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.

Does ‘Blue Monday’ increase mental health and wellbeing awareness?

a-man-laying-in-bed-on-a-laptop

The third Monday of January is coined Blue Monday: ‘the most depressing day of the year’. And sure enough, this time of year often provokes thought around mental health and wellbeing.

However, as our Senior Disability Consultant Christopher Watkins has pointed out in a previous post, Blue Monday has no real connection with disability, In fact, it’s just the day on which is it easiest to sell you a summer holiday.

Created by Porter Novelli on behalf of Sky Travel about ten years ago, the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ claims to be based on a formula  including metrics including ‘travel time’, ‘delays’, ‘time spent packing’, and a number of other factors without defined units of measurement . By 2009 the formula had been reviewed to consider slightly more reasonable factors like ‘weather’, ‘debt’ and ‘time since failing new year’s resolutions’, again without any defined units of measurements but reassuringly (or miraculously) coming up with exactly the same day.

However, with recent research (from October 2016) indicating that 77 per cent of employees have experienced a mental health problem—and 62 per cent believing this was because of work[1], it is clear that poor wellbeing is not confined to ‘Blue Monday.’

A more difficult question is how to promote, or improve, wellbeing in the workplace. Indeed workplace wellbeing was subject of public debate between Christopher Watkins and fellow Senior Disability Consultant Angela Matthews at a recent event.

In many ways the dilemmas around workplace wellbeing promotional schemes mirror those of Blue Monday: whether it is valuable in promoting inclusion, or counterproductive because it promotes overly general ideas of what is meant by ‘well’ or ‘unwell’.

The solution for wellbeing schemes was found to be ensuring that they took individual employee needs into account, providing adjustments as employers would with a job – a tailored solution rather than a general one.

Similarly the best way to approach Blue Monday as an organisation might be to use the general subject of wellness and happiness to initiate and then widen the conversation about mental health, wellbeing and disability.

Although Blue Monday has no real link to disability, it can be used to start the conversation about it.

Needless to say  it needs to go beyond ‘the most depressing day of the year’. Businesses should keep mental health and disability as part of their conversations about well being all year round. This is why we encourage our Member and Partner organisations to keep in touch and make use of our Advice service and consultancy, your relationship with us can make a huge difference to the well being of your staff.

If  you are looking for guidance around mental health in the workplace take a look at our line manager guide Mental health at work.

[1] Business in the Community, ‘Mental Health at Work Report 2016’, p.3 (http://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/system/files/research/bitcmental_health_at_work_exec_summary.pdf, retrieved 19 December 2016)

Just how accessible is accessible?

Profile image of Geoff Adams-SpinkBy Geoff Adams-Spink

Cities are amazing, chaotic, organic entities that very often defy attempts to impose structure and organisation upon them. A city as old as London – dating back, as it does, two millennia – is more complex, more chaotic and more amazing than most – that is why it is one of the world’s great cities.

From time to time, planners, strategists, administrators have to make an attempt to impose some sort of order – whether it is classification by postcode, organisation into boroughs, imposing aesthetic criteria or laying down the infrastructure that allows people to move from one part to another.

Such attempts are often partly thwarted by the city’s inherent ability to resist: just try navigating the dank back alleys of Venice using the map application on your smartphone, and you will soon get lost.

Architects and town planners’ attempts to impose any sort of aesthetic conformity on London were – to a large extent – thwarted by the Luftwaffe.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that cities have to be poked, prodded, cajoled and enticed in order to meet the requirements of accessibility legislation and aspiration.

A platform at Oxford Circus tube station.

Particularly recalcitrant is our ageing Tube: it suffers the disadvantage of having once been at the cutting edge of public transport technology. Tunnelling deep under the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was an engineering feat, of which the UK could be justifiably proud. Some of the avant-garde architecture of the more outlying, suburban stations is in stark contrast to the street upon street of ‘cookie-cutter’ houses that surround them.

Leaving the civil engineering challenges of the Tube to one side for a moment, it is, though, still possible to conceive of London as something of an exemplar in terms of the accessibility of its public transport: which other major world city can boast a fleet of licensed taxis that is 100% accessible? Try visiting Paris or New York as a wheelchair user and you will soon see how the black cab has opened up the city to Londoners and visitors alike.

Thanks to the forward thinking of the often controversial Ken Livingstone, London also has a totally accessible bus fleet. Of course, in the early days, there were problems with ramps that didn’t work, drivers that couldn’t be bothered to use them and companies that couldn’t care less. The much-beloved RouteMaster was taken off the streets – much to the consternation of newspaper columnists and other assorted reactionaries.

A black cab and a bus at traffic lights on Regents Street in London

Now, thankfully, bus companies are fined if a vehicle leaves the garage without a working ramp. Drivers have undergone disability equality training and the only remaining obstacle to wheelchair users is the competition for space between wheelchairs and owners of large prams The owners of these prams often stubbornly refuse to vacate the spaces allocated to wheelchair users.

From a vision impairment perspective, life on the buses has also become more bearable: those with residual vision can often see the large number displayed on the front of the bus, while on-board announcements tell passengers the name of the next stop. There are apps that tell you – in real time – how soon the next bus will come along as well as its destination.

Returning to our old friend, the Tube, around 25% of the 270 stations are now accessible. Several stations now have portable ramps and staff are far more disability aware than they ever were.

There are, though, some glaring omissions: in the West End, for example, only Green Park station has been made accessible. Some stations have accessible platforms in one direction only. And, of course, ‘cost’ is the oft-cited objection to overcoming the engineering challenges of the deep underground stations.

In 2004, I visited two European cities to compare and contrast accessibility, ahead of the final implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act. Barcelona had, 12 years previously, hosted the Olympics. The vibrant disability lobby in Catalonia had pushed the regional government beyond its original ambition of making the city accessible just between Olympic venues: they insisted that a fully accessible city be made possible by 2006.

It was this social and political pressure that brought about such a sweeping change. Brussels, by contrast, is a city that hosts an annual conference to mark International and European Day of Persons with Disabilities. Disabled people from all over the European Union converge on the city in December of every year – and find it wanting.

I took my TV crew on a typical day out with Nora Bednarski, then of the European Disability Forum. We visited – among other places – her local post office, which had a massive step at its entrance – so high that she was unable to manoeuvre her wheelchair in order to get inside. Next, we went to her local cinema multiplex – there were steps everywhere.

“To be honest,” the manager told me, “we find that most disabled people aren’t interested in coming to the cinema.”

The usual arguments were trotted out about antiquity being incompatible with accessibility. That was the reason why Brussels’s magnificent town hall was not the place to get married if you had difficulty negotiating steps. Even the EU building that houses the Commission Department that deals with disabled people had an inaccessible entrance.

Part of the order of ceremonies at the annual EDPD conference is the bestowing of awards for cities that have made outstanding attempts to improve their accessibility. Unsurprisingly, Brussels is never among the contenders.

A shot of a wheelchair from a low angle with a train in the background.

More surprisingly, nor is London. From a disabled person’s perspective, the city has an awful lot to shout about – and an awful lot that could be done better: London’s black cab drivers for example could be a little less reluctant to deploy their ramps for wheelchair users and be more accommodating of assistance dog users. Customer service, more generally, could be more disability-focussed.

Perhaps what would really concentrate minds would be to pinpoint a date in the future – borrowing the example of the disability lobby in Catalonia – by which the entire city would be fully accessible to growing numbers of Londoners and visitors with reduced mobility. We all know about the ageing population – so achieving full accessibility is something of a no-brainer.

Given the complexity of the challenges, that date may well have to be a decade or two into the future. Nonetheless, it would concentrate the minds of the city’s politicians, civil engineers, architects and transport strategists.

Of course, there is more to accessibility than simply making the means of conveyance fully accessible: however, simply making this or that public space, shopping centre, workplace, housing development or whatever ‘accessible’ is meaningless unless people can get around without encountering barriers.

Cities are wonderful places – they often frustrate and delight in equal measure. More than most other cities in the world, London’s delights and frustrations deserve to be opened up to the widest possible number of people.


Join Geoff and other experts on accessibility as we discuss the Mayor of London’s future plans for making the nation’s capital more accessible. The after hours event, Accessible London: can it work?, will be held on 15 December and is free for all Business Disability Forum members to attend.