Inclusive Events:
The Virtual Training Team

Celebrating Disability was the spark that sent us on a really important journey

Bonus Outcome:

staff feel better equipped to support disabled colleagues

Celebrating Disability recently delivered a training session for The Virtual Training Team, to support the company in its provision of inclusive and accessible virtual training.
After participating in a tailored training session, The Virtual Training Team found that their employees had gained a better understanding of how to make their virtual training inclusive to everyone, including disabled participants. Unexpectedly, staff also now feel better equipped to support their disabled colleagues.

The Background

The Virtual Training Team is a sustainability-driven virtual training company. Established in 2017, The Virtual Training Team has been concerned with inclusion since its inception. The company’s Co-Founder and Creative Director Catherine Nicholson explained: “One of the reasons that we decided to focus on virtual training as a business was related to inclusivity. Virtual training is more carbon-friendly, and more affordable, and more people were wanting to work from home.”

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of home-working, Catherine found that face-to-face training “wasn’t always inclusive,” because “people have to travel for training.” This could be problematic in “a few different ways.” First, there was the fact that nowadays, a company’s employees are often geographically disparate: “If you’ve got a head office in Peterborough, then all the training happens there,” said Catherine. “And if you happen to live in Aberdeen to get your training it would mean taking two days out, and not everyone wants to do that.” But there was also the fact that for disabled people – who make up 16% of the global population and a significant proportion of the workforce – “physically, it can be harder to travel,” due both to access barriers and impairments themselves. The Virtual Training Team wanted to flatten these barriers and make training more accessible to everyone. “Inclusivity was part of our raison d’être,” said Catherine.

However, as the business expanded, Catherine was determined that inclusion should be not only a part of the company’s ethos, but embedded in the everyday delivery of its training:

“As we started to grow, we were aware that although we wanted to be inclusive, we were not sure that we were yet.”

So The Virtual Training Team decided to seek the help of an external disability awareness trainer. “We were only small so we had limited expertise in-house,” said Catherine.

Our Successful Proposal

The Virtual Training Team first became aware of Celebrating Disability’s work when Esi joined one of their training sessions, Train the Trainer, as a participant. Catherine recalled: “As we were learning more about Esi and what Esi does, we thought we could really benefit from this, because we just don’t know how to be truly  inclusive in the training that we deliver. Our intentions have always been really positive, but we just don’t know what we don’t know, and we’re keen to continue learning.”

“We knew Esi, we liked Esi, and it just made perfect sense. She understood our business really well, so it made a good match.”

The Virtual Training Team were drawn to Esi’s “experience and expertise,” as well as her willingness to understand the challenge they were facing: “How do we help our participants that come on our training programmes, have the best, most equitable and fair experience?

Creating Inclusive Events

The training session, called “Inclusive Events”, took place on 22 July 2021. The session took the form of a live workshop on Zoom, with 12 participants in attendance – the whole of The Virtual Training Team’s then-team.

Before the session, Catherine felt slightly nervous, and at first she was scared to ask a question, worrying whether it would be “politically correct” or whether she might “offend someone.” But soon enough, her nerves were dissipated because of the friendly and “very interactive” atmosphere:

“Something that Esi did so well was set the tone at the beginning to create absolute psychological safety. She really encouraged us to ask any questions, and we didn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing.”

Once Catherine had established that the session was a safe space to ask questions, she decided to “go for it”, remembering that “Esi said that no question is off-limits.” She said that “Esi dealt with [her question] so well, and made [her] feel really comfortable.” This was felt not only by Catherine, but by her “whole team”, who “felt safe to have those really transparent, honest conversations.”

The training session helped Catherine’s team to increase their “awareness and education” about disability inclusion.

“The experience made us challenge our own thinking,” said Catherine. “We were educated, so we left much more aware of different types of disabilities and some of the surprising and unseen challenges that exist that just weren’t on our radar.”

Once the participants were given a good understanding of the wider issues around disability, the session moved into a discussion (tailored to The Virtual Training Team) about how to make events more inclusive. Participants learnt how to make their training sessions more accessible, from planning stage through to delivery and feedback. Esi shared tangible examples of how to make their communication or content design more accessible, and not long after the session the team used this information to “make some real changes in the way that we do things.”

Catherine explained: “For example, in our training workshops, we used to sometimes say: ‘the first person to put the answer in the chat box is the winner.’ But now, we realise that that could be unfair, because not everyone can type access to chat boxes as quickly as others.”

“Over the months following, it prompted us to have more conversations about what we can do to be more accessible, and we realised that there’s a lot to be done. And we just need to start somewhere.”

The Virtual Training Team has since made a number of changes, including a “complete rebrand” to make “all of [their] learning and marketing materials and new website as accessible as possible.” Catherine added: “We now ask upfront if anyone’s got any accessibility requirements. And we also have a question in our feedback forms.”

Unexpectedly, Esi’s training session also made The Virtual Training Team reflect on how they might better support their disabled colleagues. “We were focusing more on our participants,” said Catherine, “but in truth it started to make us reflect on our own business as well.” Because of this, they have “just done an inclusion survey on the whole team” and they plan to use health and safety assessments to ensure that their employees who are working from home have access to everything they might need.

Key takeaways for The Virtual Training Team

The team are left with a number of key takeaways:

  • Awareness of the different types of accessibility requirements
  • Knowing how to use disability inclusive language
  • Understanding of how access barriers can create challenges in a learning environment

Next Steps

“Inclusion is an ongoing journey and conversation. I don’t think there’s a destination we’ll ever get to,” said Catherine, “But there’s a lot more that we want to do.”

For a start, the business intends to add a page on their website with an accessibility statement, outlining what steps they are taking to make their training more inclusive and encouraging training participants to share their own accessibility requirements.

In conclusion, Catherine said:

“Esi was the spark that sent us on this really important journey. I would wholeheartedly recommend Celebrating Disability to any organisation that feels that they could improve and be better in this area – which, let’s face it, most organisations could.”

Training sessions tailored to your needs

Designed around your specific goals and outcomes to empower disability inclusion

Designed and delivered with lived experience of disability

All trainers talk from a pan disability experience. We couple that with realistic recommendations for your workplace.

Immersive, interactive and outcome focused

Using a variety of engagement methods to encourage safe, open conversation

Resources to track your return on investment

Benchmarking and action plan tracking enabling you and your delegates to track progress

To discover how you can build disability awareness and confidence across your organisation, send us an enquiry or book an exploratory 45 minute call with Esi. We would love to discuss your goals, objectives and how Celebrating Disability can best support you and your team: