I’ve always been extremely passionate when it comes to issues on disability, not just specifically for those with visual impairments. True, I have raised money for the Guide Dogs Association in the past when running in a couple of London marathon events in 2011 and 2014. It was partly because I had a Guide Dog and wanted to give something back to the charity but partly because they laid on a great post marathon party (including a sports massage!). Oh yes, I know how to have a good time!
However, actually getting on to the Shaw Trust most influential Disability Power List 100 had to be one of the best things which has happened to me for the past few years. It has given me a renewed sense of purpose and direction to continue championing disabled people’s rights and access to services and job opportunities.
Many will know that I am very proud to be working for Leicestershire Partnership Trust as their Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. I haven’t been here long, since the beginning of March but vowed to hit the ground running. Whilst the focus has been on race equality (and rightly so) I am very swiftly turning my attention to disability matters. So, what do I think we need to do?
Many people focus very much on the issue of improving declaration rates. That is to say the numbers of people who state they have a disability in an organisation. I know that the rationale behind this is to measure confidence levels. If more people declare they have a disability then we can then say that more people with disabilities feel confident within their organisation. It also gives us a good indication of how many people in an organisation require reasonable adjustments and therefore we can plan resources accordingly.
But, and you knew there was a but coming along now didn’t you? But, this only works if you have a truly inclusive culture In the first place which encourages people to declare their disability. Particularly those with hidden disabilities. There is therefore much to do in building that confidence and raising awareness among staff and managers of the benefits of employing and supporting people with disabilities as well as encouraging employees at all levels to talk about their disability. This lived experience really opens up all sorts of possibilities including the sharing of learning and creating an empathetic environment in which everyone can grow and contribute towards the vision of any organisation including LPT.
To do this I personally have taken it upon myself to do the following:
· Promote my own achievements and successes to encourage and inspire others
· To help my fellow employees to access funds and resources which lead to reasonable adjustments in the workplace
· To help employees maximise what they are entitled to through reasonable adjustments
· Ensure that all jobs and services are accessible including both physical access to our services and the provision of alternative formats
· Produce more accessible communications including videos which are audio described and subtitled
· Provision of training which raises awareness of disability and equips managers with the knowledge they need to support staff
· Provide more support to LPT’s Disability Staff Support Network (MAPLE) (which is growing in membership month by month)
· Champion disability rights whenever I get the opportunity including bigger and better events to highlight things like International Day of Disabled People and Purple Tuesday
· Include emerging issues on disability in future conferences such as the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference in March 2020 being held in Leicester and
· Co-host a Disability Senate in the Autumn of 2020 in Leicester.
LPT have published their data against 10 different disability workforce data sets. NHS England have been brilliant in developing disability employment indicators where we can measure how well we are treating disabled employees. This was introduced last year and we have our first year of data which can be found here:
I still feel I am personally not doing enough so I will continue to seek opportunities to talk disability. I’ve certainly learned that the only way I will raise awareness of my disability and how society creates barriers (and how these can be removed) is to talk about it and then talk some more. Most will know that I am not just about talking so let’s get out there and change attitudes that will lead to a better understanding of the social model of disability. Once people get what the social model is about it becomes far easier to dismantle the view that it is disabled people who need to be “fixed” but instead it is the attitudes towards disabled people and disabling environments which need to change.
I hope everyone has a great IDODP!!