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Bluefield x Celebrating Disability

Disability Pride Workshop, 18 July 2023

To celebrate Disability Pride Month, Bluefield attended a Disability Pride Workshop led by Esi Hardy, the Founder and Owner of Celebrating Disability. This incredible organisation is led by people with disabilities who advocate for others with disabilities in the workplace through training, consulting, auditing and speaking. Esi was an amazing host; openly sharing her experience as someone with cerebral palsy in an engaging and informative way.

The Equality Act of 2010 defines disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities,’ meaning it will affect a person’s ability, or is likely to affect a person’s ability, for at least 12 months.

Esi explained the different categories of disabilities:

  • Mental Health – how we think and feel; someone with bad mental health or a mental health disability may struggle to control their thoughts and feelings.
  • Long-term health conditions – this could be anything that someone needs to take regular medication to manage.
  • Neurodiverse conditions and autism – the range of differences in individual brain functions and behavioural traits. Many people with autism describe themselves as autistic, and wouldn’t describe themselves as having a neurodiverse condition.
  • Physical – a limitation on a person’s physical functioning, mobility, stamina or dexterity.
  • Learning – someone’s cognitive ability to understand the environment around them, and how they learn.
  • Sensory – a disability which adversely affects one or more of a person’s

However, it is important to remember that some disabilities are not limited to just one category and may not be visible.

Facts about disability from the Office for National Statistics:

  • There are currently over 14 million people with disabilities in the UK, which is 1 in 5.
  • 19% of working age adults reported having a disability.
  • 4% of people with disabilities are full time wheelchair users, approximately 560,000 individuals.
  • 80% of disabilities are acquired later in life.
  • 80% of disabilities are invisible.

Not everyone who may have a disability identifies as being disabled. This could be due to their worries that they may experience  negative repercussions in their workplaces or societal stigma. Therefore, the figures above may be higher.

A way we can encourage people to disclose information about their disabilities, so we can help them receive the support they need, is to show them they are in a safe environment to do so. One way to create this environment is to talk about disabilities in the workplace. Some people may be fearful about saying the ‘wrong thing’ unintentionally, however this fear can create further barriers which may isolate a person with disabilities even more.

The language used when talking about disabilities is important as the right language can remove biases or prejudices; it can also empower people with disabilities to speak openly while feeling respected and valued. For example, by describing someone as a ‘person with a disability’ rather than as a ‘disabled person’ is preferred as this puts the person first rather than their disability.  Whilst intentions may be well-meaning, saying to a person with a disability ‘I will do it for you’ demonstrates an assumption that they cannot do it themselves.  This is an important example of why we should consider the language we use. Instead, we should ask ‘is there anything I can support you with?’ as this lets the person know they can reach out for help if and when it is needed.

Esi also discussed reasonable and anticipatory adjustments – legal obligations under the Equality Act. It is the employer’s responsibility to let their teams know what support is available to them, and to ask whether they require any adjustments.

The social model of disability takes the point of view that people with disabilities are not dis-abled by their bodies, but by the environment and barriers they face that stop them from doing what they want to. For example, the absence of ramps or lifts in a building prevents people with mobility disabilities from accessing it, not their disability that led them to need a wheelchair.

Some summary tips:

  • Adapt processes to eradicate the barriers facing employees with disabilities.
  • Disability inclusion starts at engagement, it is everyone’s business. It is not about having all the answers, it is about starting the conversation.
  • Continue to educate yourself – listen, be curious and challenge exclusion.
  • Think about the adjustments you can facilitate – one size does not fit all, and what has worked in the past for some, may not work for the next person.
  • Acknowledge how people like to work, and how they work best.
  • Ask for support, whether you are have disabilities or not.

It has been great to see the value Bluefield have taken away from this workshop. Everyone who attended now feels more confident in being a disability ally after the session.

My main takeaways from the workshop were that we should be aware of our language as things that seem common and normal to us may seem different from someone else’s perspective.  By using language in the right way, we can create an inclusive environment for everyone. By having the awareness that someone may have a disability you aren’t aware of and acting in a way that doesn’t create barriers or exclude anyone, this will allow those with disabilities to feel comfortable and confident to both deal with their disability better, and to ask for support if needed.

The Bluefield Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Group

The Bluefield Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Group are a team of Bluefield employees that work across the Bluefield Group.