Susan Scott-Parker talks accessible recruitment at 2015 Global Recruiter Summit

By Emily Jackson


On 11 February, delegates from across the business world descended on central London for the annual Global Recruiter UK Summit. Taking place at the brilliant 30 Euston Square venue, the conference featured guest speakers from across the recruitment industry, including representative bodies, members of government and recruitment specialists themselves.

Susan Scott-Parker talks accessible recruitment at Global Recruiter two thousand and fifteen

Chaired by Chairman of APSCo and Recruitment Sector Investor, Miles Hunt, this year’s conference focussed on the topic of evolutionary recruitment and the adaptations recruitment companies must make to access the widest possible talent pool and ultimately stay ahead of the curve.

Joining a wide range of experts and industry leaders speaking at this event, Business Disability Forum (BDF) Founder and CEO, Susan Scott-Parker gave an engaging and eye-opening presentation to delegates entitled ‘Revolutionary Recruitment’. Speaking directly to the wide range of recruitment industry representatives present, Susan’s presentation established the ways in which recruitment companies will best meet their client’s ultimate goal of accessing and attracting the widest talent pool by changing how they operate.

By becoming increasingly disability confident and incorporating accessibility into each and every stage of the recruitment process, organisations will place themselves in the best possible position to attract, recruit and retain employees from the broadest possible talent pool. This process begins at the very beginning, from making online applications accessible to disabled people, to the ways in which potential candidates are contacted, all the way through to the interview process, offering the position and finally, taking on new employees.

Speaking in her engaging signature style, Susan began the presentation by asking to stand, those in the audience who could. Once standing, Susan began to read aloud a list of disabilities and asking audience members to sit down if they themselves or someone they knew had any of the disabilities noted. Before reaching the halfway point of the list, all audience members had already returned to their seats. This simple task immediately illustrated the fact that disability is not a peripheral or minor issue, but something that affects the large majority of us in a variety of different ways.

The presentation focussed on the central leitmotif which states:

“If recruiters and recruitment companies make it easier for their employers to ensure that their procedures are accessible to people with disabilities, then everybody wins a balloon”.

In keeping with BDF’s aim of working towards the mutual benefit of disabled people and business, Susan outlined a number of ways in which recruitment companies can begin to build and implement accessibility into their organisation

Firstly, ensuring candidates with a visual impairment can easily read the company’s online database and publications. This is particularly important when making adjustments for an aging workforce such as that in Britain. Furthermore, ensuring that your company website is fully accessible to the 10% of the workforce who have dyslexia so that they can use your company’s online application service successfully as opposed to taking their business elsewhere. In terms of communication, ensuring that applicants are provided with a number of different ways in which to contact the employer so that candidates with a hearing impairment for example can easily apply for the role. And finally, ensuring that your premises and your client’s premises is physically accessible to people with a disability. This could be as simple as installing a ramp where there are stairs or installing automatic doors to aid wheelchair users.

Having presented and illustrated a number of ways in which recruitment companies can incorporate accessibility into their business models, Susan went on to describe how BDF works and what it can do for its members and partners. Susan described the essence of BDF as a company which:

“…enables all human beings – in all our complexity, in all our oddness, in all our non-standardness to contribute to business success.”

To close, Susan ended with a discussion on the importance of changing attitudes. Whilst making your business accessible to people with a disability is vital if you are to succeed in reaching the widest possible skilled workforce, you should not need a business case to treat people properly and fairly.

A step too far?- A comment on the recent Court of Appeal decision handed down in the matter of Paulley v First Group plc.

By Bela Gor


So the Court of Appeal has decided that bus companies are not required to expect that passengers move out of a wheelchair space on a bus to enable a wheelchair user to travel. The Court decided that it was “a step too far” to compel other passengers to vacate a wheelchair user’s space on a bus. One Judge said that he would “hope and expect” that drivers would do more than simply ask passengers to move but that the law did not require them to do so.

Man in wheelchair getting into a bus

The Court of Appeal’s decision seems inconsistent with the duty to make reasonable adjustments enshrined in law. Mr Paulley has the right under the Equality Act to travel on a bus and the duty to make reasonable adjustments enables that right. Is this not akin to the right that Rosa Parks should have had, as a black woman to sit at the front of the bus? To say that Mr Paulley’s ability to travel on a bus is dependent on the courtesy, unselfishness and moral niceness of other passengers is the same, surely, as saying that Rosa Parks could have sat at the front of the bus if nice white folk didn’t mind – no need for a right protected by law. The woman with the buggy didn’t have a legal right to occupy that space. She just chose to do so and chose not to move when asked and the driver and First Bus Co chose not to compel her to move.

If bus companies don’t have to have a policy to allow wheelchair users to travel then many disabled people won’t be able to guarantee that they can get to work on time or to meetings, hospital appointments or as in this case, a family lunch.

If the final decision of the Court is that the choice of non-disabled people supersedes the rights of disabled people protected by the Equality Act then where does this leave disabled people in this country? Expect to see more on this case.


Join Bela for a discussion on recent key developments in employment and disability at our Legal Workshop on 14 January. Click here to book online or call 020 7403 3020.

Event round up: Accessible London, can it work?

On a cold December evening, we were delighted to be joined by a panel of industry experts and Business Disability Forum (BDF) Members and Partners for a lively debate on the realities, challenges and opportunities offered by an accessible London. The event was kindly hosted by our Partner HSBC in Canary Wharf.

The debate opened by BDF Associate and panel chair, Geoff Adams-Spink, asking our six panellists with expertise in transport, tourism, employment and housing to rate London’s current level of accessibility out of ten. With an average score of seven across the panel, we were intrigued to hear the panellists’ reasons for their ratings.

Panel of industry experts sitting on long table

Transport – some good intentions but slow progress 

In response to the question: “Is the Mayor’s aim of ensuring 53 per cent of all tube stations are step-free by 2024 enough?”, Christiane Link, Trustee at Transport for All and Director of Ortegalink Ltd, was very clear that the target should be 100% Tube accessibility. Christiane acknowledged that while Transport for London (TfL) has made great improvements to the accessibility of London’s buses, the fact the only 25% of London’s Tube stations are step-free at present shows the need for a roadmap for an accessible Tube system.

In response James Grant, Senior Communications Officer at Transport for London (TfL) outlined TfL’s phased approach to accessibility. This includes an additional 28 step-free Tube stations as well as the launch of the fully accessible Crossrail in 2019, demonstrating that where there is a roadmap, financial backing and creativity it is possible to deliver a fully accessible transport solution.

Step-free access versus other accessibility requirements 

Mark Berrisford-Smith, Head of Economics at HSBC shared his experience as a visually impaired commuter who regularly uses the (sometimes overzealous) voice announcements and tactile markers in many stations across the capital.

The panel queried why these relatively straightforward but effective solutions were not rolled out consistently across all stations including smaller outer London stations. James Grant explained that TfL’s strategic approach to improvements focussed on central stations like Victoria and Bond Street which improved journey opportunities for larger numbers of people. The panel acknowledged that while this would benefit disabled tourists, local disabled people who needed to travel into the capital from outer London and further afield were still disadvantaged.

As a final point in the discussion on accessible transport, the panel stressed that one of the biggest public transport challenges for disabled people was still the attitude of staff and the general public towards disability. This issue is being addressed by organisations like TfL who have been working with Transport for All to deliver disability awareness training to their bus and Tube drivers.

A row of Victorian-style houses

Above: Older buildings buildings such as these Victorian style homes pose problems for people with disabilities that wish to adapt a home to suit their needs, giving rise to a preference for new builds. Credit: Nigel Chadwick, Wikimedia Commons.

Is London’s housing stock accessible for people living with a disability or long term health conditions?

As Helen Carter, Interim Director at Centre for Accessible Environments and Neil Smith, Principal Advisor on Access at Greater London Authority outlined a number of challenges in terms of planning and development, it became clear that there were good opportunities for improving the accessibility of new builds in the capital.

By combining the concept of ‘lifetime housing’ to accommodate the changing health and access needs and educating architects and planners, real improvements could and were being made in accessible housing. Disabled peoples’ organisations outside London increasingly look towards the capital for best practice examples in terms of accessible new builds. However there are still significant challenges in terms of adapting older properties both financially and practically.

Working in London

We recently blogged on Access to Work (AtW), an outstanding labour market intervention. This evening we heard more praise from employees and employers who use the scheme and real concerns about its future. In keeping with the theme of the evening, BDF Associate Joanna Wootten reminded the audience that AtW can be used to fund transport to and from work where accessible transport isn’t available. It was suggested that improving the accessibility of London’s transport system could ultimately reduce the requirement for AtW to help fund transport, freeing up funding to support other aspects of employment.

In general it was felt that since the implementation of equality legislation there had been a significant improvement in the accessibility of corporate buildings in the capital and indeed of understanding how disability discrimination law applies to employers. Those employers who are committed to making their business accessible to disabled staff are also benefitting from unique market insights from disabled employees and therefore to market insights and disabled customers. However we also heard a number of examples highlighting the disability discrimination that still exists on the high street.

View of the Tate Modern from the Thames

Above: The Tate Modern, named the most accessible tourist attraction in the UK by Vitalise. Credit: MasterOfHisOwnDomain, Wikimedia Commons.

How welcoming is London to disabled visitors?

As we approached the end of the evening, the final part of our debate proved to be the most uplifting in terms of hearing how London really can claim to excel in accessibility as a tourist destination. Helen Carter mentioned a recent accessible tourism award won by BDF Member Tate and shared some creative solutions to adapting older historic buildings from Kew Palace and the Royal Opera House. It was felt that one of the main reasons for success in this area was down to consistently consulting with disabled people to develop services in a meaningful and useful way.

Richard Knowles, Head of Visitor Services at The Royal Collection spoke about their holistic and person centred approach to accessible tourism. This included listening to feedback from disabled visitors and working with BDF and access consultants to think creatively about the needs of all visitors including those with disabilities. During the evening, we had heard about accessible solutions for people with mobility and sensory impairments. Richard spoke about how the Royal Collection used technology to offer online tours of exhibitions and venues to help people with conditions like Autism to plan their visit and address any concerns associated with visiting an unfamiliar environment.

Technology was also increasingly being used to provide accessible information about journey planning and TfL are now using a more personal meet and greet service on key transport gateways into London.

So, could London become an exemplar city on accessibility?

If we are all agreed that the London tourist industry can rightly claim to be leading European best practice in accessible tourism, then why has London not been a serious contender for awards like Access City?

While many visitor attractions capitalised on opportunities offered by the 2012 Olympics and many of our large corporates understand the value of investing in the access requirements of a diverse workforce, our transport infrastructure, high streets and public attitudes towards disability still need improvement. We think that the evening’s event offered both encouragement and new opportunities for us to continue to work with our Members and Partners to help bring about further improvements to accessibility in London.


Interested in attending our next After hours event? Email events@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk with your details to be placed on our Events mailing list.

Just how accessible is accessible?

Profile image of Geoff Adams-SpinkBy Geoff Adams-Spink

Cities are amazing, chaotic, organic entities that very often defy attempts to impose structure and organisation upon them. A city as old as London – dating back, as it does, two millennia – is more complex, more chaotic and more amazing than most – that is why it is one of the world’s great cities.

From time to time, planners, strategists, administrators have to make an attempt to impose some sort of order – whether it is classification by postcode, organisation into boroughs, imposing aesthetic criteria or laying down the infrastructure that allows people to move from one part to another.

Such attempts are often partly thwarted by the city’s inherent ability to resist: just try navigating the dank back alleys of Venice using the map application on your smartphone, and you will soon get lost.

Architects and town planners’ attempts to impose any sort of aesthetic conformity on London were – to a large extent – thwarted by the Luftwaffe.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that cities have to be poked, prodded, cajoled and enticed in order to meet the requirements of accessibility legislation and aspiration.

A platform at Oxford Circus tube station.

Particularly recalcitrant is our ageing Tube: it suffers the disadvantage of having once been at the cutting edge of public transport technology. Tunnelling deep under the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was an engineering feat, of which the UK could be justifiably proud. Some of the avant-garde architecture of the more outlying, suburban stations is in stark contrast to the street upon street of ‘cookie-cutter’ houses that surround them.

Leaving the civil engineering challenges of the Tube to one side for a moment, it is, though, still possible to conceive of London as something of an exemplar in terms of the accessibility of its public transport: which other major world city can boast a fleet of licensed taxis that is 100% accessible? Try visiting Paris or New York as a wheelchair user and you will soon see how the black cab has opened up the city to Londoners and visitors alike.

Thanks to the forward thinking of the often controversial Ken Livingstone, London also has a totally accessible bus fleet. Of course, in the early days, there were problems with ramps that didn’t work, drivers that couldn’t be bothered to use them and companies that couldn’t care less. The much-beloved RouteMaster was taken off the streets – much to the consternation of newspaper columnists and other assorted reactionaries.

A black cab and a bus at traffic lights on Regents Street in London

Now, thankfully, bus companies are fined if a vehicle leaves the garage without a working ramp. Drivers have undergone disability equality training and the only remaining obstacle to wheelchair users is the competition for space between wheelchairs and owners of large prams The owners of these prams often stubbornly refuse to vacate the spaces allocated to wheelchair users.

From a vision impairment perspective, life on the buses has also become more bearable: those with residual vision can often see the large number displayed on the front of the bus, while on-board announcements tell passengers the name of the next stop. There are apps that tell you – in real time – how soon the next bus will come along as well as its destination.

Returning to our old friend, the Tube, around 25% of the 270 stations are now accessible. Several stations now have portable ramps and staff are far more disability aware than they ever were.

There are, though, some glaring omissions: in the West End, for example, only Green Park station has been made accessible. Some stations have accessible platforms in one direction only. And, of course, ‘cost’ is the oft-cited objection to overcoming the engineering challenges of the deep underground stations.

In 2004, I visited two European cities to compare and contrast accessibility, ahead of the final implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act. Barcelona had, 12 years previously, hosted the Olympics. The vibrant disability lobby in Catalonia had pushed the regional government beyond its original ambition of making the city accessible just between Olympic venues: they insisted that a fully accessible city be made possible by 2006.

It was this social and political pressure that brought about such a sweeping change. Brussels, by contrast, is a city that hosts an annual conference to mark International and European Day of Persons with Disabilities. Disabled people from all over the European Union converge on the city in December of every year – and find it wanting.

I took my TV crew on a typical day out with Nora Bednarski, then of the European Disability Forum. We visited – among other places – her local post office, which had a massive step at its entrance – so high that she was unable to manoeuvre her wheelchair in order to get inside. Next, we went to her local cinema multiplex – there were steps everywhere.

“To be honest,” the manager told me, “we find that most disabled people aren’t interested in coming to the cinema.”

The usual arguments were trotted out about antiquity being incompatible with accessibility. That was the reason why Brussels’s magnificent town hall was not the place to get married if you had difficulty negotiating steps. Even the EU building that houses the Commission Department that deals with disabled people had an inaccessible entrance.

Part of the order of ceremonies at the annual EDPD conference is the bestowing of awards for cities that have made outstanding attempts to improve their accessibility. Unsurprisingly, Brussels is never among the contenders.

A shot of a wheelchair from a low angle with a train in the background.

More surprisingly, nor is London. From a disabled person’s perspective, the city has an awful lot to shout about – and an awful lot that could be done better: London’s black cab drivers for example could be a little less reluctant to deploy their ramps for wheelchair users and be more accommodating of assistance dog users. Customer service, more generally, could be more disability-focussed.

Perhaps what would really concentrate minds would be to pinpoint a date in the future – borrowing the example of the disability lobby in Catalonia – by which the entire city would be fully accessible to growing numbers of Londoners and visitors with reduced mobility. We all know about the ageing population – so achieving full accessibility is something of a no-brainer.

Given the complexity of the challenges, that date may well have to be a decade or two into the future. Nonetheless, it would concentrate the minds of the city’s politicians, civil engineers, architects and transport strategists.

Of course, there is more to accessibility than simply making the means of conveyance fully accessible: however, simply making this or that public space, shopping centre, workplace, housing development or whatever ‘accessible’ is meaningless unless people can get around without encountering barriers.

Cities are wonderful places – they often frustrate and delight in equal measure. More than most other cities in the world, London’s delights and frustrations deserve to be opened up to the widest possible number of people.


Join Geoff and other experts on accessibility as we discuss the Mayor of London’s future plans for making the nation’s capital more accessible. The after hours event, Accessible London: can it work?, will be held on 15 December and is free for all Business Disability Forum members to attend. 

Event: BT Accessibility Practice

BT_mark_4col_pos_CS3BT Accessibility Practice is an upcoming free event on Thursday 18 September that will be of particular interest to those in banking and insurance. Hosted by our Partner BT, the event gives people from these sectors the opportunity to learn how to deliver workplace adjustments systematically across large complex organisations, in ways that promote productivity and employee engagement, while keeping risk and frustration to a minimum.

There will also be discussions on how to reach and engage your disabled customer community. The event speakers will be experts from the BT Accessibility Practice joined by representatives from another BDF Partner, Lloyds Banking Group, who will take participants through the processes they have implemented on their journey to having one of the best workplace adjustment services.

If you are interested in coming to this event please register below and state if you need any adjustments. Light lunch will be provided.

For further information about BT Accessibility Practice or to register please visit:

http://btglobalevents.com/BTGlobalEvents/Index.aspx?inviteeCode=0.0.1264&templateFolder=BT_Accessibility_Practise_event_2014_EN

 

 

Stat of the day: Ticket sales in the music industry

By Angela Matthews

A news article at the weekend showed that 285 disabled people out of 300 (95 per cent) had difficulties with trying to buy a ticket for a music performance or festival, and a further 249 out of 300 (83 per cent) were “put off” from making a purchase. Common difficulties included tickets usually needing to be bought over the phone during peak times and people often being asked to prove their disability. A disabled man quoted in the article said that he missed out on buying tickets because he was busy at work the day that the tickets became available and there was no option to buy online. This is perhaps an example of how making a service more accessible can benefit many more than just disabled people. And take a look at the business case for doing so: 2.5 million ticket sales were being missed out on, causing an annual revenue loss of £66 million!

Which is the greater financial cost of accessibility – £66 million, or creating an accessible website?

Stat of the day: High Level Meeting on Disability 2013

By Angela Matthews

We saw in yesterday that the World Health Organisation’s HLMDD (code name for High Level Meeting on Disability and Development) took place in Geneva on Monday this week. The meeting was focused on improving access to healthcare and rehabilitation for the 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide. The meeting heard the Director-General of the World Health Organisation say that the most common barriers to accessing health care and rehabilitation are stigma, discrimination, lack of accessibility, and difficulty with paying.

Two types of statistics appear to have emerged from the meeting: (1) People with disabilities’ experience of health care compared with people who don’t have disabilities, and (2) lack of access to the provision of rehabilitation aids and equipment.

1.       Comparative Statistics:

  • People with disabilities are twice as likely to report that health care providers’ skills do not meet their needs;
  • People with disabilities are three times as likely to be denied healthcare;
  • People with disabilities are four times more likely to be treated badly when receiving health care.

2.       Access to aids and equipment:

  • Around half of the one billion people with disabilities cannot afford the healthcare they need and are 50 per cent more likely to suffer “catastrophic heath expenditure” that leads to poverty;
  • 360 million people have moderate to profound hearing loss, but the production of hearing aids only meets 10 per cent of the global need and just 3 per cent of the need in developing countries;
  • 200 million people needs glasses or low vision devices but have no access to them;

70 million people need a wheelchair, but only 5-15 per cent have access to them.