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

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.

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

 

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.