It’s all about the talent


By Jodie Greer, IT Accessibility Lead, Shell


Do you consider yourself to have a disability?


Not at the moment?

Some of us aren’t currently living day to day with a disability. But that’s just a temporary state. Be it due to injury, illness or age, personal circumstances can change at any time for any one of us.

Would your current employer be able to accommodate your needs if your circumstances changed?

More importantly, as an employer, if one of your employees becomes disabled, are you equipped to retain them – or do you risk losing them to a more accessible competitor?

I’m sure you don’t need much more convincing. After all, it’s simply good business sense to ensure your organisation is disability smart and fully accessible. Be the one who talented individuals consider first when planning the next step in their career, not the one who some talented individuals disregard because you’re considered inaccessible and therefore a potential obstacle in their progression.

Do you value the talent you’ve already successfully recruited?

What if one of those high performers were to become disabled, would you value them less?

Would hearing loss, sight loss or a mobility impairment make them less effective?

In many cases, only if you aren’t willing or able to provide the right tools.

Not only do you risk losing out, you could also get hit by unnecessary costs for recruitment, training and the reduced productivity which comes with the induction and initial training for a new role.

We all know, there is no need to quote sources here, that some disabilities e.g. hearing or sight loss, can be age related. With the aging working population growing it’s even more essential we are fully equipped to meet accessibility needs. Imagine losing all that experience to a competitor just because you hadn’t future-proofed your solutions. This includes some very simple changes like having magnifying and screen reader software readily available.

We live in a technological world and technology is ever evolving, in fact technology is way ahead of many of us when it comes to accessibility.

Need help seeing the right colour neck tie?  There’s an (free!) app for that.

Need assistance reading the text on screen?  Guess what, there are (free!) functionalities and software for that on multiple platforms.

Need your PowerPoint presentation reviewed to ensure it’s accessible?  You’ve guessed it, there’s a (free!) built in Accessibility Checker for that.

It’s really all about making accessibility part of your organisation’s DNA, so that it’s just business as usual (BAU); and, why wouldn’t you? At the Business Disability Forum Technology Taskforce, a question we regularly ask is: how can we help organisations to understand the true business value of accessibility?

I’m sure all my “free!” references above did not go unnoticed and that’s an important factor here.  I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should not invest in accessibility, after all how would you achieve innovation without investment in your people, services and solutions?  However, I am sharing with you that many of your concerns over the commercial impact may well be unfounded.  In fact, the average cost of a reasonable adjustment is just £30.*

Circular flowchart showing 'accessibility' leading to 'best talent' which leads on to 'good business' and back to 'accessibility'

Accessibility is good business sense: Accessible practices feed into getting the best talent, which in turn makes the business better and stronger

Why not take a few moments now to look up what’s available in your work place, or to have a conversation with your local IT and/or occupational health teams on how to make improvements?  The Technology Taskforce have a number of free resources available on their website, ranging from what is expected of an ICT Accessibility Champion to what you might look to include in your assistive technology catalogue. Don’t wait until you regret it, take action now and be confident you can attract and retain the very best talent to pave the way to success.

You can find out more about the Technology Taskforce and the resources available to you via the following links:

*Source: RIDI

Have your say: where does disability fit in with automation and the future of work?

Robotic arm with power lines in background

By Angela Matthews, Advice Service and Policy Manager

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has launched an inquiry to understand the impact of automation and the Future of Work on UK workforces and customers.

The Inquiry also seeks to identify who (in terms of businesses and job roles) are most affected by automation and the type of support businesses are need to transition effectively. We are also keen to understand how automation affects the inclusion and opportunities for disabled workers and customers.

To help inform our response to this Inquiry, we would like to hear from employers, business leaders, HR professionals and strategists, business consultants, inclusion specialists, and disabled people.

We are keen to understand your thoughts on the following:

  • How far automation has already affected your business; and, if it has not yet, how far you expect it to (and how) in the future;
  • The impact this has had (or will have) on disabled people in or working with your workforce;
  • How far you think automation has or will lead to industrialisation;
  • The most (and least) affected sectors and role types;
  • Support available to see businesses through change;
  • Opportunities for businesses (and disabled people) moving forward.

How to respond

There are a number of ways you can help inform our response:

  • Complete our survey by clicking here (this link will take you to Survey Monkey).
  • Complete the survey in Word format
  • Arrange a telephone or Skype call or an IM conversation.

Please contact the Policy Team at to arrange any of the above.

The deadline for contributions is 9am on Friday 6 July 2018.

Take a chance on me – disability employment at Workability 2018

Coastline of Sweden from the air

The coastline of Sweden from the air


By Diane Lightfoot

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

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

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

Providing practical support

The main stage and screen at the 2018 Workability Annual Conference

The main stage and screen at the 2018 Workability Annual Conference

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

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

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

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

Adapting the Disability Standard in other countries

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

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

Developing a tool to help global business

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

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

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

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

Some of the issues the group grappled with include:

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

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

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

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

Diane Lightfoot


Business Disability Forum

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

By Angela Matthews

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

What does the Directive say?

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

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

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

When do public sectors need to comply?

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

What do you think?

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

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

Or email

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

Developing a global disability strategy at Accenture

Barbara Harvey, Accenture

Barbara Harvey, Accenture

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The question is how businesses can do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Accessibility Maturity Model (AMM)

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

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

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

Disability needs to be on the agenda now

Diane Lightfoot

By Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive Officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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