Disability awareness training and inclusion support in the workplace
The Story of Esi & Celebrating Disability
Hi, I'm Esi. I am owner and Managing Director of Celebrating Disability. I founded and established Celebrating Disability in January 2017. I realised I could be part of the solution to eradicate disability discrimination in the workplace.
Alongside professional experience, my personal experience of being a disabled person and a wheelchair user has exposed me to years of inequalities when attempting to enter the workplace and interact with businesses.
Before starting Celebrating Disability, I worked for a charity in North Hampshire supporting disabled people to make meaningful decisions and choices over their lives. After working in that role for just over a year, I was promoted to the head office (which was 100 m away). My new role required me to plan, influence and implement an inclusion strategy for the organisation.
So why leave?
As well as working internally with employees in the organisation, I worked a lot externally to engage with companies to share best practice.
What I realised was that whilst I was supporting both disabled people and employees within the charity to feel empowered and confident when engaging and interacting with disabled people, external businesses did not have the same levels of confidence.
The businesses did not understand the barriers that faced disabled people when attempting to enter and have a successful career in the workplace. As they did not have an awareness of the barriers, they did not know what to do to mitigate these. Therefore, many of the businesses I came across did not successfully employ and retain disabled people. Often, when approaching a business that was not accessible for disabled customers, their response when asked would be; "we don't have disabled customers so we don't need to be accessible".
I saw an opportunity for my expertise and personal lived experiences to support other businesses and not-for-profit organisations to develop the awareness, knowledge, tools and strategies they would need to be inclusive of disabled people.
So, I handed in my notice and over Christmas, whilst my family were watching Christmas movies and eating mince pies, I went about putting in place the first steps to establishing a new business.
There were many bumps along the way. Least of all, finding a decent office space that was also accessible for me. The thing that kept me going was the knowledge that disability awareness, inclusion and equality in the workplace was essential for not just business growth but for human rights, personal autonomy and self worth.
I soon realised that talking about disability awareness, equality and inclusion from an external business perspective alone was not enough. Whilst my clients benefited enormously from my professional background of engagement and inclusion, real changes occurred when I coupled this with relevant personal stories. This helped make concepts tangible for the people I was working with. To help them understand why the smallest change could make the biggest difference to an individual feeling engaged and included.
Supporting, Empowering & Influencing Disability Inclusion
The result of all the above was (is) a combination of services that support development through knowledge, awareness and confidence that will positively influence not only the diversity of disabled people within the workplace but their complete and full inclusion.
I, and my associates believe that awareness leads to inclusion. Therefore, all our services start with this in mind. Wherever my client is on their disability inclusion journey is where we will begin.
That could be at the very beginning; understanding disability and the barriers disabled people face. Or could be gaining confidence when engaging with disabled people and knowing how to talk and what language to use. It could be developing an understanding of the barriers to the recruitment process and finding ways to mitigate these barriers. Or it could be somewhere down the line after a disabled person has been hired by an organisation and now the job is to ensure that the disabled employee feels valued and part of the growing workplace culture.
As mentioned above, not every business will start at the same place on their disability awareness and inclusion journey. Therefore, at Celebrating Disability, we have developed 4 key services to support our clients:
- Disability Awareness Training to offer your colleagues and employees an opportunity to acquire some of the tools needed to be inclusive of disabled people
- Public Speaking. Engage your delegates with a passionate expert on disability awareness, inclusion and equality at your conferences and events
- Disability Consultancy to support and guide you every step of the way from strategy to implementation
- A Disability Access & Inclusion Audit providing you with recommendations that can act as a roadmap telling you where to start and how to get there
To see more about these services, click on the bold font writing above
The Advantages Of Lived & Professional Experience
Lived experience of disability plays a big part in what informs the advice and support we offer when delivering disability awareness training, public speaking disability consulting and audits. Although we don't rely on lived experience alone. Why?
If I (Managing Director of Celebrating Disability) was delivering a training session and offered advice purely from my own lived experience as a wheelchair user, this would be very helpful if you were going to be interacting with me. However, as every person is unique, the minute you interact with another disabled person you're back at square one. Therefore, any support provided by Celebrating Disability will have the advantages of a background in the public and private sector. This way, you know any advice offered is practical and implementable.