Why being disability-smart means delivering for every customer

Welcoming disabled customers guide and a Legoland coaster

Welcoming disabled customers guide

By Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum

The most successful businesses are known not just for their products or services or their competitiveness on price but for their customer service – and this means excellent customer service for every customer.

But disabled consumers far too often still experience poor customer service. This usually isn’t because businesses don’t want disabled customers or even that customer facing staff don’t want to serve disabled customers, but is often because of fear; fear of saying or doing the wrong thing and giving offence which means that customer facing staff too often say or do nothing.

The good news is that businesses who instill the confidence in their people to be “disability smart” and to ask how to best serve all their customers stand to reap considerable business benefits.

Back in 2014, the Extra Costs Commission 2014 asked 2,500 disabled people whether they had left a shop or business because of poor disability awareness or understanding and 75% said that they had. This figure rises to around 80% for people with a memory impairment, autism or a learning disability. Within that 75% headline figure, seven out of ten (70%) had left a high street shop, half (50%) had left a restaurant, pub or club, and a quarter (27%) had left a supermarket.

As well as being the wrong thing ethically and morally, it also makes no sense for businesses, financially. The spending power of disabled people and their friends and families – also known as the Purple Pound – is huge and currently estimated at £249bn per year in the UK alone. And from that same survey, the Extra Costs Commission estimated that the 8.4 million people in the UK who “walk away” were losing British Business around £1.8 billion per month. It’s not just about disabled people either; Millennials – and all of us – are increasingly making ethical and values-based choices on where we spend our time and money. So, I believe that getting it right and providing brilliant service for disabled customers can actually become a USP.

The encouraging news is that businesses are finally waking up to this. The #Valuable campaign and the launch of the #Valuable500 at the World Economic Forum in January this year is all about the power of disability at brand level and the importance of including disabled people in products and services, right from the design stage. #Valuable500 aims to get disability on the agenda at board level in 500 – or more! – global companies and Virgin Media, Unilever, Microsoft and Barclays have already signed up. So how can you follow in their footsteps?

Just last week, with the support of our Member Merlin Entertainments plc, we were delighted to launch our new ‘Welcoming Disabled Customers’ guide at Legoland Windsor, to help every business provide brilliant service to disabled customers. Designed as a simple reference tool, it aims to give confidence to customer-facing staff with really practical and simple hints and tips.

Diane and a Lego model

Diane Lightfoot (right) and a Lego model

It’s split into sections so that it’s easily digestible and can be used as a quick reference guide when needed. It starts with practical tips on how to support customers with different types of impairments, for example, how best to guide a customer with a visual impairment up or down stairs, plus helpful information on etiquette, for example, that someone’s wheelchair is part of their personal space.

As anyone who has heard me speak knows (!), one of the stats I like to use is that over 90% of disabilities are not immediately visible. So, it’s likely that for a large proportion of the time, customer facing staff may not know that a customer is disabled. So, the second part of the guide gives general advice and things to think about and to be aware of, like being clear when communicating, not using confusing language or simply taking time to ask what someone needs: “how can I help you?” really can go a long way! In this way, we hope that the guide will have the added benefit of making customer facing colleagues better at serving every customer because if you can get it right for disabled customers you get it right for everyone.

Legoland Hotel, Windsor

Legoland Hotel, Windsor

It was great to see this ethos put into practice at our Legoland launch where the commitment to getting it right for disabled customers was obvious in every staff member. We heard some really moving stories from parents whose disabled child had been able to be “just another child” in their experience of Legoland and from the Legoland team whose passion for opening up as many attractions to as many people as possible was so apparent. We had the privilege of seeing not only the different options for accessible bedrooms in the hotel – we visited the “adventure” themed floor and it was great to see the different options available – as well as surely the funkiest Changing Places toilet ever and a very peaceful and beautiful sensory centre to enable everyone to enjoy the delights of Denmark’s greatest export (it’s something to build on). The fun setting (yes, we all had our photo taken with Lego sculptures and more!) didn’t detract from the fact that Merlin Entertainments plc are very keen to keep on improving in taking customer service for people with all kinds of conditions and disabilities seriously.

With World Consumer Rights Day on Friday (15 March) and Disability Access Day on Saturday (16 March), the spotlight is firmly on customer service delivery, this week. But, let’s ensure that it doesn’t stop there. Meeting the needs of all customers is something which businesses should be doing every day of the year. If you would like to know more, then why not get in touch to find out how we can help?

To learn more about being disability-smart, contact our membership team

Email David Goodchild, our Executive Director of Membership & Business Development

Diane Lightfoot

CEO, Business Disability Forum

“Sous le ciel de Paris” – working together towards a Disability-Smart world

By Delphine Leveneur, Business Disability forum

[Article first published on LinkedIn]

group photo of all European and Canadian attendees posing with organisers from the French Ministry of Justice

European and Canadian attendees posing in a group photo with organisers from the French Ministry of Justice

Like in the famous song, last week saw me strolling ‘sous le ciel de Paris’ (under Paris’ sky) to speak at a European conference on disability at work.

This event, organised and hosted by the French Ministry of Justice (Ministère de la Justice), was an opportunity for experts from Canada, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and the UK to exchange with guests and staff from the French ministry of Justice on good practices in Europe and beyond.

Photo of Nicole Belloubet, French Ministry of Justice

Nicole Belloubet, French Ministry of Justice, opened the conference on Thursday

The French Justice Minister, Nicole Belloubet, opened the conference by reminding the audience that disability is a priority for the [French] government”. She outlined that the French ministry of Justice continues its work to improve inclusion of disabled staff, taking concrete actions such as increasing links with universities to facilitate the transition from higher education to employment. She also mentioned workplace adjustment process, manager and staff training as well as digital accessibility as areas that are being looked at for improvement.

Over the course of two days, we heard about new and innovative steps taken in France around inclusion of disabled people in the workplace. I will write a separate article focusing on the changes to French legislation and French initiatives in the upcoming weeks.

Photo of Sir Philip Rutnam speaking. Also on the photo: Malin Ekman Alden (Sweden), Robin Baltes (Germany) and N. Saussure (France)

Sir Philip Rutnam, UK Civil Service Disability Champion speaks. Also on the photo: Malin Ekman Alden (Sweden), Robin Baltes (Germany) and N. Saussure (France)

Sir Philip Rutnam, UK Civil Service Disability Champion shared great insight on the work done in the UK, particularly around the Fast Stream program, a graduate leadership development programme and around and around the UK government Disability Confident scheme, which “supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to your workplace”.

Photo of Peter Mozet (Germany)

Peter Mozet (Germany) shares the work accomplished by the German federal government around disability inclusion

Amongst all the good practices shared, we also heard about the quota system in Germany and how there, disabled staff in the public sector elect a representative who can (amongst many other things) attend disabled candidates’ interviews to ensure the process is fair. I very much liked this democratic process!

The conference’s special guest Yazmine Laroche, Deputy Minister, Public Service Accessibility, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, shared exciting news from Canada. Their C-81 Accessibility Act is currently being reviewed by the Canadian Senate. This new piece of legislation, follows a consultation open to all Canadians and looks at areas including :

  • built environments;
  • employment;
  • information and communication technologies;
  • procurement of goods and services;
  • delivering programs and services;
  • and transportation.

Canada being a federal country, this Act would only apply to organisations under federal responsibility.

I’ve always believed that there is no border when talking about disability (or any other diversity and inclusion topic for that matter). There is much to learn when looking beyond our own country. If proof was needed, not surprisingly, the themes that were mentioned during the conferences mentioned are similar to the ones we hear about in the UK, amongst which were:

  • the need for senior leaders to champion the topic;
  • issues around career progression and representation of disabled people in senior leadership;
  • training of line managers;
  • thinking about disability inclusion at the beginning of any discussion to avoid retrofitting.
  • access to employment – including transition from education.
Photo of Yazmine Laroche and Delphine Leveneur on stage. A French Sign Language interpreter is working on the side

Yazmine Laroche shares insight from Canada

In her closing remarks, Yazmine Laroche reminded attendees that although countries will adopt different approaches to disability inclusion, in every part of society including employment, reflecting our own ways and our culture, people with disabilities need to be included every step of the way.

And that for me is the most important message that was shared with all attendees during these two days. Disability is not just a topic that should be discussed on occasion then forgotten for another year. It has to be included in every aspect of a business if we truly want to build an inclusive workplace and society.

We’re open for inclusion

By Christine Hemphill, Open Inclusion

Retail banks have been providing enormous convenience to customers by developing their mobile personal banking functionality which is increasingly available in our pockets. As uptake by customers grows, a recent event at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on 15 January 2019 considered who may be being left behind by this wave of new digital applications. Are these apps providing fair and equitable access and experience to all users, including those with sensory, physical or cognitive differences and impairments?

In front of a packed room of financial service providers, digital product designers and regulators, Business Disability Forum brought together a great range of speakers providing fresh new insights into retail banking digital inclusion. The morning saw Open Inclusion present some of the key findings of its Mobile Banking Inclusion Report conducted last year. The report assessed and compared the inclusiveness of 10 UK banks’ iOS and Android apps.

The session was kicked off with Shelley Cross from the FCA who outlined the importance that the regulator places on inclusion of all customers, especially those with vulnerabilities to receiving poorer services or exclusion, including those with lived experience of disability.

Steve Tyler of Leonard Cheshire talking about inclusive innovation in digital banking - past, present and future

Steve Tyler from Leonard Cheshire

Steve Tyler from Leonard Cheshire provided an enlightening talk on the power of technology and inclusive design in retail banking in the past, present and future. He motivated organisations to look to inclusive design to better understand and leverage emerging technologies. Not only will the 20% of customers with permanent specific access needs benefit, but in consideration of more extreme customer needs, organisations will likely generate insights that make for far more innovative, cost effective and durable products benefiting 100% of customers.

Business Disability Forum’s Diane Lightfoot outlined some paths that banks could take to practically improve the customer experience of their digital products and benefit from the value of the £265 billion purple pound market segment. This included gathering regular insight from their customers who have disabilities and embedding the skills, capabilities and internal governance needed to ensure that every product iteration maintains or extends inclusive design, accessibility and usability by the broadest audience.

Christine Hemphill of Open Inclusion introduced research that they conducted in 2018. None of them were fully inclusive to users with common access needs. The research found significant differences in inclusion across the apps of the 10 different brands tested. Sometimes there were also significant differences between the iOS and Android version of the same brand’s apps.

The leading brands, led by Lloyds Bank, got results in the high 80s. A score of 100 would mean that core online banking journeys were all inclusive to most user groups. The lowest came in at a very poor 50 showing half of the functionality tested was not accessible to one of more significant user group. The average of all apps was 77.

 

Christine Hemphill speaking in front of a slide that reads "Difference is all we have in common" and an image of a person dancing The slide headline reads "We are all different - normal is a flawed concept. Some differences are visible. Most are hidden". In the foreground are the attendees at the event

Christine Hemphill from Open Inclusion

 

This research clearly shows that there is still a very long way to go to ensure that the needs of users with physical, sensory or cognitive impairments are supported by current retail banking mobile offerings.

A survey with consumers with access needs was also conducted as part of Open Inclusion’s research. It identified what disabled and older customers appreciate and what they are currently unsatisfied with in relation to mobile banking. In it, 44% of customers with access needs covering all the major impairment categories and all major assistive and adaptive technology categories, noted that they would like their mobile banking app to be more accessible to them. More than 50% of respondents also wanted their provider to make it easier to do simple updates such as to personal information on the app and to find help / contact information when required.

The expert review and authentic usability testing assessed in a comparative way, the post-authentication functionality (what you can do after you have signed in) of the iOS and Android versions of the 10 brands. Open utilised their digital maturity model for assessment of the apps across 5 key competency areas:

A slide that has the 5 capabilities listed each with an associated icon 1. Interactions 2. Visual design and media 3.Personalisation and assistive technology support 4.User assistance 5.Simplicity

Capabilities

  1. Interactions
  2. Visual design and media
  3. Personalisation and assistive technology support
  4. User assistance
  5. Simplicity

Business Disability Forum is proud to note that Open Inclusion is an expert partner of Business Disability Forum for market and user research and insight. This means that members can be confident that should they wish to engage them for inclusive research, customer insight, design and innovation services that they will get excellent quality work at the best prices on offer. Open provide a 15% discount on all inclusion services to all Business Disability Forum partners and members.

 

Join the Valuable 500 and make 2019 the year of the inclusion revolution

By Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum

“This is the inclusion revolution, right here and right now.” Challenging words spoken by the amazing Dr Caroline Casey, founder of #Valuable, at Business Disability Forum’s Scottish Conference, back in December.

Dr Caroline Casey on stage

Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc

If you have been working in the disability space for any length of time, it can be easy to become despondent, and wonder if the change that we have all been calling for and working towards for so many years will ever happen. The global disability employment gap is wider now than it was in 2010, for example. And too many big businesses which talk the language of diversity, fail to include disability.

This makes no sense when you consider that disability is the one characteristic which can and does – and will – affect us all. And yet it is too often the Cinderella of the diversity world.

But last week something amazing did happen. For the first time ever, disability inclusion took centre stage at the most influential global event in the world.

The World Economic Forum four-day annual conference in Davos brings together leading figures from business and politics to discuss issues of global importance. Usual topics on the agenda include security and the economy, and, more recently, the environment and the gender pay gap, but never the value of the 1.3 billion people living in the world with a disability. Until now.

Thanks to the incredible and visionary leadership of Dr Caroline Casey, for the first time in the Forum’s history, disability was a main stage event. It is hard to overstate what a big deal that is. The buzz started towards the beginning of the week and by the time Caroline took to the main stage on Thursday, joined by CEOs and global business leaders, including former CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, it felt as though something was really happening.

They highlighted the actions that global organisations can take to become “the tipping-point for change” and to “unlock the business, social and economic value of people living with disabilities across the world”.

I am proud to say that Business Disability Forum Partners and Members, Unilever, Microsoft, Barclays, Fujitsu and Accenture, were among the first businesses to sign up to become part of the Valuable 500 – a growing cohort of businesses who are committed to putting disability on the agenda at the highest global level.

Valuable log - black stripe and an orange heartThe Valuable 500 is calling on global organisations to commit to putting disability on their board agendas in 2019, with recent research by Business Disability Forum Partner, EY, showing that over half of global senior executives, rarely or never discuss disability on leadership agendas.


I said earlier in this blog that too often disability is the Cinderella of the diversity world. And a brilliant new film created by AMV, DIVERSISH, launched at the conference in Davos, makes this point brilliantly. It shows that many businesses may call themselves diverse yet overlook disability in their definition of diversity. They are as the film says, diversish. You can see the film here:

So what now? How can we ensure that the historic events of Davos turn into the longer-term inclusion revolution we have all hoped for?

As an expert partner of the Valuable 500, Business Disability Forum will be among organisations ready to provide practical resources and advice on how they can bring about meaningful, top-down and embedded change within their organisations, during 2019 and beyond. It’s an opportunity and challenge which we relish.

But this change can only happen if more global businesses follow the example set by Unilever, Microsoft, Barclays, Fujitsu and Accenture, and sign up to the Valuable 500 pledge.

As Sir Richard Branson says, “Stand up as allies for change. Consider how you can improve your disability performance and commit to unlocking the value of over 1.3 billion disabled people and families across the world.”

You can find out more and apply to be a Valuable 500 business at thevaluable500.com.

Let’s make sure that this is only the start of the inclusion revolution that we and so many others in this space have been seeking for so long.

Disability, identity and technology: A journey through time

45408321 - technology.

By Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

Our annual technology showcase for 2019 entitled ‘Disability, identity and technology’ is in a few weeks and we will be looking at the concepts of ‘identity’ and ‘going places’ through the lens of technology.

We will be bringing a number of organisations together to showcase fresh and innovative technologies which will help make your business disability-smart. Whether it’s at work, at events or at home, these companies will have something for you. Alongside this exciting exhibition you will also get to:

  • Take part in discussions about where technology has really made an impact and where it still has some way to go.
  • Join in our talks about career progression and travel for people with disabilities.

Paul SmythWe are delighted to announce that our first speaker will be Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility at Barclays (pictured right) who will provide a personal perspective of working with a disability.

Paul will share his own journey of disability and getting into his career at Barclays as a visually impaired accessibility leader and disability champion. Be prepared for stories of ‘turning heads’ and taking the long way around in getting a job, forging a career and in his own words “leveraging ‘whizzy’ technology and applying a resilient mindset”.

We are also delighted to welcome James Hallam, Senior Manager in the London Top Tier Controls team at PwC.

James will be sharing his personal story of how he uses tools and technology to enable him to get to work and do his job. He also talks about how this changes over time, often leading to interesting challenges and opportunities, sometimes via unusual routes!

Our exhibitors include:

To find out more and to sign up to attend, please visit the page here

Welcome to 2019!

By Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum

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

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