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By Natalie Clegg, OCTO Officer & Chair of Represent

Disability History Month is upon us and never has disability inclusion been more important. 

In the last 18 months, many of us across the world have experienced isolation, loneliness, difficulty in accessing basic needs, and the complexity of navigating healthcare systems. If I’m honest, many people got a glimpse of what life can be like as a disabled person, but for many disabled people this happens all the time, not just in a pandemic.

Disability History Month is a UK event which has been running for 12 years and aims to celebrate the lives of disabled people past and present. This year the themes are Hidden Disabilities, and Relationships. 

Most of the significant changes to protect and support disabled people in government and policy are only very recent – in the last decade or so, not much came before it. The Equality Act 2010 brought together multiple anti-discrimination laws and is the most recent act to protect disabled people both in the workplace and wider society – replacing the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Understanding disability history, and what life is like for disabled people today, helps us to create a better future. Some disabled people will have been born with a disability, others may have become disabled through their life. Whatever the situation is for our colleagues, the Represent Network is here to support.

Represent is Co-op’s colleague network for disabled people and we officially launched this year, with myself as Chair and Gareth Smith and Katy Brown as Co-Chair’s due to our own lived experience of living with disabilities or parenting disabled children.  We’re passionately working alongside the Inclusion team and wider business to break down the barriers for disability, create a more accessible Co-op for our colleagues and create a better experience for our disabled colleagues and candidates.  

One important issue is language and how we talk about what disability is. Represent prefer the terms ‘disabled people’ or ‘disabled colleagues’. This is because we are disabled by our environment and its physical, attitudinal, communication and societal barriers which create an unfair advantage for non-disabled people.

Many people don’t feel comfortable identifying with disability, and that’s okay. The Represent community is here for all colleagues who have lived experiences of impairments, long term health conditions, neurodiversity and mental health conditions. That also includes parents and carers too.

Our panel event for Disability History Month will explore Disability and Relationships. Colleagues and guest speakers will discuss their experiences of relationships with colleagues, family, friends, and customers. Join in on Thursday 2 December 6pm – 7.30pm you can book here.

You can read this pack to find out more about Disability History Month.

If you’re disabled you may want to join our Represent colleague network which supports disabled colleagues, and welcomes non-disabled colleagues as allies who can implement positive change. You can find out more by emailing disabilitynetwork@coop.co.uk.

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Be yourself always, Colleague support, Do what matters most, Great place to work, Show you care, Succeed together

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