Audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities will be taken on a multi-sensory story of discovery in Home at The Courtyard.

Frozen Light Theatre Company present their latest production, Home, which tells the story of Scarlet and Olive. In a new environment which is full of surprises, the pair must learn how to survive and create a future together as they face the challenges ahead. Aimed at teenagers and adults, the show is a tale of unexpected friendship in an unknown world.

Home is an exciting multi-sensory theatre experience for audiences with PMLD who will be able to interact one-to-one with performers and join in collective sensory moments. Tickets are limited for this show as it is performed for an audience of six due to the interactive nature of the production.

Home will be in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre on Monday, March 13 at 11am and 1.30pm. To book, call the box office on 01432 340555 or visit


Written By: Philippa May

Tipping point reached as a majority of MSPs back inclusive education proposal

A MAJORITY of MSPs have backed proposals to provide an education that teaches pupils about the range of sexualities and gender identities in society, making it the first among European parliaments to support such a scheme.

Sixty six MSPs have backed the programme of the Time for Inclusive Education (Tie) campaign, the culmination of their two year fight to win broad public and political support for school level education to tackle the abuse and isolation of LGBT+ youth.

For months the campaigners have been calling on MSPs to back a five point pledge calling for legislation to require schools to implement inclusive education, deal more robustly with instances of homophobic abuse and bullying.

Speaking to CommonSpace a Tie spokesperson said: “It’s a big moment for the campaign and it’s a big moment for Scotland, being the first in country in Europe with a parliamentary mandate for this sort of thing.”

“It is important to recognise that this parliamentary mandate for our calls is a historical moment in the push for equal rights in Scotland. We now look forward to working with MSPs to ensure that the strategy outlined in our pledge is realised, as it is time to end the legacy of Section 28 – once and for all.”

The campaign’s demands are still under consideration in the Scottish parliament’s equality and human rights and education and skills committees. Campaigners hope the parliamentary majority will speed parliamentary process to new legislation.

A landslide of MSPs have backed the campaigns demands since it led an historic LGBT+ Pride procession through Glasgow in 2016. Pressure has increased across Scotland’s parties, including in the ruling SNP, whose leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has repeatedly prasied the work of the Tie campaign.

Christina McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse said: “The Scottish Parliament has made herself clear – we support the Tie campaign. We support inclusive education in our schools; we support training and guidance for our teachers; and we support, unequivocally, our young LGBTI pupils who have had the courage to speak out and work with Tie.”

“It’s been an immense privilege to work with the campaign to get to this stage but we all know that there is still more work to be done. I’m glad that across all political divisions, those who have signed the pledge acknowledge that we all must work together to create that safe, secure and tolerant country for our LGBTI young people.”

The Tie campaign has proved a model of activist success. It emerged from the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum and has reshaped the debate about LGBT+ rights in Scotland’s new political era.

The pledge has also be signed up to by 11 MPs and two peers in the House of Lords.

Polling conducted by Tie found that 90 per cent of LGBT+ people have faced persecution at school, and 27 per cent have attempted suicide as a result of bullying.

The five point pledge signed up to by a majority of Scotland’s MSPs

Legislation: New legislation in the lifetime of this current parliamentary term, which outlines a requirement for all schools to be proactive in tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia through an inclusive educational approach. Legislation should act to benchmark the three major components of LGBTI inclusive education: inclusion, training and monitoring.

Teacher training: The delivery of a teacher training programme which is free at the point of access and focuses specifically on LGBTI issues, for teachers who are currently serving and student trainee teachers (via Initial Teacher Education).

Curricular inclusion: LGBTI inclusion in individual subject areas, achieved via approved curriculum mapping guidance as well as mandated LGBTI inclusive Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) education. Such materials should be accessible for all schools, with a clear requirement of uptake.

Recording of bullying: All local authorities should record specific incidents of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools – in accordance with existing guidance and expectations for the recording of bullying concerning other protected characteristics, such as race.

Monitoring: Monitor any steps that are taken with regards to LGBTI inclusivity in schools.  This should include the collection of data at local authority level, as well as the addition of a specific LGBTI indicator in the Education Scotland school inspections process, in line with HGIOS4.


Written By: David Jamieson

It is wonderful to work and forget my disability

In 2015 I lost both my legs below the knees, the hearing in my right ear, and all the muscles in my hands due to sepsis, so I’m still figuring out my new life. Work-wise, I’m aware how privileged I am. For one, I have been able to return to my job – albeit with huge amounts of support. The university has also adapted the main building I work in and is starting to adapt two others, and I have been given specialised computer equipment. Through Access to Work (ATW) I have taxis and support workers, which enable me to get to work and do my job when I’m there. ATW is complicated and stressful to set up, but it is working for me, although the bureaucracy is a constant headache. Because I have to regularly reapply, I have this nagging anxiety that it will stop. I could not do my job without support workers so I live in fear that I will lose them.

Although I have returned to some aspects of my work, others remain a challenge and some I will never be able to do, which means I need to rethink substantial parts of my job. I love my job, and I am so happy to be back, but I grieve for the many aspects of it that I have lost. My colleagues and students have been awesome. Sometimes I even forget about this messed up body of mine when I’m teaching or working with colleagues – I can’t describe how wonderful it is to forget.
Liz, Oxford, associate professor of Egyptology

My manager refused to recognise my disability

I suffered a back injury at work, helping to move an ill patient in bed while we were understaffed. I slipped a disk that required surgery, effectively disabling me and I had to take more than a year off work.

The bullying started before my return to work. The occupational health department expected me to go back to work post-operation, with no restrictions in my duties. They refused to acknowledge any disability despite me telling them I could not even lift a mug of tea or walk up a flight of stairs. I was told if I did not go back I would not have a job.

I went back to work and was bullied for the next few years. I would be allocated the heaviest patient in the ward, or the most agitated patient – basically I felt I was being set up to fail. I struggled on for two years with my manager refusing to recognise my disability.

Eventually, after continually complaining to HR, I was assessed and medically suspended from work, before being made redundant. I wanted to take them to court and see a union solicitor, but I received no response from them. Then I effectively had a nervous breakdown and did not leave the house for the next six months. I have changed because of this experience – I find it difficult to be happy and I have not stepped foot back in the hospital where it all happened.
Anonymous nurse in Scotland

I’ve always found it difficult to pass job interviews

Although I can’t say for sure that it’s because of my disability, throughout my working life I have found it difficult to pass interviews. I can only use one hand and walk with a distinctive limp because of being paralysed down one side from a head injury as a child. I only apply for jobs that I can do with one hand, but I can’t help but notice that potential employers don’t want to employ me when they see my disability.

I pride myself in not requiring any support from my employer. I always push myself to demonstrate that I’m as capable as my able-bodied colleagues. I work unpaid overtime to make sure that I get as much done as everyone else. This isn’t required by my employer – it’s a matter of personal pride.

My former manager admitted that after they had interviewed me, the panel had a discussion about whether I would be able to carry equipment. They decided to give me the benefit of the doubt, and I have been with the company for over a decade.

I wonder how many other prospective employers I’d applied to before had the same discussion and decided not to risk it.
Anonymous, 50, Nottingham

Co-workers called me a hypochondriac

I work for the NHS and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in recent years. It was aggressive and I went from having a few aches to struggling to move. The combination of pain and side effects from the medication means that I am now off work until my symptoms can be controlled.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a hidden disability. It is often mistaken for osteoarthritis, which most elderly people will get, but it is in fact an autoimmune disease. It causes intense pain in the joints but also affects the heart, lungs, bowel and other organs. Treatments are targeted at reducing the effectiveness of the immune system – using toxic drugs such as those used for chemotherapy, so people like myself face the pain of the disease combined with the side effects of the medication.

I look completely normal and healthy – which is a problem. When I chose to disclose my condition at work, colleagues said: “Yes I’ve got aches and pains too”. I have been told by co-workers that I am a hypochondriac, that I’m having time off for what everyone has to put up with as they get older. I’ve been told “the side effects can’t be that bad, and if I wanted to work I could”. I often feel I am being blamed by people for my own illness.

My employer asked that I be seen by an occupational health consultant. They immediately signed me off work, wondering how I had managed to struggle on. They wrote a letter to my employer reminding them my condition is classed as a disability and also pointing out that in his opinion they should have been grateful I had struggled on despite them. It was the last thing I expected but I cried because I felt someone finally believed me. I had always gone above and beyond for my employer in the past, and I felt they went out of their way to make my disability feel shameful.

Since I revealed my disability, my career hasn’t progressed

I am a regional manager with multiple sclerosis, and it’s invisible. In my current company I was told I had great potential, however I recently confided in my boss about my disability. Since then they’ve instructed me to complete risk assessments and have talked about my health at every review. My career progression has also halted. I’ve not had a day off sick in 10 years because of my MS. But I will not make the mistake of telling anyone again.

I was suspended when I asked to start using a wheelchair

I became disabled a few years ago due to a progressive illness. I had been in my role for seven years, but my disability came at a time of change within the company. I needed software that cost around £100 – it was never provided so I under-performed, and as a result was made redundant.

I found another job within two weeks. I then asked for reasonable adjustments but was again denied. I struggled to perform and was managed out after 10 months. I was out of work again for just a few weeks. Despite not having a sick day since diagnosis, I was suspended when I asked to start using a wheelchair. I was then offered money to leave, making it clear there was no place for a wheelchair user in their office.
Anonymous, north-west England


French cosmetics brand Lancôme is focusing on the power and diversity of women in its latest campaign to mark the extension of its foundation range.

The 40 Shades, 40 Powers campaign introduces consumers to 40 completely different women who are successful and challenging the status quo in their lives. It looks at people like TV presenter Sophie Morgan, innovator and founder of Nubian Skin Ade Hassan, and Joanne Sui, a civil engineer for the Thames Tideway Tunnel, in an attempt to celebrate the power of women and the diversity of the UK population.

It has been created by the Brooklyn Brothers ad agency and will also include three short films profiling celebrated director and producer Gurinder Chadha, Olympic cyclist Laura Kenny and ballroom dancer Oti Mabuse. The three documentaries provide an insight into the obstacles that each of them had to overcome in the pursuit of their success.

The videos will be used in a fully integrated campaign across Lancôme digital, owned and earned channels in the UK and Ireland as well as PR and social. None of the images used will be air brushed or digitally enhanced.

Marina Torres, UK marketing director at L’Oréal Luxe, said: “It is our belief that beauty is the freedom to be yourself – and what better way than partnering with 40 incredible and inspirational women of different age, ethnicity and background.”

Miranda Mitchell, managing partner of The Brooklyn Brothers, added: “From the start the Lancôme team shared our ambition to create a powerful and honest campaign that celebrated all women, no matter what age, shade or passion. It has been incredibly inspiring and heartening to work with everyone involved for the launch phase and we can’t wait for more.”

The Brooklyn Brothers was appointed to the account in October after a three way pitch run by L’Oréal’s UK’s procurement department. 40 Shades, 40 Powers marks the first campaign that the agency has developed since being appointed.


Written By: Tony Connelly

Diversity. Having worked in the equality and diversity field over several decades, I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes fear diversity has become more of a buzzword than a real force for inclusiveness.

Diversity is the buzzword in everything from workshops to expos and conferences and everything in-between, but what about in the workplace? It’s all too easy to get execs to give talks and bold statements or host glitzy awards about the importance of diversity and yet it’s still so difficult to find actual examples of growth and success.

“When its potential is tapped, diversity is a powerful tool. But we won’t manage this with facile training sessions and snooze-fest seminars.” Belinda Parmar

Twenty years ago my company 15 Degrees paved the way for diversity marketing in the UK. It was far from easy but very rewarding. That’s why it disappoints me that diversity conversations are still ongoing mostly because they seem to be just that: conversations. Tech is an industry that is notoriously tough to crack and needs so much more than motivational talks. According to reports by Tech London Advocates, almost half of London’s technology companies do not believe a diverse workforce improves company growth. This attitude is reflected in the statistics on gender (of 40,000 firms based in London nearly 1,000 have an entirely male workforce) but racial diversity is even worse.

The percentage of black employees at YouTube and Twitter just about says it all as they represent only 2% of the total workforce. Twitter employs just 49 black people out of a total US workforce of 2,910. Facebook only hired seven black people in its latest diversity count. Ethnic minority graduates in Britain are much less likely to be employed than their white peers six months after graduation and many can expect to earn less for years afterwards. It’s a murky and multi-layered issue with technology companies often blaming the recruitment pipeline and claiming there aren’t enough people in the BAME community graduating with relevant degrees and applying for jobs in tech. Yet the data shows that there are many more BAME students studying computer science and engineering. So why isn’t this reflected in the workplace?

According to a study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, BAME graduates are up to 15% less likely to be employed than their white British peers six-months after graduation. Not to mention huge disparities in wages for ethnic minority women and black Caribbean men who do manage to find jobs after graduation and their white counterparts. We need real, pro-active solutions to create a diverse tech industry.

This is why I was thrilled to hear about a brand new consortium of nine black technology professionals who have come together to form UK Black Tech. Tech specialist at Vodafone and co-founder of career mentoring brand Your Future, Your Ambition Rashada Harry says: ‘UKBT believes in the power of diversity in advancing equality and equity in tech. We emphasise that diversity & inclusion are not just a moral issue, but a key to the tech sector’s economic performance and growth.’

We need great minds like these to come together and raise the profile of different faces in the UK Tech Sector. One in four children at primary schools are from a BAME population, yet only one in eight go on to be employed. Serious conversations aren’t enough, this is a serious issue that demands serious efforts.

We must work to create well-rounded leaders, with the key knowledge, skills, motivation and awareness to deliver practical steps to improve individual and the businesses performance. If we can support the leaders of tomorrow and assist the leaders of today to inspire, motivate and deliver success then I believe we can stop having the diversity conversation and start seeing tangible results on every level and at every stage.


Written By: Dr Diahanne Rhiney

Depression is now the leading cause of disability across the globe, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed.

More than 4% of the world’s population lives with depression – with young people, pregnant or post-partum women, and the elderly being most affected.

According to the United Nations (UN), the mental illness costs more than $1 trillion a year globally. This is due to loss of productivity, ‘often as a result of sufferers being unable to function at work or cope with daily life’.

“Depression is the single largest contributor to years lived with disability. So it’s the top cause of disability in the world today,” Dr Dan Chisholm from WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse said in a news briefing.

The organisation’s latest body of research found that depression is 1.5 times more common among women than men.

Across the globe, 250 million people suffer anxiety disorders, including phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Around 80% of those with mental illness live in low and middle-income countries.

Discussing the three groups of people who are particularly vulnerable to depression, Dr Chisholm said: “The pressures on today’s youth are like no other generation perhaps.

“Another target group is women who are pregnant or have just given birth. Depression around that period is actually extremely common, around 15% of women will suffer not just ‘the blues’, but a diagnosable case of depression.”

People in retirement are also susceptible. He added: “When we stop working or we lose our partner we become more frail, more subject to physical diseases and disorders like depression do become more common.”

An estimated 800,000 people die by suicide each year, a “pretty horrifying figure”, Chisholm said, before adding that it is more common in males in higher income countries, but more common in females in lower and middle-income countries.

In light of the findings, WHO is running a campaign to tackle stigma and misconceptions called ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’.

Chisholm concluded: “We feel that is a key first step, that if we want to bring mental health, depression and other mental disorders out of the shadows, we need to be able to talk about it.”


Written By: Natasha Hinde

Latest Blog

Diversity Sells

  • 2 years ago
  • written by NDA

French Vogue has announced that it will feature Valentina Sampaio, a Brazilian transgender model, on its cover this March. This is a first for Vogue, and the first time a transgender model has ever appeared on the cover of a French magazine.

In the pages of the issue, the editor-in-chief, Emmanuelle Alt describes the motivation behind the decision to include Sampaio: “beyond her evident physical qualities and her sparkling personality, (Sampaio) embodies… a long and painful fight against being perceived as a ‘gender exile’”

However, French Vogue is a bit late to the game. Several American fashion magazines have celebrated transgender models on their covers, most notably Vanity Fair’s July 2015 cover starring Caitlyn Jenner.

This news comes amid the backlash surrounding the ‘plus size’ model Ashley Graham’s shoot, appearing next to Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner; Vogue is under an increasing amount of pressure to show diversity and inclusion. Critics claimed that the shoot was orchestrated so that cleverly placed limbs made Graham appear smaller compared to the other models.

Meanwhile, photographer Mikael Jansson released unpublished images online of supermodel Karlie Kloss posing as a traditional Japanese geisha girl for Vogue’s ‘diversity’ issue. These images provoked a lot of angry sentiment, accusing Vogue of white-washing and cultural appropriation.

But diversity sells, Vogue Italia’s 2008 ‘All-Black’ issue became the best-selling issue in Vogue Italia’s history. The issue showcased only black models. Big names and fashion icons, like Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Warsame and newer faces like Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman, Sessilee Lopez alike graced its pages.

It’s articles focused on black women within film and media, highlighting wider issues of racism within the arts, entertainment and fashion industries. This issue was so coveted that advertising sales went up 30% and it ran out of print not once but twice. Marking the first time Condé Nast chose to reprint a magazine issue to satisfy its readerships insatiable demand.

There is a long way to go until there is complete fair representation within fashion magazines. It is, after all, hard for a leopard to change its spots. But it is integral to the survival of Vogue, and all other fashion publications in the 21st century, to remember that fashion is for everyone. Perhaps, it is arguable that ensuring this has now even become a responsibility. After all, to stay a leading player within the fashion industry, one must keep up with the times.


Written By: Elle Magill

Some of the city’s most severely disabled children are enjoying an individually tailored journey to school – thanks to a £350,000 cash injection from the local authority.

Nottingham City Council has invested £350,000 in nine specially-adapted ambulances to transport severely disabled children to and from Oak Field School and Sports College.

A total of 16 pupils are picked up every day from areas including St Ann’s and The Meadows and taken to Oak Field, in Wigman Road, Bilborough.

The school caters for five to 18-year-olds with learning difficulties and physical disabilities, and the ambulances are designed to transport students in wheelchairs or beds if necessary.

The council previously employed a private company to run its high-dependency transport service but felt that bringing it in-house would save money over time. There is the potential for the specialist vehicles to be hired out in the day between school runs to bring in more money.

It is also felt that the authority will be able to create a high-quality service and provide flexibility to meet the specific needs of pupils.

Each fully-trained driver and escort will operate the same route each day and will transport the same two children, so will become familiar to their families and understand their individual requirements.

School headteacher David Stewart welcomed the council’s investment.

Mr Stewart said: “This is responding very effectively to changing needs of our pupils. As more and more children are with complex health needs and we need to get them to school safely and securely. We need the right sort of vehicles and the right sort of staff to get them to school.

“It’s much easier that it’s run by the local authority – all the training and all the management is better in-house and we can try and keep costs realistic in a time when we know there’s a shortage and everybody is having to tighten their belts. In the long-term it will save money.

“The vehicles are very clean, bright and fit for purpose. They are dedicated to these children. Other vehicles will go around the streets picking up children, whereas these can just come from home straight to school, so for instance, children with oxygen problems and breathing problems can be here very quickly.

“I think the children have all been very positive about the new transport – who wouldn’t want to be in a nice, bright shiny new bus?”

Councillor Sam Webster, portfolio holder for education, employment and skills at the city council, said: “This is a significant investment by the council and we’ve done it because we understand the importance of each child in the city having the opportunity to attend school every day.

“This will ultimately save the authority money at a time when our budgets are being squeezed ever more tightly – plus there is the added potential for these specially-adapted vehicles to be hired out in the hours between school drop-off and pick-up.”


Written By: Tracy Walker


I wrote this article to try and collect some of my thoughts concerning Diversity and Inclusion. I work with many people who have been given the ‘label’ of being ‘Diverse’ and as, together, we gain an appreciation of the individual’s strengths and abilities, the empirical evidence demands I now ask if it time to redefine ‘Diversity’?


The dictionary defines ‘Diversity’ as ‘the state of being diverse’. This somewhat opaque explanation fuelled a hunger to dig a little deeper, to unearth more about what exactly is ‘diversity’.

‘Very different’ was one definition stemming from the Latin, ‘Diverto’, another meaning ‘to separate’. At this point, something that had been nagging away within my mind, was brought into the light. For within today’s inclusive society, with efforts to ‘normalise’ people who historically had been alienated from society do we not use, as Evelyn Waugh described ‘…not even an apt word – it is a dead word…’?

‘Very different’ and ‘Separate’; words that recall another phrase, “Quo modo sedet sola civitas”. But then the life of a city is only as full as its people allow it to be, and, if the city stands lonely, you will be sure to find its people do also.

Of some seven and a half billion people on this planet, there exists a gap between the dichotomy of what is deemed to be ‘normal’ and what is perceived as being different. Disability, sexuality, gender, race, creed, colour, age, education, nation of origin and nationality, just some of the reasons people in life become marginalised from the main body of society. From my own experiences working with people from diverse backgrounds, marginalisation for most comes as a result of order or circumstance, not choice. Those we deem to be ‘diverse’ often succumb to majority hegemony. Within some aspects of life, change, often expensive in the purchasing, has been achieved. Would we not be able to show Rosa Parkes or Emily Davison how far we have come to level the field of equality for black people or women? We freely accept that, globally, far more needs to be done for both demographics, but the consensus must surely be that more than a ‘start’ has been made. However, through the veins of this article flows, not morals or ethics, but a rethink of the terms and attitudes towards diversity today, so I must not let such an emotive subject distract me from my main theme.

As we have already touched on, language plays a big part in the subject of diversity. If we are to focus on one area, given the brevity of this article, we would like to investigate disability. Within the first three letters of that word we can see how we envisage such people. Not by what they can do, but what they can’t. Our take-off point is already negative. ‘Dis’. Perhaps this is why so many organisations, whose purpose is to enable disabled people to exist with normality, present those they support, from the very beginning, as being unable to do something. But what is a disability?

Again, with our starting point being the dictionary, we see words such as impairment, limit, hamper, hinder, disadvantage and handicap. Thankfully, handicaps now appear to be the preserve of golfers, for which, when one considers its evolution from ‘hand-in-cap’ indicating a person’s existence being reliant upon hand-outs, we give thanks. Désactivéé, deaktiviert, it’s a global problem!

According to the Equality Act 2010, ‘you are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal activities’. There follows, on the UK government website, a plethora of pdfs detailing the law. I applaud the efforts of the UK government, and leave investigating the effectiveness of the minutiae to those more qualified than myself to examine. However, one thing leaps out immediately. What exactly is the definition of ‘normal’ with regard activities? Does such language allow for the inclusion of someone with what the author terms, ‘Legacy Injuries’ such as the car-crash survivor who suffers from a below standard short-term memory, or the high achieving amateur athlete who struggles to stand up immediately in later life due to knee pain? Is asthma a disability? Daily asthma attacks are counted as being a disability, however having asthma does not.

From language comes categorization, from within which we gain visibility on behaviour. From behaviour, we follow a road to ‘safe to engage’ or ‘keep your distance’, from a willingness to give support to attitudes more familiar to Victorians out for a stroll and a gawp in London’s Bethlehem Hospital. It is not uncommon for people who have suffered disabling head injuries to become aggressive. It has been suggested that much of Henry VIII violent behaviour came about as a result of a head injury caused by a jousting accident. Could we be so bold as to suggest classifying drug and alcohol abuse or other addictions as a disability? Such ‘illnesses’ most definitely have a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on one’s ability to do normal activities’. To strengthen such an argument we know that the increased levels of Tetra Hydra Cannabinol (THC) found in Skunk increases levels of psychosis which most definitely is a ‘disability’. As with so much of our work, necessity of context prevails.


11 million people in the UK have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability. Approximately, 1.9% of the UK population uses a wheelchair, which, if we take the UK population of 64.1 million people, as it was in 2014, means there are 1,217,900 wheelchair users in the UK. If we look at these statistics another way, 17.1% of UK population in 2014 had a disability and a mere 1.9% used a wheelchair. With this in mind, perhaps we should now be considering a change of the logo that symbolises disabled people, the figure in the wheelchair. If this logo, which is actually the International Symbol of Access, represents a mere 1.9% of disabled people, those with a long-term illness or impairment, in order to avoid a medical hierarchy with marginalisation within marginalisation, could readers suggest an alternative image? When Susanne Koefoed designed the symbol in 1968 she was inspired to do so by the writings of Victor Papanek, who felt disabled people were figures who were in need of renewed attention. After 49 years, is it unreasonable to assume disabled people might again be in need of renewed attention? We have learned that new designs have recently been proposed with a desire to show energy, movement and activity. However, such designs do not address the points made within this article and, indeed, we understand have been rejected universally except in New York and, also, within the Museum of Modern Art. Would it also be facetious of us to question the value of such a logo that isn’t compatible with braille given that roughly 2,000,000 people in the UK live with sight loss?

But who are we if not defined by our status?

The true essence of an individual cannot be captured without context. ‘The self’ exists interdependently with the eclectic multiplicity of its environment. Thus, within the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is of course…the king. On the other hand, within the leper colony, the healthy person is the diverse one. Where negative and positive turn over and lie on each other’s back, do we look up or down? Developing such thought forces the light to shine on what is good. Off the top of our heads we could immediately think of a healthy list of people who rebelled against conforming, whose talents immortalised their ability. Beethoven (1712-1773) was deaf, Lear (1812-1888) suffered from Epilepsy. James Holman (1786-1857) was completely blind and yet he circumnavigated the globe amongst his other travelling achievements. And it is not only the maverick in us that propels us to act conversely to how we are perceived that we should. The existence of an inquisitive mind allows us to ignore the onslaught of muttered comments, sneer or abuse. I wonder how many stones were cast at the feet of Archimedes, Fleming, Rontgen, Silver or Coover? Without their desire to explore, to see beyond apparent ‘failure’ or ‘limitation’, we may have waited a long time to understand displacement, or to enjoy the benefits of penicillin, x-ray, the post-it note or super glue.

History catalogues for us those people who overcame. Edward Lear, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Elton John, Lord Byron, just a few names that spring to mind when thinking of great people with disabilities. We wonder if the paradise that Milton lost was indeed his eyesight or did in fact his blindness create his paradise? What these people have in common was, and is, an ability, not as some would simplify to ‘get over it’, but to allow their abilities to not be overshadowed by their limitations.

One bank states on its website that ‘in broad terms, diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another.’ If this is the case then we must conclude that diversity as we know it, the identification and segregation of people due to being different or having a limitation, a defect if you like, must be redefined. For ultimately, we are all diverse. Each and everyone of us constitutes a unique set of abilities, limitations, values, preferred operating environments, strengths and weaknesses. Surely now is the time to understand that we are all different and to embrace diversity from a position of strength and not weakness. For me, the person who has a true disability is the person who wakes each morning with no direction, the person who finds it impossible to relate or empathise with a single other human being, the person who goes to bed each night feeling unfulfilled. These are the true limitations of mankind and they exist within the normalised majority far more than the marginalised minority. And the greatest disability of them all? The comfort we derive from and our constant need for stereotyping, homogenising and labelling.

Wind alone cannot bring about change – no, it is only when in concert with the very fabric of the existence of its object that metamorphosis occurs. If sand dunes were concrete structures they would not shift so much! Change occurs when two pre-destined, in concert ideas and efforts act together. With this in mind, the shroud of negativity encircling the diversity agenda could be ripped off, stripping an individual down to the very nudity of who they are as a person – not who they are as a statistic or outwardly defined brand. It is vital that whatever box you tick based upon, disability, sexuality, gender, race, creed, colour, age, education, nation of origin and nationality, that your own journey in life, and visibility of such to others, comes about as a result of your capabilities and not your situation.


Written By: Nicholas Harrison

The wage freeze we are living through is the longest since Victorian times. The public sector pay cap means that many employees entered 2017 facing cuts to real pay. Nurses, police officers, ambulance drivers and firefighters are all earning less than they did five years ago. And though the gender pay gap for men and women in their 20s has narrowed to 5%, overall women still earn an average of 18% less.

So how can the powerless get their voices heard? Once trade unions were the obvious answer, but 55% of today’s workforce in Britain has never been in a union. Break this down by age, and the picture is even starker. Of those aged 16 to 24, fewer than 10% are unionised; and for 25- to 35-year-olds, the robust and energetic drivers of the economy, it’s only one in five. Although films such as Made in Dagenham, about the 1968 strike by female workers at Ford’s Dagenham car plant, reminded us of women’s role in union history, media coverage more often harks back to the 1970s stereotype of blokes, beer and sandwiches. And the continuing dispute between Southern rail and the unions, which flared up with another strike on Wednesday, does little to dispel this myth.

But something significant has changed: contrary to stereotypes, union membership among women is now higher than it is for men. The average member today is a woman in her 40s in the public sector. Meanwhile, last May’s survey of trade union membership by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills showed growth in both public and private sector membership. The survey also found that the union wage premium – the gap between the hourly earnings of union members and non-members – was 16% in the public sector and 7% in the private sector.

Many unions are working hard to adapt to changes in the economy and the structure of employment. But they are crucial in our age of zero-hours and sessional contracts, tribunal fees and no effective civil legal aid for male and female workers in employment disputes. An age in which the worst workplaces resemble totalitarian regimes where employees are told how to dress, who they are allowed to talk to, and when to use the toilet – and are monitored by robots or wearable tracker devices such as sociometric badges.

Despite the rise of the “gig economy” and job insecurity, and the ideological onslaught against workers’ rights in the government’s Trade Union Act 2016, there have been a number of recent practical victories by unions over the taxi app Uber, the food delivery empire Deliveroo and the delivery firm CitySprint. Similar cases against the courier companies Addison Lee, eCourier and Excel will follow this year.

Democracy is not just about voting in a general election every four or five years. As one senior national union organiser described it, we have lurched into a situation where clocking into work involves clocking out of liberal western democracy. A healthy employment relationship should not involve giving up our rights as citizens within working hours. Being closely timed, micro-monitored and controlled are invasions of human dignity.

The GMB organiser Nadine Houghton, a rising star among women trade unionists, wrote recently that working-class women were the unsung heroes of 2016. Teaching assistants in Derby and Durham, 95% of whom are female, took action against pay cuts of up to 25%. Female hospital workers, cleaners, hostesses and catering staff took on the multinational private contractor Aramark in the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. TwoEcuadorian cleaners, members of the United Women of the World Union, launched the campaign against Philip Green’s Topshop for a living wage.

And unions are now taking the concerns of their women members on board more than ever. The TUC leader, Frances O’Grady, champions its work on equalities issues. It is also developing a range of policy and campaign work in previously neglected areas, such as tackling discrimination against older women. A recent TUC seminar on the menopause was packed out, and attended by male health and safety officers from the rail and fire brigade unions. Aslef, the train drivers’ union, has negotiated a menopause workplace agreement, and Wales TUC has done a survey on this issue. Work on abortion rights, sexual harassment and violence against women continues to be a priority.

Although most unions are still led by men, there are a number of impressive women deputies; moreover, female trade unionists took Labour seats in parliament in 2015, and have had jobs in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. For example, Angela Rayner, the shadow education minister, was a care worker from Stockport who became a rep and then a senior steward for Unison. Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, and Rachael Maskell, until her recent resignation the shadow environment secretary, both entered politics via Unite.

Theresa May pays lip service to fair play on equal pay; but her government is doing nothing to alleviate the austerity that hits women hardest, and will hit harder still if it fails to protect employment rights when we leave the EU. Commenting on the government’s response this week to the women and equality select committee’s report on the gender pay gap, O’Grady called on ministers to “help parents to share out caring responsibilities more equally and challenge workplace discrimination full on”.

Next month’s TUC Women’s Conference begins on International Women’s Day, which emerged over a century ago directly out of the activism of women in the labour movement, demanding better pay and conditions as well as the vote. Today equal pay and the gender pay gap are increasingly at the forefront of trade union campaigning. By finding new ways to support its female members, the movement is growing anew from some of its strongest roots.


Written By: Rachel Holmes

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