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Conference calls for ‘reality check’ on employers view of disability

Diane Lightfoot

A leading non-profit business and disability organisation has called on employers and business leaders to reality check their views of disability as they plan for the future.

The call came from Business Disability Forum’s, CEO, Diane Lightfoot, at the membership organisation’s annual conference this week, sponsored by HSBC.

The ‘Disability: What’s New, What’s Next’ conference brought together senior business leaders, leading employers and disability experts to debate how perceptions of disability match up with the reality experienced by disabled employees and customers. 

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Diane said: “As leaders, we need to know the reality of what is happening in our organisations if we are to enable everyone to thrive – and that may not be what we think it is. Specifically, we will need to look at the perception gap between how the level of ‘psychological safety’ that senior executives imagine it feels to share a disability or a difference – and how it really feels. 

“Our own findings, as well as research conducted by Business Disability Forum Partner, Accenture, show that there are multiple perception gaps in organisations. If perceptions are not addressed, it stops disabled staff from pursuing opportunities and from trusting the wider inclusion agenda within the organisation. 

“As we consider how work will change in the future, we have the opportunity to look a fresh at our organisational cultures. As we do so, we need to engage with disabled people in our workforces and ensure their voices are heard at leadership level. The issues we are facing now are new for all of us. We need to make sure that the decisions we make are based on the reality of living with a disability and not on our own assumptions.”  

Commenting on the Flexible Working Bill, proposed to Parliament by Tulip Siddiq MP this week, Diane added:  “Being able to request flexible working from day one of employment reflects the needs of an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce. It is a welcomed and long-awaited proposal.” 

For further information about the conference, go to Business Disability Forum’s home page www.businessdisabilityforum.org.uk 

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Lee Peart

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