In-house disability forum

I want to set up a disability forum for employees in house to enable employees to meet with other individuals (all staff including carers etc.) to be able to share experiences and potentially bring to the company ways in which we can be more focused on supporting the needs of disabled people in the workplace.

I have never set one of these up before and so I wondered if people out there were able to share any experiences good and bad to help me get it right? Ie what is the scope of the forum, what is not in scope, indepenence from any company input/influence etc etc..

I have tried the usual 'google' searches for information about other companies similar and have found very little information. If anyone has setup a similar forum for other reasons ie LBGT instead of disability related, then I would very much welcome their thoughts and experiences also.

Thanks for any help you can offer!!!

  • Hi Steve

    We have an Investors in Diversity Steering Group in-house which has about 6 colleagues from different teams along with members of external centres/providers that comes together every quarter.  We always have an ongoing action plan for this.

    We discuss ways of increasing our awareness of EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) both for our own colleagues and for our customers (who are learners in colleges, etc) so as you can imagine, we work with centres to ensure that there are reaosnable adjustments in place for blind, dyslexic learners, etc, etc.

    Hope this helps!


  • Steve

    I was once involved in something similar to what Sarah describes but I must admit the outputs were not great.  There was no real buy in from senior management and initiatives were often few and far between.

    What I have found useful is in terms of raising awareness of disability is the "positive about disabled people" scheme run through jobcentreplus.  It is a simple scheme, however, in my view what it does is remind you about what processes you already have within your organisation that support people with a disability or that can be tweaked to do so.

    I have also found that the support needed by a person with a disability varies drastically even between people with similar "problems". 

    I think that you would need to set out very clearly what the purpose was, how you deal with membership and what outputs you are seeking.  You would also need to consider what happens if it does not produce the results you were hoping for and how you might disband it. 

  • Hi Steve

    Commendable intentions, but so often the effective appreciation and application of equality and diversity is in inverse proportion to the number of discussion groups etc about it.

    As Juan says, it has to be driven from the very top. The 'two ticks' Jobcentre Scheme I can wholly recommend too, as well as deploying an effective communicator / trainer who can get the message through to the bulk of your workforce and keep regularly hammering it in to them. I was lucky enough once to hire one of these scarce people, and she sways used the analogy that equal opps. Now is at the same place where health and safety at work was around 30 years ago: we have all seen a sea change in H&S awareness and provision over recent years and need to push E&D in exactly the same direction - to make it the norm / peoples' right and not the rare exception embraced only by the most progressive employers.
  • Hi Steve,

    Conscious this post is old, but I just spotted it in the list of topics on the diversity forum and wanted to get in touch because it is an area I'm very familiar.

    I was the deputy network lead for Accenture's disability resource group, Accent on Enablement until I left the organisation earlier this year. I have been involved for a number of years and am happy to share some of our experiences.

    We also tried to work in partnership with our other diversity employee networks including LGBT, so can share some insights learnt from those groups. Worth looking to see if Stonewall have any advice as the LGBT community seem to have had successful workplace networks for much longer than there have been disability-focussed ones.

    As a first step, read some of the work conducted by Kate Nash into employee resource groups and the benefits of these organisations. http://www.katenashassociates.com/. She's a great person to connect with and can put you in touch with other network leads. Kate has recently written a book on disclosure of disability in the workplace as well. 

    I would also look into partnering with the Business Disability Forum. They are employer-led and leading the way on "disability confidence" within the workplace.  So much so, DWP have adopted that phrasing for their own campaign. 

    The Two Ticks scheme has been brought into disrepute lately as although in theory is it good practice, research has shown that most employers don't actually uphold their commitments. I am not sure I can recommend it anymore, although I perhaps would have done in the past. 

    Anyway hope this is helpful for anyone wanting to explore this topic.