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Disability Smart Awards 2021

Welcome to Business Disability Forum’s Disability Smart Awards, sponsored by Microlink! Find out more about what they are about and how to enter

Decide why you want to enter the Awards 

To showcase your great practices? To share insights?  

If you’ve defined why you want to win, you’ll probably have an idea of which awards and which categories you want to enter. So focus your energy on finding the brilliant examples which fit the criteria for these. Always consider great examples from your organisation on which you could base an award.  

How much will it cost? 

Entering the awards is completely free and every submission received before the deadline will be reviewed by our panel of judges, so don’t miss out.  

Submission details 

Select your category, read through the criteria and download the entry form.

Complete a digital version of your submission(s) on our dedicated entry platform. 

When you are ready (but before the submission deadline) click submit at the end of your submissionThe submission deadline has been extended to 14 September 17:00 GMT. 

Everyone will be notified if they have been successfully shortlisted or not.

If you need to provide your entry(ies) in a different format, please email

The ceremony 

Those shortlisted can then attend our awards ceremony. We’ll confirm if it will be online or at a location in due course. All winners will be announced during the evening and there will be many opportunities to celebrate, promote and share your success on the global stage. 

Please email if you require further assistance.

As part of this year’s Disability Smart Awards, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Chloe Smith MP awarded three Disability Confident awards (judged by the Department for Work and Pensions’ Disability Confident Team), recognising those employers that have underlined their commitment to the scheme.

  1. Disability Confident Covid-19 Innovation Award
  2. Disability Confident Impact Award
  3. Disability Confident Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace Award

Disability Smart Communications Award

Winner: Unilever

Highly Commended: Inclusion North CIC


  • The Ehlers-Danlo Support UK
  • Inclusion North CIC
  • Signly
  • Total Communication
  • Unilever

The Disability Smart Communications Award recognises organisations or teams that have created truly inclusive and accessible communications for disabled people. 

The judging panel chose Unilever for its efforts to embed inclusive communication practices across all its communication channels.  

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Unilever has put inclusion at the heart of its internal and external communication strategies, breaking down communication barriers and changing culture. Alongside this, members of its disability networks are playing a key role in strategic decision making, helping shape Unilever to be a more inclusive workplace.  

“Unilever’s public commitment to disability inclusion is clearly replicated through its internal communications, events, campaigns, and decision making. The organisation is using its substantial reach to make a significant difference.” 

Disability Smart Customer Service Award

Winner: Skipton Building Society

Highly Commended: Unilever


  • Alexandra Park & Palace Charitable Trust
  • National Highways
  • Skipton Building Society
  • Unilever

The Disability Smart Customer Service Award recognises organisations that have provided excellent customer service not just to disabled people but to everyone. 

The judging panel chose Skipton Building Society for the ambitious training programme they have rolled out to their customer facing staff.  

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Skipton Building Society have become the early adopters and leaders in the field of accessible communication. They have really taken up the baton, rolling out Communication Access UK (CAUK) training to all their customer facing colleagues. They are also offering the training to their non-customer facing colleagues. Skipton Building Society are already seeing the benefits within their organisation, and we look forward to seeing where they take it next. 

Disability Smart Diversity & Inclusion Professional Award

Winner: Monika Jankowska-Rangelov, State Street

Highly Commended: Mark Russell, KPMG


  • GSK
  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • KPMG
  • State Street

The Disability Smart Diversity and Inclusion Practitioner Award recognises professionals who have made an outstanding contribution to furthering disability inclusion within their organisation and beyond. The award celebrates individuals who have been working, often behind the scenes and unnoticed, to keep disability inclusion at the forefront of their organisation’s diversity and inclusion agenda. 

The judging panel chose Monika Jankowska-Rangelov, from State Street, for the breadth of her activity, both within her organisation and externally. 

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Monika has driven a phenomenal amount of change since joining State Street, including developing the first ERG for employees with disabilities, establishing a mentoring programme and ensuring that disability is on the agenda at the highest level.  

“She is a true and authentic role model, sharing her story to inspire change, particularly in Poland where she is raising aspirations of employment amongst disabled people, many of whom are economically inactive.” 


Disability Smart Built Environment Award

Winner: University of Warwick

Highly Commended: Hotel Brooklyn


  • Hotel Brooklyn
  • Network Rail
  • University of Warwick

The Disability Smart Built Environment Award recognises organisations that have created beautiful, accessible and inclusive physical environments for everyone, including disabled people. The award celebrates truly inclusive design that has gone the extra mile to break down barriers experienced by disabled people. 

The judging panel chose University of Warwick for the work carried out by its Estates Team to create a suite of accessible rooms within its student accommodation. The accommodation is already being used and is expected to benefit many more disabled students in the future. 

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“This is a great example of normalising access features so that students who need adjustments and support can live in halls and participate in student life as independently as possible. 

“The spark for this work was a particular student with complex disabilities and care needs. The student had been turned away from several other universities because of a lack of suitable accommodation. We commend the Estates Team for showing what can be achieved.” 

Disability Smart Leader Award

Winner: Ian Stuart, HSBC


  • HSBC
  • ING Bank
  • Millwood Servicing
  • Ruh Global

The Disability Smart Leader Award recognises inspirational leaders who have led and overseen the implementation of real and tangible improvements for disabled people. The award celebrates individuals who lead by example and use their position to create a better environment for disabled people locally, nationally, and globally. 

The judging panel chose Ian for his ongoing commitment to achieving disability inclusion throughout HSBC. 

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Ian Stuart is an exemplar as a disability champion and in his leadership in driving disability inclusion throughout HSBC. He actively and consistently demonstrates the power of storytelling, sharing his experiences as a father of disabled adults and creating a safe space for others to ask for the support they need.  

“He recognises both the business benefits and the ethical imperative as a large employer of a diverse and inclusive workforce and is constantly challenging the bank to build and do more. He is a great external advocate too, leading the conversation and championing change in the wider business community.” 

Disability Smart Learning & Development Team Award

Winner: Microsoft


  • Brighter Futures Project
  • Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust
  • Microsoft

The Disability Smart Learning and Development Award recognises teams that have created innovative, engaging and most of all, inclusive and accessible learning and development solutions for everyone, including disabled people. 

The judging panel chose Microsoft for their work to identify gaps in the digital accessibility learning experience, which has created a vast range of L&D resources aimed at building understanding.  

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“We were impressed by the range of resources that have already been created and those that are yet to come. These include the Accessibility Fundamentals learning path and the creation of a YouTube channel. The team at Microsoft have reached over 500,000 learners to date and have helped inspire other companies and government departments to adopt their own L&D initiatives.”  

Disability Smart Procurement Award

Winner: British Land

The Disability Smart Procurement Award recognises organisations that have demonstrated a clear commitment to disability inclusion throughout their procurement processes.  

The judging panel chose British Land for their efforts to create truly inclusive developments, from design right through to building and fitting out. 

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“British Land has demonstrated a clear commitment to designing and building fully inclusive developments. 

“Selecting the right suppliers to work with on these projects was critical to the successful delivery of inclusive places from design to build phase, and right through fitting-out ready for occupation.  

“Robust and carefully developed procurement policies and processes ensured that only suppliers who could demonstrate a clear commitment to inclusive design and strong disability awareness would be utilised.” 



Disability Smart Recruitment Team Award

Winner: Oliver James

Highly Commended: Mills & Reeves


  • Microsoft
  • Mills & Reeve
  • Oliver James
  • Tesco

The Disability Smart Recruitment Award recognises recruitment teams that have created innovative, engaging and most of all, inclusive and accessible recruitment campaigns that have resulted in greater numbers of disabled people obtaining work or accessing a profession. 

The judging panel chose Oliver James for identifying the need for a different approach to raising the profile of disabled candidates and for proactively working with employers to increase employment opportunities for disabled people.  

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Oliver James has created a unique recruitment service largely comprising of recruiters living with a disability. They have already welcomed many clients to their talent pool of disabled candidates.” 

“The organisation is not only proactively representing disabled candidates but is also working in partnership with their based Hong Kong based clients to increase cultural understanding of the value of a diverse workforce.” 

Disability Smart SME Award

Winner: Millwood Servicing

Highly Commended: Patchwork Hub


  • Genius Within
  • Millwood Servicing
  • Open Inclusion
  • Patchwork Hub
  • Town Hall Group
  • Your Local Cinema

The Disability Smart SME Award recognises small businesses and start-ups that value the physical and mental wellbeing of all their workers, including disabled people, through thoughtful, engaging and inclusive workplace practices.  

The judging panel chose Millwood Servicing for their efforts to create employment opportunities for disabled people, both within the fire safety industry and beyond.  

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Millwood Servicing has introduced two exemplary initiatives to help people furthest from labour market to gain skills and work opportunities.  

“Millwood Servicing is demonstrating that any company, regardless of their size and the sector they operate in, can do incredible things to remove barriers for disabled people.” 

The Disability Smart Awards are awarded annually by Business Disability Forum. The awards celebrate and promote disability inclusive practice across areas including leadership, recruitment, workplace experience, customer service, and built environment. 

Disability Smart Technology Award

Winner: Signly

Highly Commended: Digit Audio Tech


  • AccessAble
  • Digit Audio Technology
  • Signly

The Disability Smart Technology Award recognises organisations that have developed technology to improve the life chances of disabled people through inclusive design.  

The judging panel chose Signly for their innovative work to make websites more accessible to Deaf people. 

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Signly recognises that British Sign Language (BSL) is the first language of many Deaf people in the UK – not English. By offering sign language translation on websites, Signly is giving BSL users great choice and control over how they access information. It is also creating greater independence by reducing reliance on interpreters. We look forward to seeing more organisations using Signly on their websites and digital channels in the future.”

Disability Smart Workplace Adjustments Award

Winner: GSK

Highly Commended: Accenture


  • Accenture
  • Beds Police, Cambs & Herts Constabularies
  • GSK
  • Tesco
  • West Midlands Police

The Disability Smart Workplace Adjustment Award recognises teams that have developed and implemented a workplace adjustments process that has proven to have improved the working lives of disabled people. 

The judging panel chose GSK for developing a broad and sophisticated workplace adjustments process built on empowerment and trust. 

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“GSK employees can self-serve assistive technology adjustments with auto approval and are not required to demonstrate that they have a disability or condition in order access support. Rather, the emphasis is on productivity and supporting everyone to thrive at GSK. Adjustments are offered to all new hires in their job offer letter and the satisfaction scores for the service are outstanding.” 

Disability Smart Workplace Experience Award

Winner: KPMG

Highly Commended: Auto Trader


  • Auto Trader
  • Bristol Myers Squibb
  • KPMG
  • Mace Group

The Disability Smart Workplace Experience Award recognises organisations that have gone the extra mile to become a truly great place to work. The award celebrates organisations that can clearly demonstrate that they value the physical and mental wellbeing of all their workers, including disabled people. 

The judging panel chose KPMG for introducing a wide range of activities which focus on staff wellbeing and intersectionality.  

In their feedback, the judging panel said: 

“Lots of lip-service has been paid to the pandemic providing an opportunity for change. KPMG fall firmly in the camp that have grasped this opportunity and have clear, long ranging outcomes to show for it.  

“Their care for staff wellbeing is highlighted in their decision to focus on wellbeing resources in all communications, continually checking in with disabled colleagues and also creating a ‘Covid Special Leave Code’ which colleagues could use if they were unable to work due to parental or caring responsibilities, with no impact on their pay or benefits. 

“There has been a focus on intersectionality, whilst their ‘make a difference by sharing your difference’ campaign and performance manager training rounds out an excellent all-round package of activity.” 

Disability Confident COVID-19 Innovation Award

Winner: Mark Russell, KPMG

Highly Commended: HM Revenue & Customs


  • Gill Brown, HM Revenue & Customs
  • HSBC
  • KPMG
  • Shell
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS FT

The winner demonstrated that they have actively supported their disabled employees throughout the pandemic period. This includes making appropriate workplace adjustments that have enabled staff to work remotely or in a blended way, supporting them to deliver their work effectively.

The reward and showcased an inspirational employer that demonstrated that they have gone the extra mile to support disabled people.

Disability Confident Impact Award

Winner: West Midlands Police

Highly Commended: Do-IT Solutions


  • Aquarius Hair Design
  • Do-IT Solutions
  • Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Wellbeing Link
  • West Midlands Police

The winner demonstrated that they have actively progressed through the different levels of the Disability Confident scheme.

They also demonstrated that there has been a positive impact on the organisation in terms of disability employment and other opportunities such as apprenticeships, internships, work experience.

Disability Confident Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace Award

Winner: Anglo American

Highly Commended: GSK


  • Anglo American
  • CBRE
  • GSK
  • Horizon Vehicle Management
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS FT

This winner demonstrated that they have placed Mental Health and Wellbeing at the heart of their organisation.

This award will go to an organisation that has made the greatest progress in hiring disabled people into actual jobs. The organisation will be able to demonstrate tangible outcomes in terms of the numbers of disabled people in jobs and /or work-related initiatives.


Who can enter these awards?

Any organisation– as long as the activity, company or individual involved in the submission relates to disability smart practices in business. We also accept submissions from international companies.  

Why should I enter these awards?

Winning a Disability SmartAward is a way of showing the importance in the role of disability inclusion in your organisation.   

What do submissions entail?

Each award you enter has a separate BDF-Disability Smart Awards Entry Form to complete. The Entry Form has a number of sections:

Section A: About the nominee/organisation 

Section B: Entry details (a 500 word summary of your award entry, providing background detail and contextual information)

Section C: Criteria statements (statements of no more than 500 words per criterion as listed in the separate awards criteria document)

Section D: Supporting evidence (you can attach a maximum of two pieces of evidence to support your entry)

Can I add attachments?

Yes, you can add two attachments (5MB each).  

For attachments please use the following formats:  

  • Word 
  • Excel 
  • Powerpoint 

With the following extensions: .pdf, .xls, .ppt, .pot, .doc, .docx

How do I enter these awards? 

Navigate to our awards website and click on the relevant category

Entries open on 1 May 2021 and you can compile your entry or entries through our dedicated online awards section 

You must complete your entry or entries by 31 August.   

How hard is it to prepare an entry? 

Entering our awards is a simple and straightforward process. You can save any submissions in progress and return to it anytime.

Can I edit my entry? 

Once you submit your evidence we are unable to accept amendments.

What should my entries include? 

All entries must follow the necessary category-specific entry criteria online, and you should include any supporting documents, alongside this while submitting your entry. Please ensure all your entries are clearly attributed to the correct category, complete with contact details and all the information you wish to be displayed. 

What are your policies on confidentiality? 

We’ll look to share your award-winning case studies in full, both online and in print.  

That said, we know that in order to win an award you may have to share information you would not want to disclose publicly.  

Don’t forget to mark this information as confidential. Please take the following steps to ensure your submission is marked correctly as confidential: 

Details tab: Add ‘Confidential’ to the start of your submission title 

Please note there will be publicity for finalists and winners.

How much does it cost to enter? 

It is free to enter the Awards.

When will the shortlist by announced? 

The shortlist will be announced in November

When and where are the Disability Smart Awards taking place this year?  

We will confirm whether the Awards will take place online or as an in-person event in due course. 

We are Business Disability Forum.

We believe the 26 million people in the UK and over 1 billion people worldwide with disabilities and long-term conditions enhance the social and economic health of our societies. We exist to remove barriers in business structures and Government that prevent disabled people from thriving and contributing in this way.

Our Awards recognise those that are leading the way in inclusive and accessible practices as organisations they put in place. We really want to see are your exceptional stories that truly demonstrate leadership in action.

The judges are a highly experienced group of practitioners at Business Disability Forum. We are really looking forward to reading your stories!

1. Sarah Bartlett

2. Ebunola Adenipekun

3. Anthony Allison-Burke

4. Lucy Ruck

5. Fleur Donnelly-Jackson

6. Diane Lightfoot

7. Adrian Ward

8. Davina Critchley

9. Hazel Leighfield

10. Ruth Fisher

11. Daniel Cadey

12. Parma Sira

13. George Wright

14. Vicky Dermitzi

15. Angela Matthews

16. Julie Smith, DWP

17. Julie Williams, DWP

18. Amanda Wadsworth MBE DL, DWP

Supported by Barclays and hosted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office  

Our 2019 Disability-Smart Awards recognised and celebrated businesses that have demonstrated outstanding and innovative practice. Businesses large and small and across all sectors have helped transform the lives of disabled people in the workplace and in society. 

The Disabled People’s Choice Award was selected by disabled people from the public and they were able to nominate organisations they felt showed inclusivity and accessibility.

Please find here the winners, the criteria, and the rationale for each category of our Disability-Smart Awards 2019.

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