Cat: What needs to be done to increase understanding of disability and the benefits of employing or retaining people with disabilities like MS?
Graeme Whippy: Right. So, how do we change employers’ mindsets around difference, I think that’s the bigger question. I think one of the challenges we have faced for many years is that people recruit people like them. And that means that you will end up with a very homogenous group. Now, in TV that does not work, because if everybody thinks the same, then you’re not going to be getting fresh ideas and fresh perspectives.
And actually, that applies not just to TV but to all businesses. If you create a really good mixed team of people who have different life experiences, different perspectives, different ways of approaching problems or situations, you will get a much greater variety of ideas and solutions coming up, and that could work just as well in the bank as it would do in a TV company, okay? So I think the first step is actually for employers to really, really, truly understand the value of difference.
You know, we’ve got a different life experience, we would bring something different to the workplace. You then layer on top of that, disability. Now, the challenge with disability is that people still tend to be quite awkward about it. So they’re kind of getting quite cool, I think, with the fact that somebody might be gay. I think they’re getting cooler around the colour of someone’s skin, although I think there is still a massive problem there in the media sector. But we’re kind of getting there with those.
But with disability, it’s still more of a taboo, awkward kind of subject. And then the second thing with disability is the assumptions that people make about what you can and can’t do, or what a disabled person can and can’t do. So it’s kind of layers of stuff that an employer’s got to deal with.
So they’ve got to get their head around difference is good, get their head around the fact that a disabled person, it doesn’t have to be awkward, and actually, they can be bloomin’ good at the job. They’ve got to get through all that, kind of all those mental barriers then to start thinking about recruiting and employing disabled people.
So it’s about changing, the short answer is, it’s about changing employer mindset and actually getting them to see the talent that’s there, not the colour of its skin, its sexual orientation or whether it has an impairment or a health condition, or a condition.
And how do you do that?
How do you do that? Proof of the pudding.
I think we still don’t have – what haven’t we done? We still don’t have enough senior leaders in business, employers who are disabled. I think as soon as you get somebody who has an impairment or a physical or a mental condition, that then starts to say to people, look, I’m where I am, I’m successful, but I’ve got x. And actually role models like that are incredibly powerful. We’re not there yet.
So that’s kind of, that’s where we need to get to. In lieu of that I think we need those employers who are enlightened, who get those things I’ve just spoken about, need to shout about it. Stories, tell stories about successful disabled people, what they’ve achieved, how they’ve achieved it, how they’ve managed to battle their way through the attitudinal biases and barriers that are there. So I think it’s about the proof of the pudding’s in the eating, it’s about people showing what can be done. And there’s probably training, and there’s sources of advice.
It’s letting people know about Access to Work and all this kind of stuff, like the practical things behind it as well.