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Now You See Me….Invisible Disability

Category: testimonial, disability, Hidden Disabilities, Invisible Disability, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, Invisible Disabilities Week, Disabilities, Capgemini, Active Inclusion

Disability.

A blog from Nicola Westwood, with an introduction from Bal Gill

This year, Capgemini UK is putting a spotlight on invisible disabilities via a new campaign: ‘Now You See Me’. While raising awareness of a number of conditions, we will also be adopting the nationwide ‘Sunflower Scheme’ and looking at best industry practices to see where we can improve.

Led my Nicola Westwood, as part of my Active Inclusion Team, I wanted to share her passion for this important topic with you all.

Nicola says:

I am a healthy, middle aged women whose only disability is the need to wear contact lenses. The whole concept of invisible disability was something I wasn’t aware of, and certainly had no experience of, before my son was diagnosed with Autism as a toddler in the early 2000’s.

Patrick is now almost 22. He’s a strapping, handsome young man and physically extremely able. If he was sat quietly in a café with me, you’d assume there was nothing wrong with him, but he is disabled. His lack of speech, his quirky behaviour, are both signs that he’s not quite ‘right’. I can say this, because I’m his mum, but I have spent years defending him, trying to educate people (no, he’s not naughty and no, a smack won’t help) but sadly, there is still a lot of ignorance about not just autism, but all invisible disabilities – and there are many!

Nicola and Patrick Westwood
Nicola and Patrick Westwood

Last year I joined the UK Active Inclusion Team and was thrilled to be asked to scope out a campaign on Invisible Disability – by lucky coincidence I was going to be able to use my experience and growing knowledge to raise awareness and educate other Capgemini employees. Researching the topic yielded some staggering numbers. The one that sticks in my mind was seeing that only 4% of disabled people are wheelchair users – the symbol that we instantly associated with disability! 80% of those who are classed as disabled have an invisible or hidden disability. Further research into the types of disability was a real education, too. Granted there were things I’d never heard of but also things that I had never even thought of as being a disability, were. My dad had slipped a disc at 19 that made him suffer chronic back ache for the rest of his life. He had been living with a disability.

Invisible Disability
Invisible Disability – Now You See Me

The more research I did, the more excited and motivated I became. Another lucky coincidence occurred, when I spotted on Twitter that Tesco had started to make Sunflower lanyards available throughout their stores. I’d heard of them, they’d been recommended to me as something we could maybe get for Patrick to highlight he was disabled. I picked up the phone and spoke to one of the team at Hidden Disabilities, and yes, we could adopt the scheme. Laura, the comms guru who works closely with the AI Team came up with the brilliant slogan to support the campaign ‘Now You See Me’. Evocative and thought provoking, and we designed a logo that incorporated the strapline and the symbol. More conversations followed with the Business Disability Forum, and my HR colleagues, on what we should and could cover as part of ‘Now You See Me’ – and then, with the full support of the UK AI Steering Board we launched our campaign in January.

The response to the launch was fantastic. People sharing details with me of their own experiences of living with an invisible disability, requests for badges – it was phenomenal!

Rory Burghes
Rory Burghes, VP Sponsor

As a team keen to explore other ways of sharing what we are working on in terms of Active Inclusion, we came up with the concept of ‘Inclusion Live’, panel discussions that people could attend virtually. The first one themed around Invisible Disability took place in February, hosted (nervously!) by me, with a trio of fantastic guests – our campaign sponsor, Capgemini VP Rory Burghes, and guests from the British Disability Forum and Hidden Disabilities. It was a good session, well received and feedback was great….but one thing became apparent on the call which was a big lesson learned – in setting up the session we’d actually not considered the needs of our audience, some of whom may have needed the adjustments we were talking about in the session. A horrible irony, and lesson learned, but it inspired me to reach out to my colleagues in the know and explore the accessibility features that Office 365 has and share these more widely (as well as utilising them!)

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase ‘it’s a journey’, it normally elicits an eye-roll from me but what I am doing, with the support of those contacts I have in respect of ‘Now You See Me’ really has been one, and will continue to be. We’ve made a great start, and will make continued progress, in ensuring we are all more aware on the topic – both as peers, colleagues, and managers. The overriding thing I’ve learned on this journey so far is that conversations are key – so don’t be nervous about having them in respect of either your own or someone else’s Invisible Disability – it will make a huge positive difference!

Author

Bal Gill

Head of Employee Experience & Inclusion

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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