By Natalie Clegg, PMO Analyst
As part of the launch for our new colleague network for disabled colleagues – Represent, we heard from journalist, presenter and comedian Alex Brooker talking about his experiences of disability and his thoughts on how we can work towards fair representation and visibility.
Many of our colleagues will have heard my story about disability through our Represent events – including the recording of our launch event on Monday – but my story is a little different to Alex’s. I became disabled as an adult, similar to the 83% of disabled people who weren’t born with their conditions or impairments. However, those of us with disabilities have similar and relatable experiences, which was why Represent wanted to invite Alex to talk about disability.
Listening to Alex talk, he reflected on lots of experiences that I could relate to, from the difficulties around accessibility, to the attitudes of others and the impact that can have. A phrase many of the audience enjoyed was “ask, not avoid” – it’s better to ask someone if they need any help, rather than avoiding them and letting someone struggle!
Alex also talked a lot about the assumptions of other people, and this is important for us all, whether we’re disabled or not. We should never assume that we know what someone is capable of, or needs support with, whether that be a colleague or a customer, without asking them. I think this is particularly powerful, and encourages us all to challenge our misconceptions and beliefs about disability.
The event showed us all that disability is something we all need to be aware of, not only for our colleagues, friends and families, but also for our customers. Hopefully, Alex has helped us all to recognise that disabled people deserve respect and support just like anyone else, and nobody should be afraid of offering help or support where appropriate.
Personally, I took away the message that we need societal attitudes to change towards disability – the needs of disabled people should be thought of upfront, and not an afterthought. The Represent network is already working across the Co-op to begin building in inclusivity into our policies, processes and how we do things, but we need everyone’s support to make this happen. We’re all striving to create our truly, Inclusive Co-op, and this is one of the ways to get there.
If you missed the session, the recording will be available via: Diversity & Inclusion Streams or sent as a link through your business comms. (Please note the recording is for internal colleagues only and must not be shared)