Leadership driving change

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum

On Thursday 25 April, we were delighted to host our annual conference 2019: Disability leading the way.

When we chose this theme, we wanted to reflect the importance of leadership in driving change. But you don’t have to be senior to be a leader and so we also wanted to reflect the importance of leadership not just at senior level but through all levels of the organisation.

Caroline Casey talking to people

Caroline Casey and guests

We support businesses to become “Disability-Smart” via our own Disability Standard which is a whole-organisation accreditation and which reflects our ethos that getting it right for disabled people is not just the domain of HR or D&I but needs a cross business commitment to getting it right. So it’s no surprise that a key area of the Standard – “Know how” is all about the confidence of line managers – in being confident to have a conversation with a disabled employee and to know how to respond to requests for support – including adjustments – and indeed this was a recurring theme in our Great big workplace adjustments survey. It’s also about the confidence of customer facing staff to meet the needs of everyone.

Too often, disability is parked in the “too difficult” or “too sensitive” box – and in too many cases, the fear of getting it wrong means that people don’t do anything as they are so worried about causing offence. This might mean being afraid to ask a disabled colleague what adjustment they might need for a meeting or pretending not to see a disabled customer – something which people with a visual impairment tell us happens all too often.

Welcoming disabled customers guide and a Legoland coaster

Welcoming disabled customers guide

So in March with support from our member Merlin, we launched our new Welcoming disabled customers guide which is full of really practical hints and tips for frontline staff on how to communicate with and provide excellent support to every customer. The spending power of disabled people in the UK is around £249 billion per year and rising. This means that quite apart from being the right thing to do as an ethical retailer, it makes good business sense to provide services, premises and websites that are both accessible and usable for the widest possible group of customers. Businesses who instil the confidence in their people to be disability smart and ask how to best serve all their customers stand to reap considerable business benefits. Yet disabled customers more often than any other experience poor customer service. The Extra Costs Commission 2014 found that three quarters (75%) of disabled people and their families had left a shop or business because of poor disability awareness or understanding. This is entirely unnecessary as often all that is needed is to ask “how can I help?”.

BDF

Attendees at Business Disability Forum Annual Conference 2019, 25 April 2019, hosted by the British Library

And at the conference I was delighted to launch our Meetings matter guide as a really practical tool to make meetings a positive, productive and – dare I say – pleasurable experience for all involved. Millions of meetings take place every day – from work team meetings and organisational away days to stakeholder or client consultations and meetings that can decide the future and the lives of the people affected. For too many disabled people, however, meetings are frustrating experiences in which they can never fully participate because often simple adjustments have not been made by the meeting organiser or chairperson. Adjustments aren’t a “nice to have”; they are absolutely essential for disabled people who might otherwise leave a meeting with incomplete or inaccurate information or simply not be able to attend at all.

Business Disability Forum Meetings matter guide - A guide to hosting inclusive meetings.

Meetings matter guide

As we often say, if you get things right for disabled people, you get them right for everyone. Accessible meetings mean more productive meetings for everyone.

On the stage is the Change in our time? Leaders of today panel with Asif Sadiq ME, Mike Clarke, Caroline Casey, Victoria Cleland, Mike Clarke and Brian Heyworth and a BSL interpreter.

Change in our time? Leaders of today panel with Asif Sadiq ME, Mike Clarke, Caroline Casey, Victoria Cleland, Mike Clarke and Brian Heyworth.

You can also lead by making a difference wherever you work in an organisation and whatever your position in society. One way to show leadership is to speak out and say what other people are often to afraid or embarrassed to talk about and thereby break down barriers and challenge taboos. Our session “breaking down barriers” aimed to shine a light on less understood conditions – and those which are perhaps deemed less socially acceptable to talk about – but which have a real impact on people’s working lives. If you would like more indepth information on specific conditions, take a look at our updated and expanded briefings series – developed in partnership with expert organisations and providing practical guidance on disability as it affects business.

Because this is what we do at Business Disability Forum. We create a safe space to talk to business and for businesses to talk to each other about disability and we enable pragmatic, scalable business solutions.

Disability leading the way: our CEO’s round-up

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum

 In the latter half of last month, I was delighted to open our annual conference 2019: ‘Disability leading the way’.

It was wonderful to see so many friends old and new – including those who travelled from as far afield as Paris, Amsterdam and Singapore to join us!

This year we were at a new venue – the British Library Knowledge Centre – thanks to the generous sponsorship of HSBC, a long-standing Partner and friend of Business Disability Forum.

Business Disability Forum is a not for profit membership organisation that helps businesses recruit and retain disabled employees and serve disabled customers. We exist to help organisations – of all shapes, sizes and sectors – to become disability-smart in how they recruit and retain disabled employees and serve disabled customers. Ultimately our purpose is all about transforming the life chances of disabled people as employees and consumers and enabling them to access the same opportunities that their non-disabled peers take for granted.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum at the lectern of the annual conference Disability leading the way

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum

We have more than 28 years’ experience of working with public and private sector organisations since way back in 1991 when we were set up to be instrumental in the creation of the Disability Discrimination Act to now, when our 300 members collectively employ around 15% of the UK workforce and 8 million people worldwide.

And, nearly three decades later, the “thought leadership” side of our work remains incredibly important.

Our policy activity is informed by the views and experiences of our members and in the past year alone has included an invited submission to NICE on Workplace Adjustments Passports, a response to the Joint Human Rights Committee on human and disability rights in international agreements (which is somewhat topical!), feedback to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s draft strategy 2019-2022 and responses on Enforcement of the Equality Act. We also made a major contribution to the Lord Holmes Review of public appointments which we are continuing to support.

At our 2018 conference, I said that disability is too often the poor relation in diversity – parked in the “too difficult” or “too sensitive” box. And yet, it is the one strand of diversity that has the potential to affect each and every one of us. I said that it should be the one aspect of diversity that everyone is talking about.

So, in the past year I’ve been delighted to have seen disability finally making the headlines and rocketing up the agenda as a consumer issue, thanks in no small part to the #Valuable campaign which we are proud to support as an expert partner.

It is often said (because it is true!) that if you get it right for disabled people you are more likely to get it right for everyone – because you are thinking about individual human beings and their needs rather than designing from a policy or structure (be it a building or website) first approach. And why on earth would any business want to exclude a potential employee or customer?

And that is why we chose as our theme for this year’s conference: Disability: leading the way.

Molly Watt, Marianne Waite and Oliver Lam-Watson, panellists, they are smiling

Molly Watt, Marianne Waite and Oliver Lam-Watson, panellists of the ‘the next generation, changemakers and innovators’

When we came up with this theme, we also wanted to reflect the importance of senior leadership in driving change. Time and time again we see that this is critical in building an inclusive culture, modelling “what matters round here”. and that’s why it’s the first point of our Disability Standard. That’s why too, the #Valuable campaign is focusing on getting disability on the agenda at board level and why the #Valuable 500 was launched at the World Economic Forum in January this year.

We also know that one of the corner stones of getting it right for disabled people – particularly in the workplace – is making adjustments – and here too senior leaders have a very important role to play.

Getting adjustments right doesn’t have to be difficult. It is often very simple. Yet too often, the adjustments that would make all the difference prove strangely difficult to put in place and adjustments are consistently one of the top topics to our advice service. So, to find out a bit more and to dig into this important topic, in March this year we launched The Great Big Workplace Adjustments survey in partnership with Microlink to find out what the picture looks like for disabled employees in 2019.

We were overwhelmed by the response with over 1200 people taking part, which really does show how incredibly important this topic is. Not surprisingly, the survey findings reveal that, when in place, adjustments can have a significant and positive impact on the workplace experiences of disabled people or people with long term conditions.

However, at the same time, far too many respondents are still worried about asking for adjustments to be put in place, despite feeling that they would benefit from such arrangements. Employees are worried, not just about how their manager would react to them having adjustments, but how other colleagues would as well. It is concerning that this includes many people who have asked for adjustments previously and this highlights the continued need to change attitudes towards disability, particularly at senior management and board level.

There is a perception, widely held by respondents with managerial responsibilities, that adjustments and support for staff with disabilities are not a priority at board or senior leadership level.

So how can senior leaders help?

Last year I spoke about disability at what on the face of it were two very different settings – Wharfability and the construction sector. Yet for both the huge issue in talking about disability was fear of stigma or low expectations or being judged for admitting a “weakness”. So, if you have a senior figure who champions the disability agenda and/or shares that they have disability, it is hugely powerful in communicating that it’s OK to talk about it.

This is also really important in the context of adjustments; we know that the more senior someone is, the less likely they are to “declare” (I use the term deliberately) a disability. And, at a senior level, someone may not need to ask for adjustments but with the autonomy that comes with their position, be able to just quietly get on with working in way that suits them, whether that is flexible working patterns, working at home, ordering some specific kit, have a specific dedicated space or office. It may not even cross a senior person’s mind that what they are doing is essentially, putting in place – self-serving – their own adjustments.

A panoramic view of Business Disability Forum Annual Conference 2019 hosted by the British Library

Business Disability Forum Annual Conference 2019 – audience

So why bother saying? Well, because at a more junior level someone would need to ask – and talk about their disability – and our survey shows that too many people are still worried about doing that. We know that – like it or not! – the actions and behaviour of senior people have a disproportionate impact on those around them. So, it’s really important that senior leaders model that behaviour and make it feel safe for everyone to ask for the adjustments that they need.

If we want to increase the number of disabled people and people with long term conditions entering into and remaining in employment, then getting it right on workplace adjustments is vital. The findings published last week are just a starting point. Over the coming months we will be looking at how we can use the findings to influence the advice we give to businesses and Government, and to demonstrate the need for additional research to be carried out on this very important topic. We would like to thank everyone who has given their time to contribute to this important piece of research so far.

You can download our key findings at www.businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/adjustments and please tweet about it using the hashtag #AdjustOurWorkPlaces

At our conference, we started a conversation about about leadership and disability, but it doesn’t end here. We want to keep the conversation – and action – going. To misquote the late, great, David Bowie: “We can be leaders. Not just for one day.”

 

Diane Lightfoot, CEO

Conference round up: Who really leads the way?

Angela Matthews, Head of Policy and Advice

Martyn Sibley, one of the panellists at the conference looks on

Martyn Sibley, one of the panellists at the conference

We have been thrilled to get such great feedback on last week’s conference titled ‘Disability leading the way’. Throughout the day, we heard from: business leaders on what they have implemented to ensure disability stays on the agenda at every level of the business; senior diversity leads on the role in mobilising and advancing change in workforces; and disabled people on the change they wanted to see and be for the future of disabled people’s rights.

Some fascinating directions were debated. Below, I give my thoughts on three key topics that came up from the perspective of my role as Head of Policy: legislation, campaigning and leadership.

Do we need more legislation?

I recently asked this question at a roundtable where the delegates were business leaders and heads of disability and employment third sector organisations. One of the business leaders shook his head enthusiastically and said, “No way”. At our conference, I was taken with Hector Minto’s (Senior Technology Evangelist, Microsoft) words during the penultimate panel of the day (“Leading the way: our Disability-Smart Award winners”). He spoke about using the law to help businesses understand what they need to do. As an example, the law on accessible websites is clear and gives a description of what an accessible website needs to be. Practice can then be built upon this, for example, Microsoft’s in-built accessibility checker on Office 365.

(From left to right): Change in our time? Leaders of today panel: Asif Sadiq, Mike Clarke, Caroline Casey, Victoria Cleland and Brian Heyworth. Caroline Casey is talking.

(From left to right): Change in our time? Leaders of today panel: Asif Sadiq, Mike Clarke, Caroline Casey, Victoria Cleland and Brian Heyworth.

In addition, in November 2018, we responded to the Government Digital Service’s consultation on the UK’s implementation of European Union’s regulations on the accessibility of public sector websites. While collecting evidence for this, we heard from more than one hundred disabled people who said digital barriers remain huge and, as a result, they wanted more legislation and monitoring of inclusive websites.

Ultimately, as much as we hear about ‘legislation fatigue’, the law has changed things for disabled people and has provided methods for recourse for when these rights are denied (figures this week show a rise in employment tribunal disability discrimination claims).

But who made such law happen? Who were the leaders?

Making way for change ‘on the ground’

A common theme throughout the day was that “anyone can be leaders”. While this can be true, those leading change are often different from those implementing change. As an example, disability rights legislation (or any rights-based legislation) did not come from the State all of a sudden upon deciding that disabled people should have more rights. There were years and years of campaigning ‘on the ground’ to make disabled people’s experiences visible.

In America during 1977, after almost a month of street protests, hundreds of disabled people took over state buildings to put pressure on the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to move forward legislation that would secure rights and access for disabled people further. After years of campaigning, the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. Similarly in the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act did not happen overnight. It took years and years of disabled people speaking their stories outside Government buildings, blocking the streets, chaining themselves to public transport.

Wendy Irwin (Head of Equality and Diversity, Royal College of Nursing), also on the panel, used a key word: “agency”. It needs people at ‘grassroots’ level, exercising agency, to make way for change – and then others need to take over and make that change happen. Change needs both the campaigners and the strategists; the campaigners make space for the strategists to effect change. This is why inclusive leaders at senior level are so crucial.

The right leaders

Exercising agency is only one element of creating change. To make change happen, a body (a Government or business) must have the right leaders in place to both hear the issues and activate change. This takes us to the last panel of the day (“Leaders of Today”), where Brain Heyworth (Global Head of Client Strategy, HSBC) said, “If the leaders are not working [i.e. making things better for disabled people], change the leaders”. We then heard from Mike Clarke (National Diversity Manager, Environment Agency) that equality and inclusion is on the agenda at every senior level meeting at Environment Agency and, if a senior leader comes to a meeting having done nothing to further inclusion since the group last met, they are asked to leave the meeting. This was good news coming just after Diane Lightfoot (CEO, Business Disability Forum) and I had discussed that our latest research, The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2019, had found that 51 per cent of senior leaders said supporting disabled staff at work is not on their board agenda.

Diane Lightfoot holds the Welcoming disabled customers guide

Diane Lightfoot holds the Welcoming disabled customers guide

Moving forward

Everyone can be leaders, but leaders come with different roles. We need people to make barriers visible, and we need people to remove those barriers. When Simon Minty (Sminty Ltd and Business Disability Forum Ambassador) asked the panel of young people (“The Next Generation, Change Makers and Innovators”) what they wanted to see happen next, Abi Brown (disability rights activist and writer) said equal access to buildings, and Molly Watt (Accessibility and Usability Consultant and author) said better access as consumers and for businesses to recognise their role in influencing the future of disability rights.

It is then perhaps no accident that the organisations with the most effective disability inclusion strategies and whose data shows increasing levels of disabled employee engagement and development are the organisations where the disabled staff network and senior leaders have strong communication and are highly collaborative. We are seeing more disabled employee network leads at the meetings with senior leaders at the organisations we work with. At the same time, as above, disabled people throughout the day said they still can’t get into a high percentage of the shops or café buildings in their area.

Good things are happening, but there is no shortage of more to be done. Does your organisation have the right leaders, at every level, making way for and implementing the changes that are needed?

 

Our Welcoming disabled customers guide is available to view here

A journey through time… our technology showcase

By Dean Haynes, Business Disability Forum

and Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

On 28 February, delegates descended on Technology Taskforce member PwC’s London office for the latest edition of our annual Technology Showcase, entitled “Disability, identity and technology: A journey through time”.

Sarah Churchman, PwC’s Chief Inclusion, Community & Wellbeing Officer started proceedings with a welcome. As PwC hosted on the day Sarah emphasised why she was happy to host the event: “At the end of the day, at PwC, we want to create an environment in which everyone feels they belong, where they feel empowered to be the best they can be.”

Sarah Churchman, PwC’s Chief Inclusion, Community & Wellbeing Officer

Sarah Churchman, PwC’s Chief Inclusion, Community & Wellbeing Officer

Our very own Lucy Ruck led the day and introduced Paul Smyth of Barclays who took to the stage. While many know Paul and the work he leads on at Barclays as their Head of Digital Access, few know about his personal journey, and how he has been “disabled by technology [and] enabled by technology”.

Paul Smyth of Barclays

Paul Smyth of Barclays

Going from using outdated and cumbersome tech like desk-sized magnifiers and tape recorders(!), Paul worked his way through a business degree and joined Barclays and has recently been named as one of the Government’s newest disability champions. Embracing his difference and disability has shaped his skillset and work ethic, where increasingly inaccessible technology forced him to “be the change he want[ed] to see in the world” and make things better for the next person like him.

Sharing his story he stated: “…My eight‑year‑old self, I could remember like it was yesterday, hearing from the eye doctor that you will lose most if not all of your sight very soon. I remember my eight‑year‑old self, what scared me, it wasn’t the prospect of going blind, it was the prospect of being different. I think maybe my eight‑year‑old self even then understood there are barriers constructed in the world around us and there are barriers that also exist in the mind of others that shape what we can and can’t do, what we can and can’t above, about capability and possibility.”

Elisabeth Ward of Scope then took the opportunity to tell us her story as a congenital amputee, defining herself through other’s perception of “normal”, when technical support only became available when she got to university and her impairment was finally recognised.

Elisabeth Ward from Scope

Elisabeth Ward of Scope

As a child, Elisabeth carried around a booklet explaining why she was different, but she was also determined not to be left behind – and at secondary school the level of understanding was not high: “For example, in PE I struggled to control a hockey stick, and the other students treated me as though this was my fault. I would regularly strain my hand and wrist and the teacher just expected me to get on with it. There was no support to help me find solutions. I never felt like it was okay to say, actually, this isn’t working, I am not like everyone else, and I need it to change.” Overcoming the need to fit into what people expected of her at university and taking advantage of available support let her confidence flourish, which continued as she entered the workplace.

A former boss who likely thought they were doing the right thing unconsciously held Elisabeth back, but assistance from Access to Work changed things dramatically, opening a world of assistive tech like a rollerball mouse and half-keyboard. Working at Scope has encouraged Elisabeth to inspire change from all levels of society and challenge stigmas so that we can all keep learning to provide accessible solutions for everyone. She said: “ I can now stand up in a room full of strangers and openly and proudly say, hey look, I am disabled, I’m missing a hand and this makes me different. Even when I go outside, I no longer have to compartmentalise that part of me. It feels like a whole new world, one where I’m not the problem; it’s society that needs to change.”

James Hallam, Controls Assurance at PwC, making an entrance on his electric-assisted handcycle at the event

James Hallam, Controls Assurance at PwC, making an entrance on his electric-assisted handcycle

Our third and final speaker was James Hallam, Controls Assurance at PwC, who made quite the entrance on his electric-assisted handcycle and told those in attendance about his Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) handcycle, that has given James the power to use his legs again.

After a cycling accident back in 1996, James’ positivity led him to not ask people for help; travelling across London and using the tube in a wheelchair soon put paid to that! James added that while it’s about you and your approach to the world, but it’s also about how the world approaches you. What was initially diagnosed as a muscle strain but turned out to be a nearly life-threatening broken leg led to James paying more attention to his lower body, and finally starting to use a FES handcycle that enabled him to make his leg muscles work after over twenty years. James then spoke about his own depression, which was assumed had stemmed from his injury, but in fact was caused by something far more innocuous. In the same way that asking for help with a physical disability needs to have the stigma taken away from it, the same needs to be said for people’s mental wellbeing. He stated: “..you can get quite stigmatised or defined by your chair, or your sight or whatever you can’t do, and people don’t necessarily see what you can do. I think that’s a real shame.”

Lucy Ruck

Lucy Ruck

Following a panel discussion with our speakers and host Lucy, making use of the interactive platform Slido, delegates were able to engage with the following tech exhibitors:

Texthelp – helping everyone read, write and communicate with clarity.

PWC Disability, Ability and Wellbeing Network.

Posturite – ergonomic suppliers and service providers.

MyClearText – on-site and remote speech-to-text reporting.

Microsoft – empower every organisation to achieve more.

Microlink – leaders in the field of assistive technology.

Iansyst – assistive technology specialists.

Bennett workplace – workplace & ergonomic solutions.

One of the audience stated: “[We heard] really great stories from the speakers, they demonstrated the success assistive technology has had on their lives. They served as great role models for how with support, grit and the right tools, disability dissolves and ability thrives.”

To find out more about our events, visit 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.

Our film festival is nearly here!

By Ebunola Adenipekun

We’re looking forward to hosting our Partners, Members, guests and filmmaking superstars at Business Disability Forum’s Film Festival 2018, supported by Barclays.

We set out a 7 day film challenge earlier this year, themed around “going places”, in terms of travel, career progression and accessibility. The selected finalists of the challenge will show their films at the Film Festival at KPMG on Wednesday 20 June, 2018.

This event will showcase how the next generation of disabled talent perceive and overcome challenges at work, on holiday, and in other areas of life. The winner will be announced on the day.

We took some time out to speak to the finalists to find out what inspired them enter the festival:

Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies in a meeting

Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies

‘Kenny Rei and the Spicy Ladies’
Group name: Diversity vs Adversity
University: Manchester Metropolitan University
Course: BA (Hons) Film and TV Production

Bettina Tóth

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Tina Toth and I am the writer and director of ‘Kenny Rei and Spicy Ladies’. I am a second year student at The Manchester Film School and I’d like to work in Film and TV dramas once I finish my studies. I have a really artistic approach to filmmaking; I also do oil paintings and graphic design as well. I am 27 years old and although I live in Manchester, I am originally from Hungary. I am a fan of cinema, arts, literature and video games. When my studies allow it, I like to travel and broaden my knowledge with the culture of foreign countries.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
I quite liked the idea of making a film in a relatively short time, and I wanted to try if we can manage to complete everything by the deadline. I was also hoping to get my work seen by the jury and make an impression. Another reason was that we were allowed to experiment with the topic and the way we’d like to express our thoughts about disability.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
Our film depicts life with ADHD and I personally know and have worked with young people who were diagnosed with hyperactivity. I wanted to show that even though they have difficulties with certain tasks, they are able to perform and even outperform their colleagues. I find people with ADHD incredibly creative, humorous, and inspiring. We wanted to film something that shows what’s going on inside their heads, something that is uplifting but thought-provoking, too, at the same time.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
The aim of our film was to show that disability shouldn’t be barrier having success in your workplace or moving up on the career ladder. I think it all depends on the attitude of employers and other employees to make a more comfortable and welcoming workplace for people with either mental or physical disability. We are studying to be filmmakers, and we were taught to be able to bring together all kinds of personalities and talents, and then make something great together. Every workplace should have the same mentality; appreciate the diversity of their employees, use it to their advantage, and then make something great in the end of the day.
Miguel Ramos

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Spanish born and raised, I moved to the UK in 2013. I worked full-time in a restaurant for more than 2 years, until I decided to stop and go back to education – to pursue my dream job! In 2015, I joined the Manchester Film School and now I’m about to graduate from university.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
I am always looking for new exciting opportunities to develop my working skills. When I read the basis of the contest and saw that there was a Film Festival in London at the end of the road and so many Industry Professionals, I knew immediately I had to give it a go. Plus, the social theme was another big incentive. My mother has Polio and I’ve always been very sensitized with the difficulties she has to face in her daily routines.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
At the beginning, I wanted to talk about Autism. However, after doing some research we realised it was quite a sensitive matter which would require more pre-production in order to do things right. Tina, our talented Director, came up with the idea of following the daily life at work of a fictional character who has ADHD – giving it a fresh positive look, yet adding the uplifting message promoting diversity in our society.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
Since English is not my mother language, the biggest challenge I had to face happened in 2013 when I moved to the UK – getting used to a new culture and new ways to express my emotions was really hard at some point. However, with time, emotional intelligence and my determination to move forward, I achieved a good balance in my life – and I’ve even finished a university course thanks to the skills I acquired since I moved to England.

 

Mike in a mobility scooter

Mike

‘Mike’
Group name: Edgar Scukins
University: Manchester Metropolitan University
Course: Filmmaking

Edgar Scukins

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Edgar Scukins. I am from Latvia, but I live, study and work in Manchester.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
Yes, one of the main reasons was to share Mike’s story. I am helping him out with mobility scooter repairs. I have known him for over a year. And since the first day I met him, I thought that it would be useful to show people how many things one can achieve, even when diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
Mike inspires me every day. He is always smiling and I have never seen him sad.  When I am struggling with something and begin to complain, I feel slightly ashamed, because I remember Mike immediately.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
I think that the biggest challenge for Mike when he is going places is when something goes wrong with his mobility scooter and he needs to ask for help from people that are passing by. It has happened with him many times. I think that it is still a problem, but since technology is advancing fast, mobility scooters will be made more reliable.

 

Barrier in human form covered in black

Barrier

‘Barrier’
Group name: Wolf Pack
University: University of Wolverhampton
Course: Film & TV Production/Video and Film Production

William Horsefield

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I first began filmmaking at 12 years old making short films on my mobile phone. I found my passion in filmmaking and studied online about making Visual effects. I spent 6 years mastering VFX and gained lot of experience as I had made over 170 short films before I enrolled into Creative Media Production Extended Diploma Level 3 in York College. I submitted my short films to films festivals and won many awards. In 2014, I submitted a pitch idea to the film competition, Dream To Screen and my idea, ‘Welcome to the Deaf World’ was selecting by the actress Helen Mirren as well as film and TV industry experts. I am veteran of 48/72 hours film challenge as I won most of these competitions that I entered before I enrolled into the Video and Film Production from the University of Wolverhampton.

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
I love entering the many film competitions as I can but this competition is a bit different and It gave me a chance to make a short film about deaf or other disability awareness in workplace or business. I attended this competition on last year, I noticed that some people in the audience were business owners so I wanted to use my short film to show them that it was not that difficult to work with deaf people.

What was your inspiration behind the film?
My inspiration was coming from some images from google show the art of depression monsters who follow humans and some of deaf people’s experience in working inspired me as well.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
I think meeting with new people who have no deaf awareness is my biggest challenge because when my BSL interpreter is ill, arrives late or doesn’t show this can cause more awkwardness between me and new people. This make it difficult to work together or communicate so, I always pick writing as communication method to talk them but it is very slow and sometimes some people’s handwriting is hard for me to read.

Samuel Ash 

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am currently studying Film & TV Production at the University of Wolverhampton to become a director or a producer. I have a passion for filmmaking and photography, when I grew up enjoying watching films and taking photos, it merged into filmmaking. Adding to my geekiness, I also really enjoy sci-fiction films!

What made you decide to enter the film challenge?
This festival gives an opportunity for us, students and with disabilities to be involved and encouraged us to create a film about our experience and how our film can be assisted to improve access and awareness of Deaf people. It is fun to be part of the relatable challenge with fellow filmmakers!

What was your inspiration behind the film?
The festival gave us the opportunity to create a film that relate our own experience and how we can show the solution to break the barriers deaf people face in their everyday lives. The film is about the barrier, and how it affects Deaf people to get employment. We wanted to create a positive attitude by adding humour.

When it comes to going places, what has been your biggest barrier and do you feel you have overcome it?
The barrier is always communication. It frustrates me when I am not able to communicate to collaborate with hearing peers smoothly which shutter my career process and opportunity to contribute.

I have to overcome this by pushing myself to approach a hearing person and communicate them through gesturing. If it failed, it is OK and I have to figure out another way to communicate them which can be writing down or any communication tool that it may work with this person. Confidence is vital.

I think of the quote: “Communication is the key to personal and career success” Paul J. Meyer.


We’d like to thank all the entrants for taking part and a special thanks to our finalists and our sponsors Barclays.

We look forward to sharing the films!

If you’d like to attend, you can find the details for the festival here.