled people by 2025.

I hope that following the World Economic Forum this month, many more companies will not only sign up to the Valuable 500 but move forward with the leadership and action that will make disability inclusion a reality.

Meanwhile, my huge congratulations to #DisabilitySmart Partners and Members who have signed up to the #Valuable500 over the last year. All of us @DisabilitySmart look forward to working with you to achieve the #InclusionRevolution together #WEF20.

Now, in 2020, it feels as though there is a real opportunity and appetite for a sea change that will transform opportunities for disabled people worldwide. It’s time for business – Disability Smart business – to lead the way.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum

You can read more about the Valuable 500 and the organisations signed up so far in the report launched this week here

Is 2020 the year of accessibility?

By Lucy Ruck, Taskforce Manager at Business Disability Forum

A man holds a tablet and 2020 in 3D appears. There are patterns across the photo

It would be great if it was, and in so many ways, it really should be. There are more resources, groups and information available than ever before. The business case (and I struggle with that, because why should we need a business case to employ and provided services to people with disabilities and long term health conditions? I’ve never been asked for a business case to employ men) is stronger than ever, with more and more research on how organisations are losing out by not making their products and services available to everyone.

In my role as Taskforce Manager for Business Disability Forum, I find myself speaking to a new contact most weeks about the work that we do. In nearly six years of this, I have yet to find someone who didn’t agree that we should be doing more. So why is this proving such a challenge?

I think that people often want me to deliver ‘magic accessibility pixies’ to them, who will sweep in, waving their wands over all your inaccessible systems and as if by magic – they’re all sorted! I do love magic pixies, but they just don’t exist. It’s like most things in life, if you want something done, you need to work hard at it, have a focus and you will achieve your goals.

Where do you get started with trying to address your organisation’s accessibility issues and how do you know what the issues are? Funnily enough, Business Disability Forum has an amazing tool, called the Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM) and it’s free for anyone to use. The AMM is a self-assessment tool that helps you to look at the tech you have in place and assess how you think about inclusion. It will help you to prioritise what you need to do next and generally give you a focus.

In my experience, I have found that many people who work in digital accessibility, it can be quite an isolating role. More often than not, it’s added to an existing role, so they don’t have dedicated time and resources to really make an impact. But things are changing. I used to only know two or three organisations that had dedicated accessibility colleagues, and I can now think of about 10 different organisations that have a lead full-time post on digital accessibility.

Networking can make a huge difference and really help to move organisations forward and help maintain that positive momentum. We have a Technology Showcase event coming up on Tuesday 3 March, generously hosted by PwC, but there are also some amazing events run on a monthly basis by London Accessibility and Nottingham Accessibility.

Make it one of your new year’s resolutions to just think about accessibility more: How will our product or service work better if we think about inclusion?; How can we embed this within our tech departments, and more broadly across our organisations?

So, is 2020 the year of accessibility? Maybe. If we keep spreading the word and keep on with the hard work it really could be. We are certainly on the cusp of something great.

Why the next Government must support business on disability inclusion

With a General Election just around the corner and Brexit still undecided, we are living in uncertain and uncharted times. There are many stories clambering for space in an overly busy news agenda. There is also the risk that important issues such as disability inclusion, will be used as political footballs; kicked around and quickly forgotten once a new government is in power.

It is for this reason that Business Disability Forum has decided to mark international day of persons with disability with the launch of our own manifesto. The document calls on all political parties to better support businesses to deliver on disability inclusion.

Our Member and Partner organisations are committed to delivering more inclusive workplaces and customer experiences. But their work needs to be supported by informed, joined up Government policy, which enhances, not inhibits the lives of disabled people.

Yesterday, we saw the publication of ONS statistics which highlighted the pay gap experienced by disabled people. Pay inequality is a complex issue which cannot be explained through statistics alone. How much a person is paid is closely linked to how society perceives a person’s value and the contribution they make.

We want to ensure that the next Government works with businesses to address not only the pay gap issue, but all other barriers that disabled people experience is accessing employment and society more widely.

Based on the experiences of Members and Partners and the disabled people who work for them, we are therefore calling on the future Government to take the following seven actions:

  • To introduce targeted opportunities, including paid apprenticeships, for people with learning disabilities; recognising the challenges presented by a flattening of job infrastructure.
  • To carry out a robust equality analysis of environmental and human rights policies.
  • To seek the development of a new cross-Government approach to disability; bringing whole-Government consideration to all policy development.
  • To prevent any further watering down of the Equality Act and increasing the enforcement powers and authority of the EHRC, or a similar body. Rights must be enforced, not just protected.
  • To reform Access to Work and to remove the £59,200 cap.
  • To ensure all education and learning opportunities are inclusive and accessible.
  • To introduce a wholesale shift from mandatory ‘one size fits all businesses’ government-led initiatives to an outcome focus approach.

We will monitor progress on these issues and will hold the future Government to account through our consultation responses and policy work.

We are calling on every business to consider how their organisation can contribute to making these asks a reality for the lives of disabled people.

Man working on a computer at a desk

Man working on a computer at a desk

Help to shape research on global disability inclusion strategies

Two hands shaking across a night landscape

Globally, an estimated one billion people have a disability (that’s 15% of the world’s population). There is strong evidence that disability and poverty are linked, with disabled people more likely to live in poverty due to higher unemployment, lower income levels and lower attainment of skills and qualifications. This is a global trend but, unsurprisingly, is especially pronounced in low income countries.

Half of the organisations that we support at Business Disability Forum are global. Between them, they employ more than 8 million people globally. Members and Partners are increasingly telling us that their ambition is to get it right for employees and customers with disabilities wherever they are in world.

Whilst it’s relatively early days, we’re already seeing some brilliant examples of organisations approaching disability as a global business issue. For example, Accenture has a global disability strategy and Shell has developed a global process for making workplace adjustments for employees with disabilities.

Please share your views!

With this in mind, Business Disability Forum is conducting research into disability inclusion at a global business level.

Sponsored by Shell, the project is exploring the existence, and challenges, businesses face in developing a global strategy, as well as lessons learnt so far.

We know this is a complex, but incredibly important area of our work and the only way of exploring it fully is to talk to as many global businesses as possible. It does not matter where your organisation currently stands regarding commitment, or activity, relating to a global strategy for disability inclusion – please share your views in this short online survey.

The body of research will be used to develop guiding principles and practical steps for diversity and inclusion professionals to use within their own organisations. Findings from the survey and the wider research will be published in 2020.

If you work in a global organisation and have a view on how disability inclusion is working, or might work, at a global level in your business, then please take part.  The survey is anonymous and an opinion piece of research, you will not be required to know or share any data. It will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

To take part in the survey please click on the following link https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GDSS8V6

Please contact us at global@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk if a different format of the questionnaire would work better for you. Do not hesitate to contact us at the same email address if you have any other queries.

Business Disability Forum thanks all contributors for their time and input into this important piece of research. 

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