On this disability in the workplace podcast episode: How is disability portrayed in the media? And what effect does this have on employees?
Jane Hatton MSc FCIPD FRSA
Jane has worked in diversity since 1990. She founded Evenbreak in 2011, an award-winning social enterprise run by and for disabled people. This helps employers attract talented disabled people through a specialist online job board. Evenbreak is entirely staffed by disabled people. Jane runs Evenbreak either lying down with her laptop above her, or standing at meetings and events due to a degenerative spinal condition.
Jane is widely published in this field, including the book “A Dozen Brilliant Reasons to Employ Disabled People”. She is Patron of the Inclusive Skills Competitions and on the executive board of the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative. She was also a recruitment expert in BBC2’s “Employable Me”.
Esi Hardy: 00:00 Hello everyone, welcome again to, Part of Me, the peer podcast that interviews disabled people about their experiences in the workplace. We’ve been going so long now that I’ve literally lost count of what episode we’re on. So without further ado, we’re just going to get into our next episode with our guest this week whoI will let introduce herself. So hello,
Jane Hatton: 00:27 Hi, so I’m Jane Hatton and I’m delighted to be here Esi. I run Evenbreak, which is a specialist job board for disabled job seekers and we only employ disabled people ourselves. So whatever we’re going to talk about will be of great interest I think to me and hopefully some of the listeners as well.
Esi Hardy: 00:45 Well I definitely think so, and you know, thank you very much. I’m glad that you’re glad to be here, but I’m also glad to have you on this podcast as well. I know a bit about even break. I think it’s a really, really great resource for disabled people and for employers who want to be inclusive of disabled people. Can you just explain a little bit more about it and why it’s so important?
Jane Hatton: 01:08 Yeah. A few years ago if I’d have talked about diversity to businesses, they would have just looked at me in astonishment and said, so what’s that got to do with us? I think now when I talk about diversity to businesses, they say, Oh wow, that’s really interesting. We’re doing lots of stuff on race and lots of stuff on gender and maybe some stuff on LGBTQ plus, and I’ll say, that’s great. I’m really pleased to hear that you’re doing that. What are you doing on disability? And often it’s kind of, Oh, well, yeah, we might look at that next year, or, well, it’s a bit, you know, we’re not looking at that just yet. It seems to be the poor relation. So I think what Evenbreak does as a social enterprise is three things really.
Jane Hatton: 01:54 It’s about promoting the business case for employing disabled people. Why it’s good for employers. That it’s about talent, not about pity, but also for those employers who are enlightened enough to understand that this is a talent pool they should be tapping into, we offer a way for them to attract disabled candidates they wouldn’t otherwise attract. Also, disabled candidates themselves will tell us they don’t really understand which organizations will take them seriously because pretty much every employer says they are an equal opportunities employer. However, actually the experience of disabled people is that most aren’t. As soon as an impairment becomes apparent, whether they mention it or whether it’s visible, that’s the moment that the recruitment process comes to an end. So Evenbreak as a specialist job board allows disabled candidates to see that if these companies have paid to advertise their jobs on a board that’s just for disabled candidates, that’s quite a powerful message about how seriously they’re taking this.
Jane Hatton: 02:57 So they feel safe to apply and also, safe to be more open about what their access needs might be. So there are multiple facets to what we do. But what I love about it is the fact that I work with really good employers who are enlightened enough to understand that talent comes in all shapes and sizes and we only employ disabled people ourselves, so I learn from my team every day and hopefully they learn a bit from me. We work with the most amazing, talented candidates who it just seems such a waste of talent that they don’t get snapped up straight away.
Esi Hardy: 03:35 Mm. It’s interesting, I talk to quite a lot of companies who say they’re an equal opportunities employer, but when you talk to those disabled people who work within the companies, what they mean is that we won’t see your disability. What that tends to mean for them is that they’re not going to do anything about it either. And I think sometimes people have the best intentions, but not seeing somebody’s impairment is, in a way, discriminating against them because you have to see somebody’s impairment and celebrate that impairment, but see that impairment in order to put in the requirements that somebody needs to be able to access their role and to do their role as productively as possible.
Jane Hatton: 04:18 Absolutely. And I think every employer is looking for, good people to employ who’ve got the skills they need, but you have to then enable those people to use those skills to their full ability. That might mean doing things differently. Often what we find is that if you do something differently for your disabled person, it actually works for everybody. So we would not talk about reasonable adjustments for disabled people. We would talk about workplace adjustments for everyone. So if you’ve got someone who’s not disabled but has young children, they may want to work flexibly so they can do the school run. Or if you have someone who’s not disabled but is doing, an open university degree, they might want to work more flexibly so that they fit in their study time. And similarly, if someone has an impairment, then it might be they need adjustments around assistive technology or flexible working hours or keeping the corridors clear of rubbish if someone has a sight impairment. It can be all sorts of different things, but from the employer’s perspective, I think it just makes perfect sense to make sure that the people you’re employing have everything they need to do the job to the best of their ability. Otherwise, why would you, you’re not getting the best from your staff. It makes perfect sense.
Esi Hardy: 05:31 Absolutely. You’re just wasting your own time really aren’t you and your own resources. Yeah, I agree. And do you find, because disabled people know that the employers are inclusive, that they’re more likely to disclose their access requirements?
Jane Hatton: 05:45 Yeah, that’s what we find. I think mostly disabled people won’t talk about their impairment, until, and unless they absolutely have to because of that fear that it will put them at a disadvantage. If candidates apply through Evenbreak, they have the usually correct assumption that those employers won’t be put off by someone having access needs. So in order to shine in the recruitment process and then, if they get the job, to shine in the job itself it makes sense for them to say, actually, I’m going to do this job so much better if I have A, B or C. That makes it so much easier for the employer and so much easier for the candidate who doesn’t have to pretend to be coping, you know, with things that aren’t really quite right.
Jane Hatton: 06:34 That doesn’t enable anybody to perform at their best. I wouldn’t say to a disabled candidate, you must declare at the first available opportunity because it just depends on the employer. Sometimes employers will be prejudice against people who are disabled because of all the media portrayal of disabled people as being pretty useless and objects of pity and not having much to offer. If a candidate can really sell themselves, I’ve got this skill and I’ve got these experiences, I’ve got these transferable skills I can bring with me, then maybe the employer will fall in love with their skills and then they say, Oh, by the way, I need X, Y, and Z. But I think if it’s an inclusive employer, it’s then really good if you can say up front, these are the access needs I have and I’m going to perform so much better if I have access to this.
Esi Hardy: 07:26 Absolutely. So that leads really nicely onto one of the reasons why I asked you if would record an episode with me. So a couple of weeks ago (the a month is going so fast at the moment isn’t it!) A couple of weeks ago we were at the True Inclusion event in London that was run by Joanne Lockwood. We were having a discussion in the track discussion, which is a discussion in an inclusive way, about how to make marketing inclusive and how to promote the abilities of disabled people through our Content Marketing and our Social Media Marketing. As you were saying before we started this conversation today, that that kind of links in really well with the recruitment process and what employers see and think about disabled people before they might come into the interview stage.
Jane Hatton: 08:18 Yeah, I think this is a real challenge that we find in terms of, ‘how do you do it’? Disabled people are so diverse. We’re from different ethnic backgrounds, different genders, different sexual orientations, different impairments. How do you portray that in a visual way, especially when 80% of us who are disabled don’t look disabled. By which I mean we don’t necessarily use a wheelchair or have a guide dog or have something visible about us that makes us look different.
Esi Hardy: 08:49 Yeah. Or as I said my case walk wonky or something like that.
Jane Hatton: 08:52 Yeah, yeah. Where somebody would immediately see that that person’s disabled. And the challenge there is if you’re trying to portray disability in a visual way, it ends up being very stereotypical, so you just see people who use wheelchairs or just see people with guide dogs. Then the impression that people get is that every disabled person uses a wheelchair, and of course that’s not the case. If 80% of us have hidden impairments, like mine is chronic pain, which you can’t see unless I’m having a really bad day, it’s difficult. You want to just put images of people because how would you then portray that actually these are people, but they also have additional barriers. And I think the challenge is that in media generally we’ve seen disabled people portrayed in, three main ways in the media generally.
Jane Hatton: 09:44 Objects of pity. You know, the charity kind of model with the little girl with leg braces and a charity box, rattling the tin. Or we see disabled people as, more recently, benefit cheats who are too lazy to work, just want to live on benefits have no skills that they want to offer. Almost in contrast to that, you see Paralympians. So you know, all of a sudden disabled people have some kind of superpowers. Actually, you and I know hundreds and hundreds of disabled people and I don’t know anybody that fits into those three categories. Well, I’ve met a couple of Paralympians, but I don’t think they’re necessarily representative of the rest of the disabled population. So as an employer, if you’re looking for talent, you don’t want people who are objects of pity. You don’t want people who are benefit cheats and you might admire athletes, but you’re probably not looking for an athlete within your business. The challenge is, how do we portray disabled people doing everyday jobs like most of us do in our normal lives getting around, our everyday business in the way that we do. That’s a real challenge, I think, how to portray disabled people in all the multifaceted glory that we have.
Esi Hardy: 11:06 Yeah, and that’s one of the reasons why I did this podcast Part of Me, to help people to understand that although disabled people might have barriers in the workplace that we are, as you say, multifaceted and we don’t just fit into one box. I am a mixed race disabled woman. I have good days and bad days and my expertise lie in a few fields. Somebody else might have a different physical disability and their expertise may lie in a different field. They may have a different personality and a different set of skills. So the more ways we can give voices to disabled people and disabled people trying to find work, or in work, to show the breadth of knowledge and expertise that we have, would be really helpful. But as you say, in a visual way, it’s really hard to portray that.
Jane Hatton: 12:01 It is. What we’re trying to do at Evenbreak is to find disabled people who are different in all of the ways that we’ve just talked about and just demonstrate that people can do all sorts of different things. So for example, we’re doing a series, which is kind of a day in the life of, one of the case studies that we’ve done is of a woman who is an engineer and that’s unusual in itself cause there aren’t any women in engineering, but she’s also an amputee. She’s very hands on in the job that she does, she doesn’t just sit at a desk, she does a full engineer’s job. And I think it challenges some of those stereotypes about, how could a disabled woman possibly be an engineer? Well, here she is and she’s very successful. There are lots of examples of disabled people who are solicitors or work in a coffee shop or artists or whatever it might be. For me it’s about portraying ordinary disabled people doing the ordinary things that everybody else does, but maybe in a slightly different way.
Esi Hardy: 13:08 Yeah. And so it becomes, I don’t really like the word norm, but, ”the norm” and not the abnormal to see somebody. So it’s not, Oh look, we have a disabled person in our organization, but Oh, we have a person in our organization and these are the workplace adjustments we have so that everybody can manage.
Jane Hatton: 13:27 Yeah, absolutely. I think it should be the way that we don’t make it an issue about the color of people’s hair. You know, we know that if you look at a team, you’re going to have people with different hairstyles, different colors of colors of hair. It’s not a thing. So it should be, you know, all of those people will have a range of different skills they bring with them. And I think it’s the same with disabilities. The disability is only a part of them. Having to fight their way through obstacles and barriers every day of their life because the world isn’t built for people like us, builds up a resilience and problem solving skills and develops creative thinking.
Jane Hatton: 14:13 Those are great skills for an employer to have. So I think, yes, it’s definitely about looking at what adjustments people need in order to thrive in the workplace. Everybody should have those. But it’s also about recognizing that people bring completely unique talents with them as people outside of their impairment. They’re not just a disabled worker, they are whatever their job title is with whatever adjustments they need. And as you say, it becomes an everyday thing. It doesn’t become an extraordinary thing about, Oh my God, there’s a solicitor and she’s in a wheelchair. It’s more like, there’s Karen and she’s off to court… We need to be a bit more visible and open about the lives that people lead and how we go about our everyday business.
Esi Hardy: 14:57 Yeah, thereby celebrating the wealth of experience that we bring due to our impairments as well. I trained as a counselor and I found it very hard for my patients to trust me because they saw me as a wheelchair user, not as somebody that could hold their emotions and help them through a situation. It was really hard for me to develop that trust with people, not because I’m not a trustworthy person, but because of how I presented to them. So I think, yeah, if we get to the place where a solicitor in a wheelchair is in court fighting somebody’s case, we begin to think about what disable people are capable of instead of what we might represent as something that’s not very capable.
Jane Hatton: 15:51 Yeah, absolutely. For me this is about talent. It’s not about, giving that person a job because we feel sorry for them and they deserve a break. It’s let’s give that disabled person a job because they have the skills we need. That’s looking at it from that perspective. And you know, sometimes when I talk to employees it’s very much, you know, Oh yes, poor disabled people. We ought to give them a chance really, and I have to stop them in their tracks and say, it’s not about that. It’s not about you giving someone a chance. It’s about you accessing the talents and the skills that you need. It might mean you have to do things slightly differently, but you will benefit as a business from doing that.
Esi Hardy: 16:29 Yeah, absolutely. And I really like the analogy you made a minute ago about not judging people on their hair. You don’t think, Oh my God, that person’s got red hair so they’ll be capable of doing that. You just expect a workplace of people to have different colored hair and it’d be lovely if we could get that with different abilities and different impairments. Expect to see diverse disability in a workplace.
Jane Hatton: 16:54 Yeah, absolutely. It’s about intersectionality because as you say, in your case someone discriminates against you. Is it because of your skin color? Is it because of your gender? Is it because of your disability and it doesn’t matter what you’re discriminated against, it should be about people.
Esi Hardy: 17:08 Yeah, I agree. It was interesting, Jane. So yesterday I was talking to somebody who I told about Evenbreak employing, interviewing or recruiting disabled people into their workplace, and they were saying that they had a very specific set of criteria that they wanted for this role to be filled. They wanted a full time position person that would work in the office between nine to five and that they would be part of the team and it was essentially a contact center. So I was having a conversation with him about whether this role could be flexible to involve the varying needs of the workforce. It’s not just disabled people that need flexible working. A lot of people for a lot of different reasons need that. But do you find some times that it’s a challenge to help employers to understand why they need to think a bit more out of the box with their job roles?
Jane Hatton: 18:11 Yeah, definitely. I think a lot of it is around job design. Companies want to just carry on doing what we’ve always done. If we carry on doing what we’ve always done, nothing changes. And I think that the world of work is changing at an exponential rate at the moment. And that if organizations are very rigid in the way they think about job design and work practices, they’re going to get left behind very quickly. Agile working, as you say, it not just for disabled people, it’s for all sorts of different people who might want not to work the traditional nine to five. I mean, even, you know, if you think of banks they’re pretty staid, traditional, old fashioned things but banks now recognize you have to be open 24 hours a day.
Jane Hatton: 18:55 You have to be online. You have to work in different ways now because not everybody can get to the bank between; do you remember the days when it was between half past nine and three o’clock they were open and most people couldn’t get there. So I think organizations really need to think about how to deliver the services or the products that we deliver. Are there other better ways of doing this? How can we access talent that might not fit in with our very rigid criteria? Actually lots of research will say that for example, people who work from home tend to be far more productive than people who work in an office because there are fewer distractions and you can work around your day. At Evenbreak, for example, we don’t have offices, we all work flexibly from home. What that means is that for those of us with fluctuating conditions, we do the really creative thinking on the days when we’re feeling quite good, and if there are days where we might not be so good, we either don’t work or we do more routine things that don’t require quite so much effort. I find that works incredibly well, selfishly as an employer, because it means that staff are able to always give of their best and as an employer, why wouldn’t I want that? For example, if someone is really creative and they’re writing some content, why does it have to be written between nine and five? If could be done in the morning or three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t matter when it’s done so long as it’s done to the right standard.
Jane Hatton: 20:29 Really employers need to be thinking much more about the people they will be excluding if they insist on very rigid ways of working. So often you’ll have a job description and you think, actually disabled or otherwise, no one person is going to be good at everything on that list. Wouldn’t it be better to carve it up so that you get someone who’s really good at that 50% of the job just doing that and somebody who’s really good at that 20% doing that so that people are always working to their strengths and they enjoy what they’re doing and they’re motivated. Some people will say that everyone they employ needs to have interpersonal skills. Well, if you’re going to be a customer service person, yes you need interpersonal skills, but if you’re going to be a coder, why do you need interpersonal skills?
Jane Hatton: 21:21 It’s about job design and looking at what we actually need this job holder to do? Where do they need to be and at what time do they need to do it? For most jobs it doesn’t matter where they are or when they do it, it just matters that they do it. Few people like working nine to five. It means we have rush hours. People don’t like traveling in rush hour . For the economy and the environment, if we don’t have everybody piling into work at the same time every day and piling home again, that’s gonna relieve an awful lot of misery, a reduce our carbon footprint. But it also opens up the workplace to far more people. Sorry, that was a long ramble, but I feel quite strongly about the thought that you can only have a full time person in the office nine to five. I just think there are very few jobs where that’s the case.
Esi Hardy: 22:13 Absolutely. I completely agree. There was so much in there. And it wasn’t a ramble. It was really helpful. But there’s a couple of things that I really want to pick up on. So first of all the idea that actually people are more productive at home than they are in the workplace. I completely agree, but I can imagine some employers holding the assumption is that when you’re at home you’re watching TV or you’re distracted with your kids or you’re thinking about supper. I think it depends on personality, doesn’t it? If you’re a type of person that is introverted, then working at home is great because you can just focus down and you’re not going to get distracted. I’ve got a TV right on my right here and I don’t watch it until about nine o’clock in the evening and then I watch it all evening. I’m not distracted because I actually care about and I really am passionate about what I do so the TV doesn’t interest me at all when I’m working from home. So I think, yeah, it’s a good point. Do you find it takes a lot to convince employers of that point?
Jane Hatton: 23:22 I think it does. It’s exactly as you say, Esi, it’s that trust issue, isn’t it? If I can’t see what people are doing, how do I know they’re working? And I think that goes back to the job design thing because I think for so long we’ve looked at jobs in terms of presenteeism. So you know, someone’s at their desk for eight hour as they must be a good worker, but they might be at their desk for eight hours not producing anything of any value. Whereas you might have somebody who works for two hours and creates all sorts of amazing stuff that that other person never would. So for me, I look forward to a time when we start valuing people on outputs rather than inputs. I can remember working with man actually years ago who was full time. He was working alongside some women who were job sharing, because in those days job sharing tended to be more for women than for men. We actually totted it up and he was doing less work than three of the part time women were doing individually let alone together. It turned out that he was playing solitaire on his computer. He’d just have a window open that he could quickly click onto if a manager came past. You hear all sorts of awful tales about people. Some will put their jacket on the back of their chair and then go off somewhere. But it looks as though they were there early, you know, playing silly games like that, which is not very productive in terms of getting the job done. And for me it’s more about valuing people for what they achieve and what difference they make rather than how many hours they’re sitting at their desk or even if they are at home. It’s more about what that person has achieved while they’re at home and if I see that they’ve written some good content or they’ve made some good calls or whatever it might be, then I don’t care where that work took place. It could be in the local coffee shop, it could be while they’re in bed. It doesn’t matter as long as the work gets done.
Esi Hardy: 25:30 I completely agree. The other point that I wanted to pick up on that you were talking about, I think is really good advice for disabled people as well. Kind of learning that you don’t have to be working necessarily those hours nine to five to be productive. That actually if you’re productive time happens between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM then there’s nothing wrong with that. I think sometimes when you’re in a creative role, like maybe content writing or digital design or something, creativity doesn’t come in those nine to five working hours. And I think recognizing and taking onboard that actually working at a time that you are most productive is helpful for the business, is a really good lesson for disabled people themselves.
Jane Hatton: 26:17 Absolutely. And as you say, especially about being creative. You can’t say to a creative person, right, it’s nine o’clock, come up with some really good ideas. It doesn’t work like that. Again, you know, for, those of us with fluctuating conditions, it might be that we’ve had a really bad day and we may have slept a lot during the day and then at night when we’re awake we’re feeling better and thinking, well, I could do some really good work now, it doesn’t matter. You know, as long as it gets done, it doesn’t matter. And then , you with our stuff, all of the Evenbreak people work flexibly from home. I’m the only full time person, because the others choose to be part time. They work around bad conditions as well and it just works so well, it really does.
Jane Hatton: 27:03 I just think people are free to be productive when they can, when they feel up to it. We have a couple of people with very severe ME who can only work for an hour or two a week. They have to just work when it works for them. So there may be three days where they feel completely unable to work altogether, but then they may be able to work really productively for the next day. And isn’t it better for them to be able to work when they can rather than not work at all? That’s a waste of our talents and doesn’t enable them to offer the great benefits that I get from them.
Esi Hardy: 27:39 Absolutely. And having an employer who values that and advocates for them is really important as well because if you have somebody behind you who is advocating for you to work in the way that works best for you, then as an employee you’re going to feel more confident as well.
Jane Hatton: 27:56 Yeah. And it takes the pressure off. We talk a lot about stress and mental health in the workplace and I do think that if people are feeling stressed and often if you’re full time, that’s quite stressful, if you’re having to travel in the rush hour, if you’re going to an office environment that’s very busy or very noisy or very pressurized, it’s not an ideal conducive environment to be working at your best. And I do think that we need to be making sure that employees feel empowered and feel engaged and feel able to produce the best they can in a way that suits them rather than in a way that that might be forced on them that really has no basis in any kind of evidence.
Esi Hardy: 28:36 Yeah. I agree. Now on this podcast, we also spend some time talking about the guest as a consumer buying a product or a service because some of our listeners are working in front facing services where they are looking more at the customer’s journey and the customer’s experience. So would you mind if we talked about that for a little while?
New Speaker: 29:00 That’s fine.
Esi Hardy: 29:01 You talked a little bit about your impairment and the fact that you struggle with chronic pain. So as a consumer buying a product or a service, what would you say was your biggest barrier or challenge?
Jane Hatton: 29:17 Well, my impairment is quite unusual because I have a spinal condition, which means it’s difficult to sit. So things like traveling can be a problem for me. If I’m going any distance away, I can’t sit on a train. I’m sitting as we speak now, but in a awkward position, which you couldn’t do on a train or a bus or in a taxi or whatever. So for me, one of the biggest barriers is getting to anywhere where I might spend money. So on holiday or to a shopping center it’s physically how I get there. I can walk some days some distance, some days not very far at all, but if there isn’t good public transport to take me where I’m trying to get, then I just simply can’t get there.
Jane Hatton: 30:10 I moved to London for that reason. London is not accessible for a lot of people, but for me it’s perfect because I need to stand on public transport in London. You have to stand whether you want to or not quite a lot of the time so it means I can get to Oxford street or get to shops or places relatively easily because it’s close by. I haven’t got far to walk to get to a tube station or bus station and then I can stand on public transport. So I think one of my biggest barriers is travel. But the other one, interestingly, and again, it’s probably fairly unusual, is that because I can’t sit for long periods of time, if I go out for a meal with friends, I really need to stand at a table rather than to sit.
Jane Hatton: 31:00 And luckily again, in London there are lots of restaurants and bars and places that have bar high tables that I can stand at and my friends can sit on bar stools and that’s great. But where I came from in the Midlands public transport is pretty rubbish. I couldn’t really walk to the nearest bus stop and if I could, it wouldn’t take me anywhere I wanted to go. I fact there were three places within my range that I could get to eat that had high tables and you get very bored of eating in the same place all the time, especially as they’re chains. And so for me it’s those kinds of things. I don’t expect every business owner to accommodate someone who can’t sit because there aren’t many of us around. But I do think sometimes it’s about offering choice.
Esi Hardy: 31:48 Absolutely. It’s having those choice of different options isn’t it? Because for me, my barriers are the absolute opposite to yours. So as a wheelchair user I hate it when I walk into a place and the tables are too high, but you’re really happy they’re high. I don’t know what we’d do if we went out for dinner. I do need to get a wheelchair on hydraulics so that I can lift up to the tables.
Jane Hatton: 32:17 That is one solution. I have lots of friends with different impairments and if you find somewhere that has both, then you can put things together. So for me it’s about choice. It’s about offering different ways of providing the service or the products so that you’re going to appeal to a wider range of people. Yesterday for example, I was at a event. It was one of those places where the security is quite high and we couldn’t even get through the door to the floor that we were supposed to be on, which meant we couldn’t get to the lift either. So the only way to get to the floor we should be on, which was like five floors down, was by stairs. Now, you know, I can manage short stairs going up. I’m not good at walking downstairs. Thankfully there was nobody in our group who was a wheelchair user cause we really wouldn’t have been stuck. But it’s little things like that that can absolutely make or break a day for someone in terms of the experience of where they are and what they can access.
Esi Hardy: 33:20 Absolutely. And then how they interact when they get there. I mean, I always say, and I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s a massive difference between accessibility and inclusion, and inclusion is what you’ve just been talking about; actually having that range of options. So people can do things the way that is best for them. And actually thinking outside the box. I said I don’t know what we’d do if we went out for dinner together and you quite simply said, well let’s just stick the tables together and then, you know, it worked for both of us. So it’s about that kind of out of the box thinking that isn’t actually that complicated when you start doing it is it?
Jane Hatton: 33:57 Yeah. One of the things that annoys me, particularly in London, although I understand that there are a lot of old buildings and some of them are listed buildings, but often the disabled access by which they mean a ramp or floor access, is kind of round the back. So everybody else is going up this grand entrance and these beautiful marble stairs and the beautiful big wooden doors , but the wheelchair users have to go this cranky, smelly alley around the back entrance, which is not very salubrious. I just think, right, why would you do that? And there are all sorts of ways that it can be done differently. I’ve seen some really innovative ways where the stairs just go down into a flat surface and it’s a lift. I mean it’s not cheap, but those sorts of things can be done. Often you can put a ramp that doesn’t look abstruse lots of people will use it, not just wheelchair user.
Esi Hardy: 34:48 Absolutely.
Jane Hatton: 34:49 So for me, it’s about just offering different options and then people can just choose which option works for them. They haven’t got to make a special case that, Oh, I’m disabled, I need you to bring out your temporary ramp, which might or might not work and I might fall off. If it’s there already, then everybody feels that building will accommodate me. It’s great.
Esi Hardy: 35:07 Yeah, I completely agree. For me, I see that in a accessible loo’s and I say accessible very lightly because they’re not very accessible. When I go to an accessible loo without a personal assistant I spend five minutes surveying and thinking how I am going to manage this? Where am I going to fit my wheelchair and how am I going to get to the loo roll? So I have to bring my own products into accessible loo’s because they just aren’t accessible. And by products, just so listens know, I mean tissues because I can never reach the loo roll. So I always have pocket tissues in my handbag that I can use instead of the loo roll because they’re not designed will us in mind. I know not all disabled people are in a wheelchair. Users don’t have the same needs but creating something that is universally changeable for everyone. As you were saying, it might cost a bit at the outset, but think about the money that you’re going to get as a return. If the spending power of disabled people is over 260 billion and people are using your accessible loo, it means that are going to stay in your venue for longer and spend more money and bring their friends as well. And if they can enter from the front entrance rather than have to go around the back with the rats and through the kitchen, then they’re more likely to attend functions and, as you say, bring their friends and family over and over again.
Jane Hatton: 36:34 Absolutely. I think that goes back to it not being tokenistic because often companies put a ramp up saying their venue is now accessible, but if you haven’t got an accessible toilet, then the ramp is irrelevant. It’s about doing it meaningfully. And for me that means involving disabled people in the design and designing it from the beginning rather than as a kind of optional add on. Often you see accessible toilets and can see that no disabled person has ever approved the design because it doesn’t work for anybody. It’s just got a wider door that’s no help whatsoever.
Esi Hardy: 37:08 And a lot of the time it doesn’t even have a wider door. It’s counterproductive because the businesses have wasted their money on “Accessible Toilets” that nobody’s going to be able to use.
Jane Hatton: 37:22 Or even worse, you see them where they have really good accessible toilets and they’re using it as a store room.
Esi Hardy: 37:28 Yup. I went to a venue where the only accessible loo was in the men’s toilets. I think the conversation that we’re having just now leads back to what we were talking about earlier about how recruiters and employers see disabled people and their perceptions of disabled people and how that impacts on what they do when they’re recruiting. So if disabled people are more visual in the public, in the public sector, in the public world, shopping and socializing and doing all these things in venues that we do on a daily basis, then recruiters and employers are more likely to think a bit broader about when they’re hiring and recruiting disabled people in their workplace.
Jane Hatton: 38:15 Yeah. So I think with that recruitment, it’s a little bit like we were just saying with the accessible toilet, that it’s no good to tokenistily, put something in your recruitment process without making sure that it’s accessible end to end. So, you know, you could say, well we’ll do video interviews because our building isn’t accessible, but if you’re expecting that person to work in that building, how’s that going to work? So, yeah. So it shouldn’t be tokenistic and there should be a lot of input from disabled people with a wide range of impairments who can say, actually that wouldn’t work for me. Interviews don’t work for lots of people. Actually, I’m not sure they work for anybody in terms of an employer’s perspective because people are good at blagging at interviews and might not be able to do the job.
Jane Hatton: 38:59 So interviews don’t work for lots of people. Not just some disabled people but if you’re an introvert or if you’re shy or if English isn’t your first language or if you’re autistic or you have social anxiety or whatever, having questions fired at you by a panel of five people isn’t likely to bring out the best in anybody really. So it’s about how can we make sure that our recruitment processes works and often it will be about demonstrating what someone can do rather than asking them to talk about it. Being a bit more open about the kinds of evidence that we required about people’s strengths and their skills and transferable skills rather than just having a carbon copy of the last person who did the job. It’s about looking at it more broadly and asking what we really need and who could really do this job and how can we really test if they’re the right people for the job.
Esi Hardy: 39:55 I completely agree. Absolutely. And so we’re coming to the end of our episode today. Is there anything else you would like people to know?
Jane Hatton: 40:04 Well, only that if any disabled people are listening who would like to look for a job or a better job than the one they have, come to Evenbright and see what our employers have to offer. Similarly, any employers that are listening I’d just like them to think differently about disabled people and the talent that we bring and how they can access it more effectively than they are currently.
Esi Hardy: 40:29 Brilliant. And on your website you have a good section on blogs to give information and articles about how to make your processes more accessible and inclusive for disabled people. So I’ll put a link to that on the end of this episode as well and there”ll also be a link to your website so people can look it up. Thank you very much for your time today, Jane. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation.
Jane Hatton: 40:56 Me too. My pleasure.
Esi Hardy: 40:57 Speak to you soon. And if anyone wants to follow up on anything that’s been talked about in today’s episode or any of the other episodes, please do get in touch and I can forward you on to the Evenbreak website. Find out more about them. Okay. Thank you very much everyone and speak to you next month.
#PartofMe Podcast is released on the first of the month and is available on all major podcasting apps. Including: Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher. If you would like to be part of this important conversation or have any questions resulting from anything you hear on an episode, please contact Esi at email@example.com