Partner Group Reception 2018: Bringing your whole self to work

By Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

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

John Brady, RBS at the lectern

John Brady, RBS

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

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

Floral archway entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

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

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

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

Oliver Lam-Watson talking into a microphone

Oliver Lam-Watson

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

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

Lucy Ruck talking

Lucy Ruck

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

BDF - Partner Group Reception

Diane Lightfoot and Interpreter

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

Graeme Whippy

Graeme Whippy, Disability Consultant

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

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

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB standing at the lectern

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB

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

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

A big thank you to everyone who attended!

Roving Artist and guest holding the guest's silhouette

Roving Artist (left) and guest

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

Business Disability Forum film festival 2018: the winners!

By Ebunola Adenipekun

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

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

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

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

A picture of a director's chair

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

‘What does going places mean for you?’

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

Winners at Business Disability Forum Film Festival 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prizes awarded at the film festival

Prizes awarded at the film festival

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

Barclays also showed their film:

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

Camera prop at Business Disability Forum Film Festival 2018

Camera prop at Business Disability Forum Film Festival 2018

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

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

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.

Business Disability Forum’s big day out – film festival winners

By Ebunola Adenipekun

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After months of planning, the day of our Technology Taskforce film festival finally arrived and it was truly an amazing event! (Even if we do say so ourselves!)

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Generously hosted by KPMG at their Canary Wharf offices and sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the event saw the outcome of the previously set 72 hour film challenge to university students who were asked: “Business, technology, disability: how does technology showcase disabled talent?”. The challenge called on students from across the country to create a film that embodied the brief. Prizes were donated by Barclays, Microlink, Microsoft, Santander – and KPMG who gave a top of the range laptop!

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As well as showcasing great film, we also wanted the event to provoke thoughts about the next generation of disabled people and as they prepare to enter the world of work with a fresh set of ideas, perspectives and expectations, are we as employers ready to harness this new pool of talent, or will existing barriers mean that we miss the opportunity?

Our winners!

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In third place was ‘The Wheelchair Man’, by Trine Hagan, Gavin Roberts and Joey Thompson from the University of Creative Arts. It told the story of student Joey who has  adjusted to life with a disability while at university both by getting used to assistive technology and with the support of others through online spaces such as YouTube. They won 2 Amazon Echo dots and an Amazon Firestick TV.

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The runner up was ‘Why I Make My Life So Hard’ by Oliver Lam-Watson of Kingston University, which came from a question the filmmaker asked himself about carrying heavy and often clunky filming gear around in his determination to be an influential filmmaker. He won Wembley tickets, Amazon Echo dot, as well as a Motorola Moto Smart watch.

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And *drumroll please*…

….first place was given to Wolf pack a talented team of two Wolverhampton University students, William Horsefield and Samuel Ash whose film ‘Big Day’ examined how assistive technology could help someone move into the world of work, through interviews and beyond. The film also explored the creation of an app in which sign language could be converted to text on a phone. An exciting prospect!

Wolf pack, won 1st place receiving an  Amazon Echo, Lenovo X260 Laptop, XBOX One S 1TB and Minecraft games and an Apple TV.

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Jeff A. King, Assistant Vice President, European IT, Enterprise Rent-A-Car said: “We’ve teamed up with the Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce for a unique event. It’s a Film Festival that provides a look at the world through the eyes of young disabled students preparing to go for their first jobs. It goes without saying that workplaces need to understand each new generation of graduates. After all they are the people who will ultimately shape the organisation and ensure it meets the future with fresh ideas and remains relevant. More immediately, this is about getting the best out of every employee in the organisation and utilising the most diverse possible pool of talent.”

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As well as the three talented winners, there were also short films from our hosts KPMG who screened ‘No More Awkwardness’ which highlighted how within their organisation the conversation of disability is normalised.

Our sponsors Enterprise Rent-A-Car screened their film ‘The Blind Hike’ which was a tale of a father and son who use their rented cars to explore the world.


We also screened our own film ‘Inside Nutmeg House’ – taking a look at why we do what we do through a day in the life of a Disability Consultant and a Relationship Manager.

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This film festival had a great turn out from our membership, so a big thank you to all who came along to support and we very much look forward to seeing you next year!

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Making sure that ‘digital-first’ is also ‘accessible-first’

By Lucy Ruck

Delegates at the Accessibility in the Digital Space event

The Accessibility in the Digital Space event on 28 September

There’s no question that the main way that employees and customers alike will deal with most organisations today will be digitally.

But the question remains: what does this mean for accessibility? So this is what we asked at our Accessibility in the Digital Space event which I was lucky enough to lead on Wednesday 28 September.

These events are enormously rewarding in terms of the success stories and good practice we hear about from BDF’s Members and Partners and particularly the sheer passion many of them have for making their websites and IT systems fully accessible.

Indeed what emerged very quickly at Wednesday’s event was the importance of digital accessibility for organisations. Nigel Fletcher of Tesco, who kindly hosted the event, estimated that around 20 per cent of Tesco’s 500,000 employees have a disability.

The event gave us the first glimpse of the Click-Away Pound research which BDF have produced with Freeney Williams and which will show the costs to businesses of users leaving inaccessible websites.

What we know already is stark: that over 70 per cent of disabled people face significant barriers to accessing websites and apps and often give up.

Of course, there are many challenges involved with digital accessibility, not just in terms of working around existing systems but also entrenched ways of thinking. Rick Williams highlighted the need for a change of culture at organisations so that accessibility is approached as a matter of course, rather than being included as an afterthought as often happens at present.

Then there is the sheer scale of the work involved, with Alistair Duggin of the Government Digital Service noting that making the gov.uk site accessible entailed work on some 300,000 pages of web content.

But one of the key points from the discussion was that organisations are rising to the challenge in a big way.

Marianne Matthews and Clare Davidson from Sky highlighted a major shift in the organisation towards embedding accessibility in everything they do. They have built up a massive digital product development team of 650 people to help them do this, tested every digital product with live users and linked accessibility directly in to Sky’s three design principles of ‘brilliantly simple’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘intelligent’.

Meanwhile Will Houston of Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, noted that accessibility for employees is being transformed by allowing employees to personalise the way they work on IT systems. Will also spoke extensively about the tools that the Technology Taskforce has developed, that are really helping him to embed accessibility with their organisation. Signing up to the Accessible Technology Charter and using the Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM), have really helped them to assess where they are and the areas where they need to improve.

So the key theme here is changing the way we think – as we move more and more towards being ‘digital-first’, we should also become ‘accessible-first’.

And it’s great to be part of the discussions that drive that move.

For more information about BDF’s Technology Taskforce please visit www. technologytaskforce.org/

Our HPE Living Progress Challenge journey

By Dean Haynes


Back in January 2016 we were approached with an opportunity that was challenging but too good a chance to miss.

The Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Living Progress Challenge invited the global community to bring forward great ideas that address social issues through digitally-enabled solutions.

The challenge was to answer the question: What software applications and digital services would you create to improve people’s lives?

Lucy Ruck, Technology Taskforce Manager at BDF, presents the Dynamic Accessibility Maturity Model to an audience in Brooklyn, New York.

Lucy Ruck, Technology Taskforce Manager at BDF, presents the Dynamic Accessibility Maturity Model to an audience in Brooklyn, New York.

At Business Disability Forum our remit is to support business to get things right for disabled people. Our Technology Taskforce was established to help businesses make their technologies more accessible for disabled customers, employees and stakeholders. Using their collective knowledge and skills, our Taskforce members developed our Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM), a management tool to help organisations assess and improve their commitment to accessibility.

While the AMM’s static framework was well used by our members and was signposted and leveraged by organisations including Gartner and Forester, the HPE Living Challenge provided us with a potential opportunity to create a dynamic, responsive version of the tool with international appeal. Our commitment was to offer the tool free of charge to any organisation that wanted to improve accessibility for the estimated 1 billion people globally with an impairment or disability.

At the beginning of May we were delighted to hear that we had been selected as one of 20 semi-finalists out of 130 proposals to be awarded design and development support from HPE and crowd sourcing platform Topcoder to build a Minimum Viable Product software prototype of our dynamic AMM.

Over the following three months, we worked closely with the HPE and Topcoder teams in the USA who were also providing free project management, UX/technical architect services alongside their design and prototyping services. Our collective challenge was not only to develop a responsive prototype that met the competition brief, but to also ensure that it met AA level accessibility for disabled users based on WCAG2.0. We were delighted to find out that we had made it through to the final 10 and that we would be pitching to senior leaders within HPE.

Towards the end of July the competition moved into its final phase. As the prototype was finalised, we started to work with an external coach to prepare our pitch for the live ‘Demo Day’ in New York on 3 August.

And so on 3 August, our Technology Taskforce Manager Lucy Ruck and Market Insight & Research Manager, Ashley Teaupa joined the other nine Living Progress Challenge finalists at the New Lab venue in New York to pitch our prototype for a digital solution to accelerate social good.

The audience included a team of judges, innovators, social entrepreneurs and business leaders as well as viewers from across the globe watching the live stream. You can watch a replay of the event here.

We were absolutely inspired to be among the finalists and although we didn’t make it through to the final build stage, we have developed a proof of concept website and made some great connections along the way. It was important for us to demonstrate the benefits of making digital products and services accessible, and this was an excellent arena to do this in.

Our Technology Taskforce Manager, Lucy Ruck said: “Working with Topcoder and HPE has been a great experience for us and we need to make that final push to get the site developed fully and identify further sponsorship. By having a fully dynamic AMM, we can really utilise this amazing tool that the Technology Taskforce has developed and support IT professionals in becoming disability-smart.”

To find out more about the Technology Taskforce and the AMM you can contact Lucy at lucyr@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk.

A chance to celebrate and reflect

By Sir Ian Cheshire

There’s something about summer weather that invites a celebration, so it was just as well that it was a beautiful day for our annual Partner Group Reception at Hampton Court Palace on 20 July.

Our Partner Group Reception is an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved over the last year, and the incredible work made possible by our Partners in terms of raising awareness, sharing ideas and best practice, and in general keeping the conversation around disability and business going.

Delegates and speakers in the audience at the Partner Group Reception

More than 200 delegates attended the Partner Group Reception

This conversation is at the heart of what we do. Talking about disability in a meaningful way brings about real steps forward for employees and businesses alike.

If we as business leaders avoid talking about disability, we don’t get the best out of our employees or from the wider talent pool. This has real practical implications for the workplace: as our keynote speaker Adam Pearson put it, if the conversation around disability is limited to “We have someone with a disability starting on Monday – we’d better get them a chair”, then the relationship between employee and employer simply will not be a productive one. So why do conversations like this still take place in many businesses?

Often, it’s as simple as a lack of understanding or knowledge – this is why bringing together our Partner Group to share ideas and success stories is so crucial to the work of BDF.

Over 200 delegates from our Partner Group attended the event, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge to share. In particular, there were many stories that broke down pre-conceptions around disability and how it might affect someone at work.

One story that no doubt stuck with many at the event was that of Daniel Pruce, a diplomat with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Daniel began experiencing seizures while on a posting in Bangkok a few years ago, and after consulting a doctor found out he had epilepsy. Daniel’s story is an example of how even a life-changing condition need not present obstacles in the workplace. Because his employer was supportive, he felt able to be open about his condition and any adjustments he needed. He could carry on working effectively and using his experience to inform his organisation’s approach to disability. At the same time the FCO were able to retain someone with valuable experience and skills.

This is the kind of success that benefits both employee and employer, and it’s the kind of story we want to hear more of. We know, as Daniel rightly pointed out, that “there is a long road to travel,” even now, which is why it’s so brilliant to see the conversation and exchange of ideas around disability continue when we bring our Partner Group together.