Partner Group Reception 2018: Bringing your whole self to work

By Ebunola Adenipekun, Business Disability Forum

“Bringing your whole self to work no matter your disability, this will be the ‘New Normal'” stated John Brady, from Royal Bank of Scotland, host of Business Disability Forum’s Partner Group Reception.

John Brady, RBS at the lectern

John Brady, RBS

This key point honed in on the theme of the event as we rang in our new financial year:  ‘Identity’, as we also heard from disabled people about how their disabilities inform and overlap with their own identities.

Business Disability Forum’s Partner Group Reception, held at the RBS / Natwest building in Bishopsgate was turned into a Summer Serenity Garden on 26 July.

Floral archway entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Entrance to the Partner Group Reception

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

Partner Group Reception: Water fountain

It felt fitting, given that it was one of the hottest days of the year, to ‘bring the outside in’ for the event, creating a tranquil indoor garden for our Partner Groups to network and talk about the themes of the Reception.

Signs to the Serenity Garden & Bar as well as the Lecture Theatre

Signs to the Serenity Garden & Bar as well as the Lecture Theatre

Oliver Lam-Watson talking into a microphone

Oliver Lam-Watson

As we turned to the speeches, one of our speakers was Oliver Lam-Watson, who won second place at our Film Festival in 2017. Oliver’s speech asked the question: “Is your identity something that other people give you or something you create for yourself?  The choice to create it for yourself can be a profoundly personal journey.”

This was a question Oliver had faced himself, in the form of preconceptions and assumptions by his peers about what he could or couldn’t do. Oliver has lived by the maxim that having a disability doesn’t mean being any less able to do whatever you want, and in addition to being a filmmaker Oliver is hoping to qualify for the next Paralympics as part of Team GB. In conclusion Oliver made a great point about disability and identity; that it needs to be something that is not imposed on someone by society.

Lucy Ruck talking

Lucy Ruck

We also heard from Lucy Ruck, Business Disability Forum’s Technology Taskforce Manager, about being an amputee has shaped her life and ambitions – from being a trainee hairdresser to taking on leadership of our Technology Taskforce which turned 10 this year. Before losing her leg after she was hit by a train when she was 17, she had never met a disabled person before in her life and she became disabled overnight. And she has shared a conversation about it with Diane Lightfoot in our new podcast series “Who are we? The people behind the job title”.

BDF - Partner Group Reception

Diane Lightfoot and Interpreter

One point that was raised was that some people don’t feel disabled enough to use that term or label, Graeme Whippy asked, if you adopt the social model of disability should you only use the word disabled about yourself if you have encountered barriers that disable you?

Graeme Whippy

Graeme Whippy, Disability Consultant

All the speakers had internally decided that their disability was just part of who they are and as John Brady also pointed out, once a disability is acquired you adapt to the “new normal” and society and employers need to accept and adapt to the new normal too.

Everyone is a three dimensional fully rounded person who can be “shallow as well as deep” in Fazilet Hadi’s words, and has different identities professionally and personally.

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB standing at the lectern

Fazilet Hadi from RNIB

A closing thought was that for organisations to succeed on disability they need to “maintain the tension”, that meaning continuing to focus on what needs to be done.

Other highlights of the event included the Roving Artist who impressed guests with his beautiful silhouettes – and of course, the networking!

A big thank you to everyone who attended!

Roving Artist and guest holding the guest's silhouette

Roving Artist (left) and guest

We look forward to hosting our Partners next year, find out more about our events here.