Transition Your Views of Transphobia

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Today is the international day of transphobia and homophobia. So what is transphobia? The definition of transphobia in the Oxford Dictionary is “an intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people”, while the definition for homophobia is “an intense dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people”.

I would like to focus today on transphobia.

In the USA in the last couple of months there has been some significant activity. Some laws have been passed that don’t help the issue. Although these do not directly affect the UK; these laws don’t set a good precedent. I shall talk about the North Carolina House Bill 2, otherwise known as the “Bathroom Bill”. For those who are not aware of this, the North Carolina bill denies transgender people the use of the bathroom which matches their gender identity. This is justified on various grounds; that the gender you were assigned at birth is the gender you are and if you identify as something different then there must be something wrong with you, or that you must be some sort of predator, while there is also the fear that a straight man could dress in women clothes and say they are transgender just to get in to the women’s toilets so they could assault somebody. The other side to the “Bathroom Bill” is that a transgender person who has had sex reassignment surgery could be assaulted going into the bathroom. Opponents of the “Bathroom Bill” says that laws like these help promote transphobia and should never be considered for inclusion into law. There are also large companies opposed to the law and who are trying to get North Carolina to change their mind about the bill by threatening to take opportunities out of North Carolina. There have even been musicians and other entertainers refusing to perform there until the law is changed so that the transgender community can use the bathroom that they feel most comfortable using. But this isn’t just something that happens in America, it happens all over the world. While this is happening in America, in the UK trans and homosexual people are protected under the Equality Act of 2010 as these are protected characteristics under this legislation.

Whenever I leave the house I am constantly getting dirty looks and nasty comments from strangers just for going out dressed how I feel comfortable and this happens to trans people on a daily basis. Research has found that in America alone 41% of transgender and gender non-conforming have attempted suicide. This is in stark contrast to the national average of 4.6%. While there are many factors that drive trans people to attempt suicide one of the big factors is how people react to them and how employers treat them after they come out of the proverbial closet. Many trans people don’t feel safe using public toilets and would rather wait until they get home but when that is not possible shouldn’t they be able to ‘pee in peace’ in the toilet that they feel most comfortable using. The fact is trans people just want acceptance we don’t want to be treated like outcasts or freaks

Another factor in the attempted suicide rate is people using trans people as fetishes or sexually assaulting  trans people. It seems to be something which most if not all trans people go though and I get the feeling that whenever a trans person is seriously sexually assaulted that they try to go about life as if nothing has happened. Research suggests that approximately 50% of trans people have at some point experienced sexual violence and 1 in 10 trans people have been sexually assaulted in a healthcare setting. Even I have found myself victim to this and its always on occasions when I am feeling really low or almost suicidal. People message you with compliments and play with your insecurities to get things like photos or video chats and usually these are of a sexual nature; then when the chat is over I find myself feeling even worse but also used and violated to some extent. I have even found myself contemplating suicide after one occasion; but then I thought no why should I let people defeat me. I think because we as a society don’t openly talk about Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) issues that we have enabled discrimination to spread and the longer we avoid talking about these types of issues openly then discrimination and transphobia will continue to be a serious problem.

 

the links can be found below

No, High Suicide Rates Do Not Demonstrate That Transgender People Are Mentally Ill

National Statistics

 

 

 

Adapting To Bipolar Disorder In The Workplace

This guest blog has been contributed by Dianna Vail, who is researching mental disabilities and conditions in the workplace.

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David Catillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the 1980’s Manic Depression was officially re-named Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is a mental health illness which affects the individual’s mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks, by swinging them from one extreme to another. These extreme mood states are more intense than for someone without Bipolar and can be distressing and overwhelming as well as having a massive impact on their lives. On one extreme the individual will feel low, lethargic and depressed, then on the opposite end they will feel very high and over-active. Sometimes individuals can also experience ‘mixed states’ which are a mixture of the other two states. These mood swings can last anything from hours, days, weeks or even months.

According to the NHS one in every one hundred adults at some point in their life will be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

People with Bipolar Disorder come under the protection of the Equality Act 2010 so therefore it is advisable for all employers to have a clear understanding of not only the Act but also of the employee in question. If the employee has disclosed that they have or think they have Bipolar, ask them to detail how it affects them and what support and treatment they are receiving. Do some research yourself and let them know you wish to understand and support them.

If the employee does not disclose yet you feel they have many traits of the condition do not approach them. All conversations regardless of them disclosing or not disclosing their illness must be done with tact as there may be stigma or concerns regarding stigma associated with the illness.

An individual with Bipolar may need to take more sick days than other employees without. An understanding environment should be established to prevent any unnecessary anxiety when phoning in sick. Allocate a supportive person for the employee to report sick days to. If possible ensure this person understands the illness. Try to establish a good rapport with the employee so that together you can look for triggers and then work towards reducing these triggers.

Treatment for Bipolar is tailored towards the individual and can be a combination of medication, counselling and lifestyle changes.

Medication can be in the form of mood stabilisers such as lithium carbonate, anticonvulsant medicines (such as valproate, carbamazepine or lamotrigine) or antipsychotic medicines (such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, quetiapine or risperidone) and antidepressants. The side effects are varied and extensive, and include insomnia, nausea, anxiety, diarrhoea and constipation, shakiness, hair loss, weight gain or loss, muscle, joint and body pain, dizziness and headaches, blurred/double vision, tinnitus, fever, acne and skin rashes, to name a few.

Counselling could be either Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychoeducation or Family Therapy. All methods are designed to enable the individual to feel empowered and identify ways to change the negative patterns to positive ones.

Recommended lifestyle changes could be to do more exercise, have a healthy diet that minimizes caffeine and does not include alcohol or drugs and getting enough sleep. Reduction in anxiety levels can be helped by methods such as yoga or meditation. Regular routines are also normally recommended as well as reducing stress at home and at work.

If you have not already told your employer then that is something worth considering; if not your employer than at least tell a manager, supervisor or colleague. Having someone at work to confide in can help reduce anxiety levels and assist you in getting more support at work. The majority of companies state they have a zero tolerance to discrimination and with the protection of the Equality Act 2010 there is much support available to you. When telling someone at work be as honest as possible. Explain what side effects you might be experiencing and any triggers that you may be exposed to. By doing so the company can look at ways to work with you to limit the amount of time off you need and establish an environment that is beneficial to you.

Helpful Websites
http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/bipolar-disorder/#.Vt6sv1uLTnA
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Bipolar-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx
https://www.rethink.org/diagnosis-treatment/conditions/bipolar-disorder
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/bipolardisorder.aspx

Additionally there are also support groups on social media sites such as Facebook.

Disability – A Road Block or Just a Speed Bump?

Disability-issues+2

When most people think about disability they think about wheelchair users and usually that the person is elderly but the fact is that the word disability does not mean the the individual is going to use a wheelchair.

Having a disability does not usually mean that you have mobility issues. They can affect other areas of a person such as sensory or mentally. So what is a disability? A disability is a condition lasting 12 months or more that affect the individual’s ability to function on a day to day basis. This means that things like diabetes are classed as a disability so the chances are high that you know somebody who has a disability.

So why is it that we treat people who have a physical disability different to the way we treat other disabled people. I think this goes back to the times when we were hunter gatherers when a physical disability would have been seen as a sign of weakness. This makes individuals with disabilities feel that their condition makes them less of a person and then as such society treats them differently. This also applies to the workplace as well as some of individuals with disabilities would rather not inform the manager of their condition as they feel they could lose their job or be offered less work. They forget that the manager could help by making reasonable alterations if they require them.

What about the individuals with disabilities who don’t have a job and want to work. Society fails these individuals as even the job application process can be cumbersome and often bureaucratic and this can rule them out immediately.

I also believe that job agencies don’t help jobless individuals with disabilities. As most agencies are up a flight of stairs and don’t have a lift so individuals with mobility problems can’t give them their CV and insist on them emailing it to the agency. I think all agencies should be either down stairs or should have a lift in the building so the individuals can hand their CV to the agency in person but this is the real world and things are not always that simple. Sometimes individuals with disabilities feel like they are the bottom of society and feel like they have no rights

But individuals with disabilities do have the same rights as any other individual. They have the right to work. They also have the right to any reasonable adjustments to be made to avoid putting the individual at a disadvantage. They also can’t be chosen for redundancy just because they have a disability and the employer can’t force individuals to retire if an individual becomes disabled. A disability doesn’t have to be a road block it could just be a speed bump on the journey off life

So how can we change the way that we act towards individuals with disabilities? Well this isn’t the easiest thing to answer. Personally speaking, I treat disabled people as I treat anybody with respect and dignity. I don’t take much notice of an individual’s physical appearance, but I do notice if they require help to get something of a shelf or if they require some other type of help and this has no impact on the way that I am around a disabled person. It’s hard because people are different but I guess treating them with respect and dignity would be a good place to start.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/6

https://www.gov.uk/rights-disabled-person

Written by Matthew Tew – A colleague and close collaborator

What Is The Value Of Volunteering?

breaking_down_boundries_low_res_14This post is written by guest Blogger – Ian Bland

Many people who are unemployed for a significant period do some form of volunteering. This can be an excellent way not only to gain experience and even progress to paid work with the organisation they’re volunteering for, but also to maintain a connection with the working environment and gain social connections, avoiding a sense of isolation, which long term unemployment may induce, which can be debilitating psychologically.It can also promote diversity in employment.

It’s probable that most people would agree with the above paragraph, but if you read it through again you might notice that it is entirely framed in terms of benefits the volunteer gets from their volunteering. In discussions with other group members about their volunteering experiences, it occurred to me that this might not be the best way to look at it- or, at least, not the best way to present volunteering when applying for a job or, particularly, in an interview situation.

To understand why, we have to think about the concept of value, in economic terms. Job hunting is all about value in the market economy, and in particular the applicant needs to convince the employer that, firstly, hiring them will bring positive net value to the company or organisation and, secondly, that they will bring greater value to the company than all the other applicants. For people with disablities, this can be problematic and there is a tendency to think in terms of being hired despite the disability and thus an implicit assumption that the company will receive less value than by hiring some other candidate; and if that is the mindset, then it does indeed make sense for the company (who are naturally trying to maximise the value obtained from employees in terms of productivity) to just choose somebody else. Therefore, the main thought from the employer is not about improving diversity in employment, but rather, how does this affect the ‘bottom line’.

Thus, if we consider volunteer work- or indeed former paid work- it’s very useful for the disabled applicant to think and present themselves in terms emphasising the value they brought to the organisation they have volunteered for. So, rather than thinking like my first paragraph- in which I described things that the person got out of volunteering, they can do themselves a service by thinking in terms of things that they brought to the organisation. A charity uses volunteers because those volunteers do work that needs doing- not, in fact, as a favour to them. That means that the volunteers have brought value to the organisation by giving it their time and skills.

What are those skills? They may be physical skills. They may be administrative/organisational skills. They may be customer service skills. Perhaps our hypothetical candidate brought better organisation and presentation of goods for sale in a charity shop, or made it a more welcoming environment for customers. Perhaps they have participated in designing promotions. Perhaps they simply better organised a stock room, or kept the shop areas particularly clean and tidy (which retailers will understand is a very important part of the customer experience). Perhaps our candidate was flexible in their working patterns and always ready to help out in a jam- these are attributes which are appealing to employers seeking to hire for flexible working hours.

So in essence, although of course you may describe at an interview various useful skills acquired from volunteer work, by presenting the value you have brought to that organisation in your time with them, a far more positive impression will be created than focussing on what you got from them or how they helped you, and this will help dispel the implicit framing that you are asking to be hired despite your disability; instead, you are a potential asset who will bring to the employer the value that you brought to the volunteer position.

Managing Cultural Diversity in Business

The title managing cultural diversity seems more daunting that it actually is. So what does it mean?

In a nutshell it is about understanding how each culture views or does business with each other. As the world is literally becoming smaller and business can now take place without even the need for face to face meetings; there is an even greater emphasis placed on understanding how cultures differ and in your business environment why people from different cultures do things in a particular way.

One little example: At a recent training day I facilitated, we played‘guess who’. This is a game where I ask everyone to anonymously write something about them related to their culture on a post-it note. These are then read out randomly. The idea is to see if the other people in the room can guess who wrote what? More often than not, no matter how well the people know each other, the guesses are miles off.

On this particular occasion, one of the participants wrote, ‘in my culture, it is considered disrespectful to look an older person in the eye’. The other participants had a good number of guesses before finally giving up. The man then owned up and explained that he came from South Africa. This was particularly enlightening for his colleagues as some of them admitted that they had often considered him to be rude. Thus, one culture clash was diffused and everyone concerned understood each other better.

In British business culture, eye contact is considered to be extremely important and you can easily see why people could get off on the wrong foot.

Eye contact is an element in the use of body language, as well as facial expressions, touch, use of space, gestures and the sounds we make which carry language e.g intonation.

Touch is another interesting topic of discussion. In some cultures, touch is less acceptable than in others. How many times have you been on holiday to Italy or France and seen people openly greet each other by kissing on each cheek? People from these countries often perform this action, even if they have only met each other a few times. This would be very much frowned upon in the UK, particularly in Scotland. In Europe there seems to be a North/South divide in relation to touch. People from many parts of Asia will not touch at all.

In Japan, it is customary to bow when greeting another person, rather than shaking hands.The Japanese also have many types of bows: informal, formal, very formal, apologetic and so on. When Japanese business people meet business people from other cultures who use handshakes, interestingly the Japanese will often bow and shake hands. If you are not aware of this, there could be a very nasty clash of heads. Not really the kind of footing you want to get off on if you plan to do business together. So, understanding cultural diversity in this instance will ensure that your business transaction flows more smoothly.

Again, in Japan personal space differs from that in many western countries. Japanese will often stand 1.5 metres or more apart. To western business people, this would seem rather strange as if the person is avoiding them or is disinterested in what they have to say.
There are two gestures which can cause trouble when doing business in other parts of the world. The thumb up sign is perfectly acceptable and positive in the UK and the USA but in Iraq and Spain it is considered obscene. Equally the O.K. sign is again obscene in Greece and parts of Eastern Europe.

Moving your head from side to side or nodding it up and down can mean the opposite in some parts of Asia than in the UK.
Having taught Chinese students I have occasionally fallen foul of cultural etiquette. On one particular occasion, a male student had completed an excellent essay that he had obviously worked tirelessly on. I am not particularly ‘touchy, feely’ but I was overjoyed and made the cultural ‘faux pas’ of patting him on the back to congratulate. This was met with a frozen body response. Needless to say I have never repeated this mistake again.

My students are often amused by the indirect nature of British people, for example, when making polite requests. I make light of this and say that we are looking for the longest way to make a request ‘would you mind awfully, awfully, opening the door so that I can pass through’.

Another thing my students find it hard to grasp is the fact the British people smile all the time at people they come across, even if they don’t know the person. To many of them, this appears overly familiar. One of the things they sometimes fall foul of in the UK is not joining at the end of a queue. British people can find this extremely upsetting. On one occasion I had friends visiting from Germany who made a trip to supermarket whilst I was at work. They had planned to cook a meal for my wife and I. On our return we discovered that they had upset people in the supermarket by not queuing in order.
All of the above are examples of differences in cultures and demonstrate cultural diversity in a variety of areas that we often take for granted when dealing with people who share the same culture as us.

The key to managing cultural diversity in business is to:
1. Understand the way we think and act
2. Be aware of how we interact and communicate with other people
3. Examine our own culture specific business behaviours
4. Be open minded
5. Be willing to learn

Protect and Grow Your Business – Embrace Equality

Embrace EqualityOne sure way to protect and grow your business is by ensuring you promote equality and tackle discrimination in your workplace. It really is that simple. There are a number of steps you can take to promote equality. Some of them I’ll outline below:

1. Look at Your Current Position.

Even if you believe that all is well in the workplace, the reality may be altogether very different.

Think what are you already doing? What’s good and what’s bad? Be honest with yourself here as it will pay off for you in the long run.
Once you’ve worked out the good and bad bits, have a think about how the good bits could be enhanced or could be used to improve the bad bits you have uncovered.

Here are some ideas to help you investigate the positives and negatives in your business:

1a. Carry out an equality audit. This can then give you a baseline to work from and can help with future monitoring
1b. Talk to your staff as undoubtedly they will have a different perception and can undoubtedly offer suggestions for improvements
1c. Talk to other companies (not only in your sector. Go as wide as possible) and ask them what they have done that has worked. This will give you some examples of good practice
1d. Why not look at the possibility of more flexible work patterns. This will help greatly e.g. parents with young families and disabled people. This then means that the employee you have always valued will stay with you and save you money in recruiting someone new.
1e. When recruiting, always check that you use clear and justifiable criteria for selecting candidates. Make sure that you can clearly demonstrate that they are job related

2. Develop an Equality Policy and Action Plan

Do you have an Equality policy? What is an Equality policy?

Your equality policy should make it clear your commitment to equality in the workplace. Therefore, by devising a policy you are clearly making yourself accountable.

An Equality policy should include and do the following:

2a. Clearly explain your organisations values and how you are going to implement them
2b. Make a clear commitment and demonstrate to your employees and customers that you take equality in the workplace extremely seriously
2c. Help your employees to understand what is acceptable behaviour and how you expect them to represent your company or organisation
2d. Build trust in your customers and let them know what they can expect from you
2e. Lay the foundations for your action plan and support it at every step of implementation
2f. What is an Action plan and how should it look?

Your action plan should clearly state how equality is going to be implemented and monitored in the workplace

An action plan should:

Say what will be done practically and how equality is implemented in the workplace
Clearly state who is responsible for the actions contained in the plan
Give clear deadlines and set targets
State what happens if the policy is not adhered to
Gives a clear picture of how progress is measured and at what times
Your policy and action plan makes sure that you protect and grow your business

3. Promote Equality in the Workplace.

Recruitment

By reviewing your current position, you should already have identified whether your workforce in representative of society as a whole or if certain groups are under-represented. Some positive actions you could take are to improve your recruitment processes are:

3a. Actively encourage job applications from under-represented groups such as disabled people. You could state this in your job adverts that you encourage applicants from certain under-represented groups
3b. Find out from job applicants if they have any specific requirements prior to interview such as access issues
3c. Focus specifically on your requirements for the job. By doing this you encourage people to apply who may not otherwise
3d. Cast your net as wide as possible to ensure you attract the best candidates e.g. advertise in local community centres
3e. Employment practice:
3f. Give clear guidance, support and training to employees on acceptable working practice. Give clear examples of what constitutes discrimination (there are many myths about discrimination)
3g. Make sure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are including senior managers
3h. Offer flexible working to encourage valued employees to remain with you. Particularly helpful for parents with young families. Research has shown that greater flexibility in work encourages employees to be more committed and loyal to their company
3i. Make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. They do not have to cost the earth. It could be a case of simply providing a screen reader at very reasonable cost

There are a number of other steps you can take which I will explain in future blogs.

Good luck with embracing equality!

Paolo Di Canio – Are You A Facist?

As the row rumbles on about Paolo Di Canio’s appointment as Sunderland manager and former Foreign Secretary – David Miliband resigns from the Sunderland board in protest; it is worth asking the question is Paolo Di Canio a fascist? A secondary question that also should be posed, does he know the meaning of equality? I ask because his statement given to the press he is quoted as saying, “I respect everyone.”

From the above it would seem so, but I rather have a hunch he is playing to the gallery in the above picture. This was taken when he was a player with the Italian club, SS Lazio.

Many of us who follow football will be aware of the term “badge-kisser”. For non-football fans this is practice where the player after scoring a goal kisses the badge on the shirt. Quite a peculiar practice I know and not one I would have engaged in with any previous employment. I can just see the howls of derision; if after running a training session on ‘inclusion’ (where I have received particularly favourable feedback) that I run around the room kissing the motif on my shirt. The practice of badge-kissing is indeed a strange phenomenon and I have no idea where it has come from.

Anyway, let me get back to my point and forgive my ramblings. Is the man in the above picture, a fascist and indeed does he understand the meaning of equality?

He gave an interview to an Italian news agency in 2005 where apparently, he described himself at the time as being “a fascist, but not a racist”. I have no idea if there were some translation issues here in what he actually said or indeed if he did say it, is there is any real difference between the two terms?

He has also on occasions apparently stated his admiration for Mussolini. Perhaps he has an appreciation of punctual trains but omits to remember the atrocities that Mussolini colluded in. I am sure that Mussolini did not have an understanding of the meaning of equality.

Di Canio is not new to English football and indeed has been successful at a fairly high level in management. It seems that at the time when he was managing Swindon Town no-one was interested in his politics. Indeed many sports commentators and pundits warmed to his unorthodox management style.
We should believe that it is worth asking him the question. If he is not a fascist then why not come out and say so? This would allow him to put the record straight. Instead his reply is “I don’t have to answer any more this question.”

We have a right Mr Di Canio to have some answers please; and for a club (Sunderland) who were was one of the clubs that helped with the foundation of anti-racist group ‘Give Racism the Red Card’ in the mid-1980s and do know the meaning of equality the question must be answered. The many of their players who have played a prominent role in supporting the campaign and clearly too know the meaning of equality and they deserve to know their manager’s views. Last, but not least their fans too, who have backed the campaign in great numbers also deserve an answer.

6 Step Plan to Improving Profitability

Surely this is difficult to achieve?

No, it’s actually quite easy to do but does take a bit of thought and commitment.

As mentioned in previous posts, promoting equality and diversity in the workplace is crucial for a growing company and can vitalise your workforce. Many notable researchers and scholars assert that employing people of different genders, races, abilities, faiths, cultures and sexual orientations makes your company stronger.

From decades of research we have drawn together an easy to follow 6 step plan to assist you. Implementing these easy to follow steps will improve your profitability. At the same time promoting equality and diversity has many wider positive impacts for society.

1. Look at your current workforce and find out how many women, people from ethnic minorities, disabled people you employ. It may be more difficult to gain measures in other areas of diversity. However, if you explain to your employees why you are doing it; they will be more than happy to assist you in collating the other measures. Analyse these results so that you have a clear picture of where you are.

2. Set up a focus group from a cross-section of your employee base with the specific focus on promoting equality and diversity. The focus group should meet regularly to discuss ideas to increase the diversity of your workforce and recommend changes to recruitment procedures to ensure equity. The focus group should set goals and devise strategies to achieve the organisations’ goals.

3. Review your current equal opportunity and diversity policies and ensure that they comply with equality legislation.

4. Actively recruit in areas where you have identified that you have little or no representation in your staff team. You could for example, utilise minority publications to show that your company is serious about promoting equality and diversity.

5. Provide training for your current employees thus ensuring a seamless transition to a more diverse workforce. Implement a rigorous induction programme which embeds equality and diversity.

6. Ensure you have consequences to challenge discriminatory practice and unacceptable behaviour. This should include; grievance and staged disciplinary procedures. Create a culture that encourages positive communication on any issues that arise.

Take action and follow this easy 6 step plan to improve your profitability and ensure the success of your company.

What is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion?

We often see the 3 words equality, diversity and inclusion banded about rather like throwaway phrases. But what do they mean? I have had an interesting few months delivering equality, diversity and inclusion training to a variety of people in organisations.

Many of the participants who have turned up at the training have a different perception of what each word means. So, usually at the very beginning of training event I set out to establish what peoples’ perceptions of the words are?

It is probably wise to take each one in turn:

Equality

Many comments at recent training events have ranged from defining it as favouring one group over another to having a level playing field for everyone. I would say that it can be a combination of both the definitions above. As, in the case of the example of where women are under-represented in the workplace it may be that for a period of time, women are encouraged to apply for jobs in a particular company or even encouraged to go for promotion.

But surely this can’t be equality you say?

In some cases no, but this short term measure (and it should be short term), should help to address the imbalance in the workplace. In the end creating a more equal workplace.

Diversity

Diversity is another word that I have had interesting discussions about in recent training events. Many people assume that it is only related to race and ethnicity. Although, once we begin to examine this in more depth, people begin to realise that it is about the entire ‘make-up’ or workforces, communities or society. Diversity is about the length and breadth or our experience and what we bring to an organisation, community or society. This could be as a result of someone’s experience of being disabled or it could be the creative ideas that a young person brings to an organisation.

Inclusion

Inclusion, now there is another word! In this country we seem to have gone through various ideological changes. We started with segregation. Often this was the case with immigration of people who had come from the Caribbean in the 60’s and the ‘long stay’ hospitals for people with a learning disability. In this ideology, people were separated because of difference.

We then moved onto integration. A practice of accepting people regardless of perceived difference but expecting them to fit in with whatever provision was available. Integration makes no differentiation for peoples’ differences or needs.

I had a really interesting conversation about integration and inclusion last week at a training event, where one of the delegates argued strongly that they were the same thing. That may be the case in the dictionary definition, but among equality, diversity and inclusion practitioners they are very different things.

Inclusion is the practice of someone being accepted for whom they are and changes are made accordingly. Inclusion promotes equality of opportunity and ensures that everyone’s  needs are met. As one recent course participant remarked ‘..the course taught me the different and more subtle types of discrimination and barriers to inclusion that often go unseen.’ This is really the essence of inclusion: it is often removing the things we cannot see, such as attitudes and prejudice. If these are removed then we can achieve equality, diversity and inclusion.

I hope that this has been a useful explanation for you of equality, diversity and inclusion. I would value any opinions or comments you may have.

The Road to Employment for Disabled People – Part 4

I have mentioned in the previous posts in this series quite a few times, well quite a lot actually; my frustrations regarding the continued erosion of employment opportunities for disabled people. I have also documented some of the historical insights into this issue. I have however also stated quite clearly that I don’t believe in making complaint without giving solutions.

So, in this blog I hope to offer my opinion on the very possible real solutions.

Let’s look back at the main issues that I have mentioned in a previous blog as well as adding some details to these:

  1. The aspirations of disabled people need to be raised
  2. Proper assessment of disabled peoples’ needs (in a work context)
  3. A planned approach to meet these needs
  4. A willingness from employers to employ disabled people
  5. Support for employers to understand the needs of disabled people
  6. Disabled people given support to find employment
  7. Disabled people supported in their job

Now, let’s take each one in turn. I believe we need to start by offering young disabled people co-ordinated services which provide expert advice and can offer an up to date knowledge of current opportunities within the job market. I do realise that some agencies who work with these young people at the moment, provide an excellent service. However, this can be patchy according to where you live. I always believe ” if you don’t aim for the stars you never hit the sky”. If we target raising the aspirations of young disabled people then this will lead to these same young people having greater expectations of themselves.

In assessing the needs of all disabled people, this has to be done in relation to what job they hope to do and what help they may need to get there.

The planned approach could take many forms, there is funding available to support disabled people in employment, which I’m sure not many employers are aware of. Therefore, we need to raise awareness of the support needed and the funding that’s available and promote it.

I am of the strong opinion that if employers realise the benefits that employing disabled people can bring to their business e.g. research shows that employees with learning disabilities are often extremely loyal and committed to the company, as is shown in this example ”A Human Resources Manager, working in a large clothing store, told us that, of five people with learning disabilities employed when the store first opened five years ago, four are still there. In a business with a high turnover of staff, this loyalty is valued.” Available from http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/1859352413.pdf. Accessed 16th August 2012. This report was completed a number of years ago but the results are still valid. It does however show that we could greatly benefit from some up to date research about diversity in business being carried out.

The corporate image of business is also enhanced by being more socially responsible and there is also the potential for companies to gain greater exposure to previously untapped markets i.e. disabled people

So, as well as being the right thing to do, there are real tangible benefits for businesses which employ disabled people thus creating a ‘win/win’ situation. We need to promote the benefits of diversity in business as well as the knock on effect this can have in enhancing social diversity.

I believe that apprenticeships could be a real solution to getting disabled people into employment as there is often more support available on these programmes and it has been identified within the National Apprenticeship Service’s Business Plan that there is a need to broaden the diversity of the apprenticeship programme. So there is clearly willingness.

The Equality and Diversity data report (2012) also noted a decrease in the numbers of apprentices declaring learning difficulties and disabilities; this would strongly suggest that fewer disabled people are participating in apprenticeships thus meaning a lack of diversity in business.

There is also ”Access to Work” funding available to support disabled people when in a job. This can be used in a number of ways e.g. equality and diversity training for employers, to pay for a job coach.

I strongly suggest that everything is available to make this happen and it will take a joined up approach to ensure that it does happen.