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DIAL Global Summit: How to become truly accessible and inclusive workplace through a focus on ability, not disability

·3-min read

The final panel of the summit was incredibly powerful, headed up by Diane Lightfoot (CEO, Business Disability Forum) and examining how businesses can become truly accessible by focusing on ability rather than disability.

She was joined by Paul Fox (key account director, workplace, UK & Ireland at Texthelp, Anushka Davies (head of talent, engagement & diversity, Softcat Plc) and Paulette Cohen (head of diversity & inclusion, Barclays) in a supportive and enlightening session.

Anushka told us about exciting changes in the work place for people with disabilities, citing the network disability resource group she’s launched at Softcat.

Read more: DIAL Global Summit: What does Ageism Look Like? Why is it critical to address Ageism for true inclusion?

Covid meant employees became more vocal about their needs, sharing experiences from the safety of their own homes, which meant when people transitioned back to the office she was able to ensure those needs were met, and quickly.

She’s been pleased internal processes have been changed to ensure those with specialists needs are supported, that conversations have been had so that understanding has improved and that now people are not just supported but celebrated. She’s a huge fan of the cross-collaboration between the ERGs in the organisation which she said can lead and inspire others and change culture.

Photo: DIAL Global Summit
Photo: DIAL Global Summit

Paul commented that senior buy-in is imperative when it comes to creating safe spaces — with someone within his group feeling confident enough to suggest a neuro-diverse ERG which had never been done before. He also noted that one good thing that came out of Covid was the fact that extra needs had to be provided during WFH, and now it’s seen as the norm.

Paulette added that challenging myths is so important, with so many colleagues with disabilities having so much to offer and she’s excited by the place we’re in at the moment. She says the success in Barclays disability ERG is down to embracing the huge talents in the disabled community, and taking an equitable approach, for which a targeted and focused strategy is essential.

Read more: DIAL Global Summit: Day 2 Spotlight Talks

They’ve helped to understand customers and processes better, which has, according to Paulette, been invaluable. She told us about the Able to Enable programme, hiring neuro-diverse talent into the technical divisions, and the knock on affect that had with adapting hiring processes.

Paul wanted to stress that having proactive adjustments already in place means people with disabilities will be drawn to work with the organisation — and that some initiatives should be in place automatically, like the correct tech for people with dyslexia, so employees aren’t left waiting for red tape to make it happen.

Diane reminded the gathered audience that the “purple pound” works out at £274bn, so it’s a slice of the market businesses should be working alongside.

Paulette summed up by reminding the audience it’s important to take a first step in making key changes, and to accept that you will make mistakes — and to take a top down and bottom up approach.

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