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2019 DS Awards event banner next to the entrance

Disability Smart Award 2019 Winners

The Disability Smart Awards aim to showcase best practice and raise the bar on inclusive business.

2019 DS Awards event banner next to the entrance

Disability Smart Award Winners 2019

Highlights campaigns that reach out to an inclusive and diverse audience. 

Winner – Microsoft 

Microsoft's Digital Inclusion Lead,Michael Vermeersch and BDF's CEO, Diane Lightfoot

What we were looking for 

An innovative, engaging and inclusive campaign. We wanted to see disabled people visibly represented in a mainstream campaign.  

What did they do? 

Microsoft ran a campaign to raise awareness of the accessibility features in their devices and programmes. They ran this campaign in conjunction with John Lewis and The Guardian newspaper, as John Lewis is a trusted disability-smart employer, and The Guardian is a well-trusted news outlet. 

The campaign consisted of nine promotional articles and four double-page spreads in The Guardian, exploring different ways in which disabled people can benefit from accessible tech. These had headlines such as ‘From Segways to Ceefax: how inclusive design helps everyone’ and ‘“It’s allowed me to create again”: how technology helped me paint again’. The campaign highlighted how features of Microsoft devices and software can help a range of different disabilities. 

They also made a short promotional documentary about computer programming with visually impaired children.  

Why did they win? 

Microsoft’s campaign was a masterpiece of inclusive communications and marketing. They worked productively with two large external organisations to maximise both the reach and the credibility of their campaign. The campaign was diverse, including testimonials from people with a range of disabilities. It was a complex campaign with many moving parts, and it was conducted thoroughly and successfully.  

We were very impressed by the measurement of the campaign – they can confidently quantify its impact. Microsoft’s team set themselves tough goals, and they have more than met them with this campaign. Most impressively, the campaign has promise to lead to longer-term partnership between these organisations to continue raising awareness and uptake of accessible technologies. 

Recognises organisations that deliver outstanding service to every customer. 

Winner – Edinburgh Printmakers 


What we were looking for 

Organisations providing exceptional customer service to everyone, including customers with disabilities. They needed to demonstrate that they had trained customer facing staff, made anticipatory adjustments and were able to make any other adjustments quickly and efficiently. But more than that they needed to show that they had gone that extra mile in providing exceptional customer service.  

What did they do? 

Created a fully accessible, open access arts venue, with staff trained to meet the needs of anyone who might come through the door. They moved out of a listed building so they could make the space as accessible as possible, and they created the new space in consultation with artists with a range of disabilities.  

Edinburgh Printmakers welcoming a disabled customer

Edinburgh Printmakers have put in places measures to let visitors request adjustments before they arrive. With an app called ‘Welcome’ by Neatebox, customers can tell Edinburgh Printmakers staff if they need adjustments well in advance of their visit. The venue is always well staffed, and staff ensure the needs of visitors will be met, whether or not adjustments were requested in advance. In the words of CEO Shân Edwards: “Making our beautiful building accessible extends way beyond the physical space, and we are determined to create that accessibility in all we do.”

Why did they win? 

Edinburgh Printmakers pulled out all the stops to be as welcoming as possible for all customers. They recognise that arts venues can be intimidating for any visitor, and they’ve removed as many obstacles as they can to people of all abilities visiting. The space they’ve created is designed to allow as many people as possible to visit without needing any adjustments. They’ve also made it as simple as possible for visitors to request any adjustments they do need. 

Recognises outstanding design that shows real disability-smart flair. 

Winner – Herbal Essences 

What we were looking for 

Quality design everyone could use and appreciate. It could be anything, from a physical product to a building, a document to a website or app. Products that significantly and elegantly make life easier for disabled people. 

What did they do? 

Herbal Essences introduced tactile features so that blind and visually impaired customers can tell the difference between shampoo and conditioner bottles. Shampoo bottles now come with raised stripes, and conditioner bottles with raised circles.  

People with visual impairments have often had to use makeshift identifiers for shampoo and conditioner – for example putting elastic bands around bottles. Following the suggestion of their inclusive design consultant, Sam Latif – who is blind herself – Herbal Essences conducted a thorough assessment of the best way to adapt their design to include blind and visually impaired customers. 

This was accompanied by an innovative project to inform consumers of this change – after all, it’s only useful if you know to look there.   

Why did they win? 

Their design solution is incredibly simple and equally elegant. It has the capacity to benefit not only people with visual impairments, but anyone who may find it difficult read bottle labels in the shower, such as children, older people and contact lens wearers.  

The design is deeply inclusive; they considered how this innovation would affect people with other disabilities, for example, for people with limited sensation in their hands. They researched this work thoroughly and promoted it innovatively. 

It’s a brilliant piece of simple, inclusive design, which can have a huge impact. 

Recognises the work of individuals who have made an extraordinary commitment to achieve change through their practitioner roles. 

Winner – Neil Milliken, ATOS 

Neil Milliken, Atos

What we were looking for 

Amazing work done by a person directly at the coalface. We were looking for someone who has made real changes at the front line to improve disabled people’s experiences. These are people who are all too often unnoticed, but we wanted to celebrate them and their work. 

What did he do? 

As Global Head of Accessibility, Neil has overhauled ATOS’s accessibility policies by creating and implementing a Global Accessibility Policy. This applies across ATOS’s work so that accessibility is uniformly prioritised throughout their operations. He’s also worked hard to communicate the new policy to colleagues, so they can understand it and implement it proactively. 

Another key focus of his work is external engagement. One example is AXS Chat: a Twitter account that brings together leading voices in accessibility in a weekly chat session. He also arranges and speaks at accessibility events internationally including Global Accessibility Awareness Day events across seven countries. He works extensively with external partners, such as Valuable 500 and the International Paralympic Committee. 

Why did he win? 

It is hard to question the extent of Neil’s impact on disabled colleagues at ATOS. He has worked to transform ATOS’s accessibility policies into dynamic and comprehensive priorities throughout their work. ATOS is a large and complex organisation, yet Neil has successfully placed accessibility at the heart of ATOS’s work. 

He is an active advocate for accessibility both internally and externally. Neil has engaged colleagues and partners to promote accessibility as a priority throughout the sector. He’s an invaluable resource to ATOS as they continue to make their operations as accessible as possible

For individuals and teams who have influenced real change that has or will improve the lives of disabled people. 

Winners – Leena Haque and Sean Gilroy, BBC Cape 

Leena Haque and Sean Gilroy, BBC Cape and BDF's CEO Diane Lightfoot

What we were looking for 

People who had influenced real change (in policy, law or behaviour) that has improved the lives of disabled people.  

What did they do? 

Leena Haque and Sean Gilroy’s Cape (Creating a Positive Environment) programme has removed barriers for neurodivergent people across the BBC.  

This project had big goals – a key achievement is the new BBC Wales HQ in Cardiff. Designed and built for maximum cognitive accessibility it features: 

  • LED lighting – which doesn’t flicker and is much gentler than traditional office lighting to put people more at ease 
  • Considered colour schemes – that weren’t confusing or alarming, but helped designate space  
  • Designated quiet rooms – for employees or visitors feeling anxious or stressed.  

Cape also developed workshops and toolkits to tackle stigmas and educate colleagues including a 360° virtual reality experience to show how neurodivergent colleagues can experience typical office features. 

Leena and Sean have raised the profile of neurodiversity across the BBC. Neurodiversity is now a separate item in its Diversity and Inclusion Statement of Intent. 

Why did they win? 

Cape has shone light onto a hitherto underserved group and ensured that the needs of neurodivergent colleagues will continue to be considered by decision-makers. 

Our judges were impressed by the sheer scale of Leena and Sean’s goals, despite not being senior management – and even more by the fact that they achieved their goals. The new offices in Cardiff embody the lasting influence Cape will have.  

Recognises the efforts of multinational organisations to become inclusive places to work, right across their global operations. 

Winners – Shell 

Shell representatives and BDF's CEO Diane Lightfoot

What we were looking for 

Multinationals with high and consistent standards for disability diversity and inclusion across their global operations. Disability inclusion as a business priority globally, and tangible mechanisms for implementing policies throughout the organisation. 

What did they do? 

‘I’m Not OK’ is a programme Shell runs that seeks to make every employee feel comfortable to tell someone that they’re struggling with their mental health. It’s available through an online portal that has information, advice and support. As well as supporting those with mental ill health, it also encourages employees to become supporters. Through this programme, Shell provides support for employees, and fights the stigma associated with mental ill health.  

This forms part of a much larger system of disability inclusion, supported by four pillars: 

  • Raising awareness – Shell holds regular events for disabled employees and uses the intranet to promote their stories and the work of Shell’s disability network. 
  • Attraction and reporting – Shell actively seeks to attract disabled candidates, through a sophisticated programme of training, including on areas such as making adjustments for disabled candidates and marketing accessibly. 
  • Accessibility – Shell’s Workplace Accessibility Service is available to all employees around the world, and lets people who need support, advice or to request an adjustment quick and easy self-service access.
  • Inclusion – disabled employees are made to feel included at Shell through the promotion of visible role models with annual Disability Champion awards. They also promote Be Yourself videos, where disabled employees talk about their experience of working at Shell. 

Why did they win? 

An impressive range of work across all their operations. We wanted to single out the ‘I’m Not OK’ programme for its specific work to change the culture around mental health. It’s a recent programme but it’s already deeply embedded, and efforts to encourage employees to use the programme have been successful.  

We also wanted to recognise Shell’s broader work towards disability inclusion. Diversity and inclusion policies and practices are impressively consistent and sophisticated across all their work. All employees globally have a range of services and resources at their disposal, and there are clear efforts to cultivate an atmosphere of support and positivity for all disabled employees. 

An opportunity for disabled people to nominate an employer, retailer, website or experience that they feel is making a real difference to their lives and the lives of others. 

Winner – EmployAbility 

The EmployAbility team and BDF's CEO Diane Lightfoot

What we were looking for 

Organisations that had a real impact on the lives of disabled people. They could have been an employer, a shop, a website or any organisation they’ve had experience with.  

What did they do? 

EmployAbility is a not-for-profit that helps disabled students and graduates transition from education into employment. They provide free training sessions, one-to-one support, and tailored guidance. Students and graduates receive advice on both finding employment and asking for workplace adjustments. 

EmployAbility work closely with employers to create events for disabled students and graduates. They can also arrange internships and work experience to give young applicants with disabilities first-hand knowledge and understanding of workplaces.  

Why did they win? 

EmployAbility is a unique project addressing real problems experienced by  disabled students and graduates. They’ve forged strong links with high level employers and government organisations, meaning that they can really help young people with disabilities boost their CVs and applications. 

We were impressed by the scale of EmployAbility’s direct impact. They were nominated by Harry Ashcroft, an LSE graduate who completed a 10-week internship at JP Morgan with EmployAbility’s support. He said:  

“I’ve gained self-confidence – EmployAbility demonstrated to me that my disability would not preclude me from a successful career in finance. EmployAbility has gone the extra mile by showing remarkable entrepreneurship to provide services and information where there was none.” 

Recognises the value of having a committed senior champion who is visible and vocal about why disability matters to them and their organisation. 

Winner – Tim Fallowfield, Sainsbury’s 

Tim Fallowfield accepting the award

What we were looking for 

Someone who uses their position of seniority within an organisation to advocate for disabled people. Their influence should ideally be within their organisation and throughout the wider business community. We wanted to see strong leadership leading to real changes for disabled people. 

What did he do? 

Tim Fallowfield is Company Secretary and Director of Corporate Services at Sainsbury’s. He is very active within Sainsbury’s, as chair of the Disability Steering Group and Board Sponsor for Carers and Disability. He regularly hosts listening groups for disabled colleagues to raise anything they want to be heard. He also uses his influence over internal policies to ensure the concerns of disabled colleagues are considered, for example by conducting an accessibility audit at the Store Support Centre. 

Tim has influenced government policy through lobbying efforts with the Ministers for Disability and the Department for Work and Pensions, leading to Sainsbury’s being used as an example in a DWP consultation. He is a prolific speaker and writer on the importance of leadership on disability issues, and he regularly hosts events. He chairs the Business Leaders’ Group and makes disability inclusion a key priority of his work there. 

Why did he win? 

If you live and work in this area, it’s almost impossible not to be aware of Tim’s impact due to the sheer range and volume of work he does. He works tirelessly within and outside Sainsbury’s to improve the lives of disabled people. Our judges had no doubt that he’s devoted to championing disability inclusion and awareness. 

He is a highly effective senior champion, with tangible and significant results. For example, Sainsbury’s stores now have dementia-friendly toilets, and many run regular Autism Hours. He also played a crucial role in Sainsbury’s joining the Valuable 500 campaign. 

Tim won because the work he’s done is unparalleled, both in terms of quality and quantity. He has shown and continues to show true leadership. 

Recognises technology that has the potential to improve the lives of everyone – including disabled people. 

Winners – Dubai Police 

Representatives from Dubai Police accepting the award

What we were looking for 

Organisations using and creating technology that can improve the lives of everyone, including disabled people. It needed to have significant impact and reach, and to be something with mainstream application.  

What did they do? 

Created the world’s first ‘smart police station’. Visitors can use electronic kiosks in private booths to access 27 different services, including reporting crimes and traffic accidents, and accessing social services. Visitors can do all of this without having to interact with another person, if they don’t want to. 

Stations were designed and built to a detailed code to maximise accessibility and usability for all. Key features include: 

  • Smart navigationA police station in Dubai – combining smart floors, Bluetooth sensors and voice and visual guidance. Visitors are guided using sound and visual cues, which is especially useful for those with vision, hearing and mobility impairments.
  • Accessible communication – kiosks in the stations are programmed to use six languages, as well as sign language and braille.  
  • A mobile app – people can access police services remotely, including sending SOS texts. Visitors can use the app inside the police station to receive guidance and information to their phones in whichever format is most convenient.  

These stations are fully automated, and open all hours of the day, seven days a week. They also feature privacy measures such as opaque glass and private booths – particularly useful in a culture where there can be stigma attached to being seen visiting a police station. 

A screenshot showing features of the app including the categories: save people's life, sea rescue, criminal services

Why did they win? 

This technology has potential for widespread application, and benefits for all users. Dubai Police have made accessing police services easier for all, including disabled people. Smart Police Stations were designed with accessibility of all users at their heart from the outset. The sheer range of technologies being used within the smart police stations represents a significant development for how people in Dubai interact with the police.  

They’ve had a huge, tangible impact: the number of crimes reported at smart police stations more than doubled between 2017 and 2019, while public satisfaction with Dubai Police rose above 90%.  

Recognises organisations that have gone the extra mile to create a great workplace for everyone. 

Winners – MI5 

MI5 representatives and BDF's CEO Diane Lightfoot

What we were looking for 

Organisations making their workplaces great places to be for all employees. Places where the needs of disabled people are built into the workplace culture and processes, and the wellbeing of all employees is a top priority.  

What did they do? 

MI5 has placed accessibility and inclusion at the heart of their workplace. The nature of their unique role as an employer in the security space means that they can’t afford to be inaccessible or to exclude any employee. Consequently, a series of joint efforts between their Diversity and Inclusion team and their Disability Staff Network has led to a comprehensive programme to become as welcoming as possible to disabled employees and candidates. 

Firstly, they’ve redesigned their recruitment process to make sure applicants can request adjustments they need in order to compete on a level playing field. They’ve also made provisions in the recruitment process to make sure any workplace adjustments a successful candidate needs are in place on their first day. 

Secondly, they’ve created a comprehensive system of in-house support to help all staff. Disabled and non-disabled staff can access mental health support, medical advice, neurological assessments and physiotherapy. They’ve also streamlined the workplace adjustments requests process through a one-stop IT Accessibility Hub, which can allow adjustments to be made within the same day.  

In-house occupational health and well-being services are also well advertised throughout the organisation. Electronic forms make these services easy to request and recommendations they make can often be fulfilled the same day thanks to a range of accessibility items being kept in stock. 

Thirdly, they’ve fostered a culture of inclusivity throughout the organisation. They focus on making sure all employees understand how they can be inclusive, through a range of training and deployment initiatives. Many of these are led by disabled colleagues. They’ve put in place policies and ‘disability allies’ to empower employees to challenge unacceptable language and behaviour.   

Why did they win? 

MI5 has shown an unrivalled dedication to being an inclusive workplace that benefits all employees. A key achievement was placing disabled people at the core of the process, by taking their lead from groups such as the Disability Staff Network. This gave disabled employees a say in shaping their workplace to be inclusive and accessible. There are also a number of disabled representatives on their Shadow Board which is a staff led group that comments on papers going to the MI5 Executive Board. 

We were especially impressed by the way they successfully created a culture of inclusion. This can be one of the most important, and one of the most difficult, things to achieve. MI5’s work in this area has shown how serious they are about being a truly inclusive and accessible workplace for all employees.  

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