Welcome to 2019!

Happy New Year! I hope this finds you well and rested from the festive break.

I wanted to kick off the year with a round-up of what we’ve been up to – with your support – in the past year, and to let you know what’s coming up in 2019.

A photo of Diane Lightfoot in front of a window

Diane Lightfoot

2018 was a year of some great events: we began with our President’s Group Reception in February, hosted by our Member the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in their wonderful Locarno Suite, and supported by our brand new Partner, Sopra Steria Recruitment. Hot on its heels came our Annual Conference ‘Disability in the Modern Workplace’, supported by our Partner HSBC where we debated everything from career development to the future of work and the role of technology within it, swiftly followed by our Film Festival, supported by our Founder Leader Barclays and once again hosted by our Partner KPMG where we saw some amazing films on our theme of Going Places.

A picture of a director's chair

Our annual Film Festival, hosted by KPMG and sponsored by Barclays

Even hotter on its heels (literally; it was the hottest day of the year though that is hard to imagine on a cold grey January day!) came our summer Partner Reception, hosted by our Partner RBS, and themed around our “Identity” campaign. Our guests really enjoyed the breath-taking indoor garden and the opportunity to explore the theme of identity with our resident silhouette artist!

An indoor tree with people around it at the Partner Group Reception
Partner Group Reception

Then, in the autumn weeks, we returned to the fabulous Locarno Suite at the FCO for our Disability Smart Awards, supported by our Founder Leader, Barclays, and co-hosted by Paralympian and celebrity MasterChef finalist Stef Reid. I am also delighted to announce that Barclays will also be sponsoring the 2019 Awards so watch this space for more information on the Awards to enter this year and the opening date for entries.

Locarno Suite, an audience faces Paulette Cohen from Barclays

Disability Smart Awards 2018 at Foreign & Commonwealth Office

We finished the year by returning to RBS – this time in Scotland – in December for our Annual Scottish Conference, on the theme of Identity. Our packed programme included the Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, Jamie Hepburn MSP, Deaf comedian Steve Day – fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, and the incredible Dr Caroline Casey, founder of the #Valuable campaign, which we are delighted to be working with as an Expert Partner by providing practical support and advice to businesses which sign up.

Dr Caroline Casey on stage

Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc

Our global activity went up a gear too with the launch of our new Global Taskforce co-chaired by our Partner Shell and the creation of our new Business Disability Framework which we launched at the DfID summit in July together with our Partner PWC and which I presented the new Global framework at the ILO’s annual Global Business Disability Network conference in October.

We engaged in a huge range of policy and influencing work, including not only responding to consultations (8 in 2018 with another 7 already in the pipeline for January) but being specifically invited to contribute to the Work and Pensions Committee’s targeted call for evidence on the Disability Employment Gap and the United Nations Special Rapporteur’s inquiry into poverty and human rights in the UK. We have also engaged with the Work and Health Unit and with the Lord Holmes Review of Public Sector Appointments – in which our submission was quoted nine times! – and will be continuing this work in 2019. As always, our policy positions and insight are shaped by the experiences of our Partners and Members and so our huge thanks for sharing your insights with us to help inform our responses.

Closer to home, we carried out a programme of in-depth interviews with our Members and Partners which has provided some rich and very helpful insights on how we work with you. We will be using this insight to shape and relaunch our offer later this year and I will be writing again shortly with a themed series on your feedback and what we are doing as a result.

So, what’s coming up in 2019?

We kick off the year with the launch of some brand new resources: five new impairment-specific briefings, sponsored by our Partner HSBC and covering (respectively): Asthma, HIV and AIDS, Muscular Skeletal conditions, Bowel conditions and Epilepsy. We will also be launching two other brand new guides: ‘Welcoming Disabled Customers’, sponsored by our Member Merlin, and ‘Making Meetings Matter’.

And a few more meeting/event dates for your diaries:

It’s already shaping up to be a really exciting year and I look forward to working with you all as we join together to create a truly #DisabilitySmartWorld.

Best wishes and happy new year!

Diane

happy new year 2019

 

Disability in Scotland: exploring identity

By Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

“Never underestimate the power of each of us telling our truth.”

This was the rousing call to action of Dr Caroline Casey, Founder of Binc., at Business Disability Forum’s Scottish Conference “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity” on Tuesday 11 December 2018.

Generously supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the event was hosted in their Gogarburn Headquarters in Edinburgh and looked at all aspects of identity and disability.

Dr Caroline Casey on stage with a slide that says: "Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc"

Dr Caroline Casey, Founder of Binc.

In 2017 Caroline launched #Valuable – a worldwide ‘call to action’ for business to recognise the value and potential of the 1 billion people living with a disability and position disability equally on the global business agenda and at the conference.

Dr Casey announced that Business Disability Forum will partner with her #Valuable campaign – where the mission is to activate the business community to tackle disability exclusion around the world.

Other highlights from the day included:

Duncan Young, Director of Business Communications at RBS said: “We’ve come to realise that if we’re placing customers at the heart of our organisation, then our organisation needs to reflect our customers. So, being diverse and inclusive, reflecting the society in which we operate, is essential. It’s a fairly easy thing to say, but it’s not necessarily an easy thing to properly deliver. That’s why it’s really important that we partner with organisations such as Business Disability Forum.”

Duncan Young, Director of Business Communications at RBS on stage

Duncan Young, Director of Business Communications at RBS

“Whether it’s sexual identity, mental health, or disability, we’ve shared some individual stories which have created new levels of awareness among the wider staff population, and which have generated some really inspiring conversations as a result. As a member of staff at RBS, I’m really proud that we’re having these conversations.”

Audience at Disability in Scotland: exploring identity

Audience at Disability in Scotland: exploring identity

The people behind the job title

Business Disability Forum brought the podcast series ‘The people behind the job title’ live to the stage. The panel was led by Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns and Legal Business Disability Forum with panellists Dr Aurora Constantin, Research Associate at University of Edinburgh, John Brady, Customer Manager at RBS and Caroline Eglinton, Access and Inclusion Manager at Network Rail. Aurora said: “I find you always have to convince people about your abilities. Also, the physical challenges, like the fact that sometimes I encounter problems moving  around in my job, it that takes a lot of time to arrange everything, to arrange assistance. These are my main challenges, I think… the procedures are tedious. You have to call, write, e-mails, double check that everything is all right when you travel, when you go somewhere. Not only when you travel long distances. By train or plane, and when I need to move from one building to another, I have to be sure that I have accessibility there. Sometimes the procedure is long and it takes a lot of time to discuss my needs with other people.”

Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns and Legal Business Disability Forum with panellists Dr Aurora Constantin, Research Associate at University of Edinburgh, John Brady, Customer Manager at RBS and Caroline Eglinton, Access and Inclusion Manager at Network Rail

Bela Gor, Head of Campaigns and Legal Business Disability Forum with panellists Dr Aurora Constantin, Research Associate at University of Edinburgh, John Brady, Customer Manager at RBS and Caroline Eglinton, Access and Inclusion Manager at Network Rail

Caroline Eglinton said: “I think the thing that I like most about my job is that I get to impact how things are done across, working with the railway industry, across the whole business. So, it’s about changing things and how disabled people experience things. So, really seeing things change.”

She added: “I think that people who are not disabled sometimes can’t understand how policies and processes and just attitudes can really impact on your access to things. It’s not just about the physical access all the time.”

John Brady mentioned that in 2011, whilst at another firm he developed IBS, and his manager at the time said: “Well, OK, I’m not going to tell HR that you’ve got a medical problem because that could be really bad for your career if that gets out. That was a really interesting reaction.” He added: “It got worse to the point that I was really quite dysfunctional. It took me the best part of three years to really turn that around and figure out how to manage my IBS. Now I have a very restrictive diet, that manages it 95% of the time. But during those three years really my career took a setback. I was demoted. I lost credibility.”

Caroline told the audience after the death of her brother who had Cystic Fibrosis, which she also has, “I thought – this is ridiculous, we are going about in life trying to hide who we are, to suit other people, I suppose, to make not think less of us. And so, after that, I became the chair of the staff networking for disabled people at Network Rail. And I started telling my story. I started formalising my reasonable adjustments, and sharing this story that, just because you have a health condition that is serious, does not mean that you are any less than anybody else and you should really access the adjustments, you need rather than struggling on without them.”

No half measures

In the discussion “No half measures: getting disability monitoring right”
Business Disability Consultants Ruth Fisher and Adrian Ward addressed the role that data collection plays. Adrian stated: “For me, the importance of encouraging people to share information, to be able to collect this data is, to get your benchmark. Know what your current situation looks like. If you are creating the right culture where people feel they can talk and share and have that discussion about their condition, you are more likely to get the best out of that individual because they are able to come to work.”

Business Disability Consultants Adrian Ward (left) and Ruth Fisher (right) on the stage - they are smiling

Business Disability Consultants Adrian Ward (left) and Ruth Fisher (right)

Scottish Government address

Scottish Government Minister Jamie Hepburn was at the event said: “The Scottish Government will take a leadership role in employing disabled people by introducing a target for the employment of disabled people within the Scottish Government itself. We recognise that we have to ask others to follow and we must demonstrate that leadership ourselves. We will support employers by investing up to £1 million in the formation of a public social partnership, bringing together employers, disabled people’s organisations, the third sector and government to co-produce a range of initiatives piloted to ensure employers are provided with support and expertise that they need to attract, recruit, and retain talented disabled employees. We will improve employers’ ability to hire disabled people by investing 500,000 pounds to develop a pilot aimed at delivering similar support access to work to those on work experience or work trials in this coming financial year.”

Scottish Government Minister Jamie Hepburn

Scottish Government Minister Jamie Hepburn

 

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Business Disability Forum posted a photo booth at the event to further bring to life the theme of “Disability in Scotland: exploring identity”. People wrote in one word answer who they are with the caption above “I am”

Fresh from the fringe

Post-lunch comedian Steve Day, fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, brought the afternoon to bittersweet tears with his stories of his father who had dementia and his own story of being deaf. He stated: “I’ve got new hearing aids. For years I couldn’t listen to music. But these are digital. These are like having a computer on each ear. What they do, at 50,000 times a second, they re-assess sound, they try to figure out background noise so speech is more comprehensible to me. I’m normally much funnier in my old hearing aids.”

Comedian Steve Day on the stage

Comedian Steve Day

“I can hear stuff that I haven’t heard for years. I could hear birdsong, for the first time in 40 years.”

On the topic of his father, he stated: “But what happened to my dad has taught me this. Make the most of life now. Make it. People make assumptions… Deafness does not define me.”

Reciprocal mentoring

The reciprocal mentoring panel featured Lynne Highway, HR Director Services and Functions and Jack Farina-Whyman, Reference Data Manger as well as Matt Camichel, Head of Enterprise Solutions and Derek Coughlan, IT Technical Lead. This panel was following on from a career development course held in conjunction with the in-house course Royal Bank of Scotland led in 2017 with help from Business Disability Forum. The group addressed how much each person got out of the scheme. Derek said about Matt: “You’re part of a big organisation and it gave us the opportunity to meet with somebody higher up, not necessarily in your department to give you career coaching and mentoring of what was out there and give you the bigger picture of travel within the bank. One of the first things Matt said, you manage your own career. I was obviously quite interested in assistive technology because I work with it every day. I didn’t realise when I first met Matt he was a sponsor for disability and technology.” Read more about this year’s course and how to apply here.

Bela Gor, Business Disability Forum chaired the panel with Lynne Highway, HR Director Services and Functions and Jack Farina-Whyman, Reference Data Manger as well as Matt Camichel, Head of Enterprise Solutions and Derek Coughlan, IT Technical Lead on stage

Bela Gor, Business Disability Forum chaired the panel with Lynne Highway, HR Director Services and Functions and Jack Farina-Whyman, Reference Data Manger as well as Matt Camichel, Head of Enterprise Solutions and Derek Coughlan, IT Technical Lead

Being the change you want to see

The panel “Being the change you want to see” was led by Ruth Fisher and the panel was Dr Sally Witcher OBE, Jeremy Balfour MSP and Marsali Craig. Some key points were raised about how disabled people are “many and varied” and how important is to make a job description accessible. Sally said: “You have to be creative about doing, achieving equally good job in a very different way.” Jeremy said: “I remember my father many years ago giving advice to another parent who had a child who had a disability.  His advice was – you never take no for your first answer. That is a very helpful narrative to move into that no should never be a blockage. I think we need to challenge it.  I think we need to keep challenging society in business. I think we have to hold people to account.  I think we have to challenge our politicians in regard to what they do. I think we’ve now reached a stage in my experience that people are now signed up to it.”

Dr Caroline Casey on stage

Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc

#Valuable

Caroline led the closing speech with a passionate conclusion: “I am a disabled person but I’m also a dangerous dreamer. I’m also a crazy maker. I’m also a freedom seeker, I’m also a dancing Queen, I’m also a believer in magic. I’m also a fantastic hugger, I’m a nightmare to live with. I’m really bad in the mornings because I don’t sleep. I will tell you more than anything what I am, I am a really proud person of this 1.3 billion tribe but this inclusion revolution we are in is not about disability. It is about human inclusion, every human being on this planet has a right to belong as who they are, disability needs to be equally, be at the table.” Read more about #Valuable

Find out more about our events here

Are you a small or medium-sized business? Let’s talk!

Small business

We have been considering what a package of support could look like for small and medium sized businesses with under 250 employees (SMEs). Before we go any further we would like to hear from SME businesses themselves about the type of information and support they would value the most from us.

Why is disability important for businesses?

There are over 26 million people in the UK with a disability or long-term condition. They already impact on your business: they are your customers, your employees, your suppliers and your stakeholders.

  • Your customers: The ‘Purple Pound’ is now often referred to as the potential spending power of disabled people. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reports that households with a disabled person have a combined income of £249 billion after housing costs. There is evidence to show people with disabilities are often ‘repeat’ customers when they get the service and products that meets their personalised needs.
  • Your employees: All businesses need to remove barriers to employment and career progression to ensure they are recruiting from the widest pool of talent available. They should also observe best practice in terms of support, retention and progression of all their staff, including those with disabilities and long term conditions.


What do we need from the research?

This is a piece of developmental research and not a sales call. This is an exciting project for Business Disability Forum and any help you can give us in terms of ideas for further development will be greatly appreciated.

Ideally we would like to speak to someone in a senior managerial position in your organisation with responsibility for your employees or general business development for 30 minutes over the phone. Karen Cutts, Research and Insights Manager at Business Disability Forum,  will be undertaking the interviews as tele-depths. We can schedule the interview at a time that suits you.

If you are happy to help us please contact Business Disability Forum directly on the email address below to say you have opted in to the research. We will then select a number of businesses to take part and be in touch to set up a time and give more details.

Telephone Karen Cutts on: 020 7089 2482

Email: policy@businessdisabilityforum.org.uk

All your comments will remain anonymous and you will not be identified in any way in the data or report. The report will be for internal use only at Business Disability Forum and their stakeholders who are helping fund and build this service.

We are hoping that interviews would be completed between now and mid-January.

If you have any immediate questions relating to the project please do not hesitate to contact us using the details above.

Thinking globally about disability and business

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Our Global Taskforce met for the first time in September 2018

By Diane Lightfoot, Chief Executive, Business Disability Forum

To mark the United Nations International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD), I wanted to share some of the things we have been doing at Business Disability Forum over the past few months to get disability on the global stage.

Forty-five per cent of our members are global or have some sort of international presence. Together, they employ over 8 million people across the world. Many have a presence in developing countries where there is a real opportunity to realise the theme for this year’s IDPD: that is, of “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

We upped the ante on our global focus in earnest earlier this year, with the launch of our new Global Taskforce, co-chaired by Shell, back in April. Since then, it has developed into a lively and collaborative community of global businesses including Accenture, Barclays, GSK, EY, Microlink, Unilever, KPMG and more. As with all our Taskforces, it’s a forum where organisations can share best practices and also challenges – a “safe space” to talk about what’s not working and how we might work collectively to fix it.

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Our Global Framework, released in July, uses a scoring system to assess practice

When I first spoke to Partners to moot the idea of a global taskforce, they told me that they didn’t want “another talking shop”. So, the taskforce has been deliberately “action – task!” oriented. We began with the development of our new Global Business Disability Framework, based on our UK based Disability Standard and reframed as a “maturity model” as a self-assessment tool for global leads. We were delighted to launch the Framework at the UK Government’s Global Disability Summit back in July 2018 and it is now being used by global organisations to measure and improve their corporate approach to disability inclusion.

Next year will see the taskforce publish research, create a comprehensive suite of guidance tailored for global business and develop the next iteration of the Global Framework.

We’ve also been on tour! In the last few months we’ve spoken at conferences and held meetings in France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

I and my colleagues Brendan and Delphine were very pleased to attend the ILO Global Business Disability Network (GBDN) conference in Geneva last month where I presented our Framework and continued to build our collaboration with the ILO. We really enjoy our partnership with the GBDN and encourage our members to work with them, especially by using their global presence to support the establishment of national business and disability networks in the countries where they are present. We were really pleased to see the Bangladesh network doing well, a new China network just launched and a network in India due to launch in 2019. With that in mind, we were also delighted to host a delegation from the Ministries of Inclusion, Education and Human Rights in Brazil at our London office.

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The conversation around disability is shifting to cities all over the world

I was also lucky enough to join our member CAFE – the Centre for Access to Football in Europe – in Bilbao a couple of weeks ago to speak at their triennial conference at the San Mames stadium. It was a fabulous event in a stunning city and a privilege to talk to such a diverse audience about how the beautiful game can make a real difference to disability employment.

Fittingly, the most recent meeting of our Global Taskforce was on Friday (30 November) hosted by our Founder Leader Barclays at which we discussed strategic approaches to improving disability inclusion globally and how to communicate effectively with a global internal and external audience. Central to this is our partnership with and support to the #Valuable campaign which is seeking to get disability on the agenda of global boards worldwide and we were delighted when Unilever CEO Paul Polman announced our collaboration on stage at One Young World in October.

So, as we celebrate IDPD today with a whole host of events across the world, let’s hope that this is just the start of really shifting the dial on the inclusion of disabled people worldwide.

For more information on Business Disability Forum’s Global Taskforce and the Global Business Disability Framework, visit: https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/membership/global-taskforce.

12 tips for great customer service – and why welcoming disabled customers means welcoming everyone

Regent Street

By Bela Gor, Business Disability Forum

Purple Tuesday is a reminder of the significance of the Purple Pound and that disabled customers deserve not just to be able to get in to a shop, store or website but really great customer service as well.

The spending power of disabled people in the UK is around £249 billion per year and likely to increase as we live longer. This means that quite apart from being the right thing to do as an ethical retailer, it makes good business sense to design premises and websites that are both accessible and usable and to train customer facing colleagues on how to provide excellent customer service to disabled people. If you can do this then you will be providing the best shopping experience for everyone, regardless of disability.

Receiving good customer service is important to everyone, but it can be particularly important to disabled customers and clients who may have very specific needs and be concerned about how these will be met by your organisation. When surveyed about access, 72 per cent of disabled people said that were more likely to visit somewhere new if they were welcomed by staff or the venue appeared to care about access.

What makes for great customer service?

  1. Know your customer
  2. Obvious really but disabled customers should be treated with the same courtesy and respect as anyone else.
  3. Be aware of your legal obligations – although if you are committed to providing the best possible customer service, you will more than meet the requirements of the law.
  4. Nevertheless, ensure that disabled customers can access your service in the same way or as close as possible to the same way as customers without a disability.
  5. If this is not possible, you must offer a reasonable alternative. This may mean doing things differently and providing the service in a different way. The level of service should not change, however. This is an opportunity to think flexibly and creatively about how to provide great service while meeting the needs of your disabled customers.
  6. Make sure signage is clear and direct.
  7. Grant access to assistance dogs. Assistance dogs provide vital support to a wide range of disabled people and people with long-term conditions.
  8. Ensure that customer service and sales assistants know the building. There is no point in making your premises as accessible as possible if customers aren’t told about lifts, accessible toilets, ramps, and hearing loops. Schedule regular checks to ensure these facilities are working and make sure you inform disabled customers and offer alternatives. You can’t help things breaking but you can and should make contingency plans for when they do. Remember to tell your customers about the alternative ways in which you can provide the service to them. It shouldn’t need saying, but telling disabled customers to come back another day when things are fixed is not an acceptable alternative!
  9. Be aware of emergency evacuation procedures and how they affect people with disabilities. Be ready to explain procedures to people if needed.
  10. Always be on the lookout for people who may need extra assistance and offer help regardless of whether or not you think the person has a disability. Most disabilities after all are not visible.
  11. Some people may need extra time paying for goods or completing a form. Always be patient and never rush the customer, even if other customers are waiting.
  12. Have local public transport information available including numbers of accessible taxis.

Disabled customers are more likely to return if they receive good customer service. Providing such service gives out a positive message to everyone about how much you value all your customers. Good customer service goes beyond days like Purple Tuesday. This is an opportunity for retailers to get it right and to keep getting it right every day of the year for all their customers.

World Mental Health Day 2018: ‘Young people in a changing world’.

By Charles Clement, Business Disability Forum

When I started my first proper job for a large insurance firm about 20 years ago, I remember we had a welcome reception with wine and cheese (now that shows how long ago this was).

This was a chance for new recruits to meet senior staff and was part of the formal induction process. After quite a lot of cheese and some wine I got talking to a Director from a different part of the business. My tongue loosened by the wine, I told her that I was very unhappy in my new post. I didn’t think I fitted in, felt very anxious and I was probably depressed, having experienced depression in the past. After a few awkward moments the Director excused herself and went to mingle and I went home. The next day I went in to work and was immediately asked in to a meeting room by my Manager. I was told in no uncertain terms that he did not appreciate me talking about the department to other colleagues and that if I wasn’t happy then maybe it wasn’t the job for me. After this things were, not to put too fine a point on it, awkward – and I left soon after. To be honest Mental Health wasn’t widely spoken about back then so I don’t hold any ill will towards my Manager and as a new entrant to the labour market, I thought his reaction was pretty normal.

I contrast my own experiences to those of someone fairly new to the world of work. I recently spoke to Andrew who has been a Management Consultant at EY for about four years. Andrew, like me, had experienced depression at school and university. When looking for a graduate scheme to join, EYs reputation as a people centred business played a part in Andrew’s decision.

EY logo

EY

When he joined EY, Andrew wanted to explore whether he could create a wellbeing programme that was tailored to young people joining the world of work supporting them to manage their mental health and wellbeing, – perhaps they had moved to a new city away from family and friends for instance. Not only was this project supported by leadership at EY, it was positively encouraged. Andrew knows he can be open with his managers about his depression and has the flexibility to balance his own time with client needs in a way that works for him. So, it does appear that times, are changing.

So what does the future hold? Undoubtedly, mental health is spoken about more widely and has a greater profile in the media. This has gone some way to removing the stigma associated with poor mental health. However, as mental health becomes more widely discussed in the workplace it’s important that it doesn’t drop off the agenda or become a ‘non-issue’. Line managers should still be equipped to have conversations with employees who look like they are struggling with their Mental Health.

Technology is developing at an incredible rate. This allows us to have more agile and flexible workplaces, which can be of great benefit to someone who needs to work from home because of their mental health. Often, this new technology allows employees to work at times that suit them, which can be very useful if sleep patterns are erratic or a person is fatigued at certain times of the day. However, it is important that we make time to ‘check-in’ with our colleagues who work flexibly, to make sure they have the support they need. As in all things in life, getting the right balance is important.

Charles Clement

Charles Clement

The future provides challenges, certainly, but also many opportunities to get it right around mental health. I have worked at Business Disability Forum for six years and the progress made in that time makes me even more hopeful that in another six perhaps mental health will be discussed in the workplace, in the same way we discuss physical health.

Interested in more about mental health?

Business Disability Forum recently undertook a survey of 16-24 year olds to gauge their attitudes to mental health and the role of businesses and universities. While a huge majority of respondents wanted to talk more about mental health, few felt able to do so at their places of work or study, showing how outdated approaches are holding back the next generation.

For the full findings, visit our Media Centre. A report on the findings will be released in January 2019.

When great customer service makes an impact

Katherine Beavis wearing a headset

Katherine Beavis

As told to Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

‘My name is Katherine, I’m in my 50s and I have been working from the age of 15. My long term condition is congenital right-sided semi-hemiparesis with spasticity, partial epilepsy and bilateral schizencephaly. Apparently, there are only an estimated 7,000 cases reported. Schizencephaly is the second rarest known brain malformation. According to a study in the UK, the probability of having Schizencephaly is 1.48 for every 100,000 births. But hey, I am no one special and just get on with it and try and enjoy life to the max.

I like travelling, listening to music such as soul, jazz, funk, fusion and rare groove – and a variety of other sounds too and love a good dance. I also love socialising and meeting new people and being with my family, as well as my pet cats Yin and Yang. Also I do like to solve a Sudoku puzzle! I always wanted to be an announcer or do voiceover work for characters in adverts and films etc.

What mostly impacts my day-to-day life is some people’s assumptions of me, e.g. some people assume I don’t have a life, don’t have a social life, assume I haven’t worked my entire life, never had relationships of any kind and don’t have certain capabilities, so I’m “disabled” according to them. What’s worse is some people thinking and saying what they “know” of me but never bothering to “really” get to know me. But that’s their issue, not mine.

The range of customer experience I get from day to day varies but one place that sticks out is my local Halifax branch in Fulham Broadway. Maria Gouveia, one of the Bank Consultants is so caring and devoted and that’s with also with the rest of the team. Maria gives you all the time you need, not just on financial matters but on your welfare/your wellbeing, on any other personal issues you may have and even will talk to you if you’re pet lover about pets too. She has been by my side from the start on how to finance and purchase my bike/mobility scooter –  Maria is a brilliant person, a real people’s person.

Going to my local family-run shop Best One & Post Office in Fulham, we always have a laugh and some banter, but they are also very kind and helpful e.g. one of the members changed my light bulb in my home because I couldn’t do it myself and fixed my curtain rail when it came down and he didn’t charge me to fix it back up and I know if I asked if I could pay on another day they would let me.

Great customer service to me is when you listen to your customers and you show that you care when someone is buying a product or service, but also great customer service when it goes wrong can also turn out or lead to a great outcome e.g. you brought a product and it wasn’t what you asked for as a customer – but then the customer service gets involved and pulls out all the stops for you in trying to solve the problem/s, constantly keeping you (the customer) in touch with progress and reassuring you (as the customer) they are on it. Most of all getting the product/s right for his/her customer leaving the customer totally satisfied by the end of the day.

Another place is my local Sainsbury’s (Fulham Wharf branch), most of their staff are friendly, helpful and so approachable and are willing to serve you.

I have chosen the Halifax branch in Fulham Broadway as nominee for the Disabled People’s Choice Award because they are just very helpful and very supportive towards me in my day-to-day life, have been for many years and they always let me know that they will always be there for me and will serve and protect me in the best way they can.

The reason I think Disability-Smart Awards and Disabled People’s Choice Awards are important is because I believe individuals and companies/organisations deserve to get recognition for their hard work in giving the best service they can to the general public and it’s good for business.’

You can nominate for ‘Disabled People’s Choice Award for the most inclusive service provider, employer or experience’ here