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Disability Smart Awards: The impact of winning an award

The Disability Smart Awards are back this year! We spoke to previous winners of the 2019 Influencer Award, Leena Haque and Sean Gilroy who are the creators of BBC’s Cape (Creating a Positive Environment) programme, which removes barriers for neurodivergent people across the BBC.  

Stef Reid, Sean Gilroy, Lleena Haque, Award presenter Wendy, Diane Lightfoot

Leena and Sean, what did winning the Disability Smart Influencer Award mean to you both?

Leena and Sean: “We were awarded for the very first Disability Smart Influencer Award for our efforts to promote inclusive workplaces through our work with BBC CAPE (Creating A Positive Environment). We were thrilled to be recognised in this area alongside other leading organisations advancing disability and neurodiversity inclusion and inclusive workplace initiatives. To win was an honour and signified a milestone for us as recognition of our dedication and effort toward transforming the workplace to make it a truly inclusive environment for all.

“It was also important to us as it felt like a moment in which the profile of Neurodiversity specifically was brought to the fore, as it has historically been largely overlooked by the E,D& I community as well as society at large.  We have seen in the last few years the conversation around Neurodiversity grow and become increasingly recognised as an area that we should learn more about and offer a focus on as part of a wider, intersectional approach to inclusion.”

What led to you winning the award?

“We received the award for the work we have delivered through BBC CAPE, the BBC’s Neurodiversity initiative which we devised.  It is a creative initiative within BBC UX&D designed to explore Neurodiversity and its place in the organisation’s employment, environment and communications approaches. It recognises the needs of Neurodivergent staff (who are, for example, autistic, dyslexic, or have ADHD) for solutions that overcome the barriers and obstacles ‘Neurotypical’ organisations typically put in place. Through this initiative we innovated several tools and products designed to create a more positive environment, including for example interactive accessibility films, an environmental toolkit to assist in the creation and provision of accessible workspaces, online and workshop-based learning experiences that recognise different learning styles and interactive, branching narrative experiences to support staff training.  We were subsequently able to utilise many of these products, to instigate and support the design of the BBC Wales HQ, Broadcasting House, which now incorporates neuro-inclusive design features in a world first for a building of this type.  Our work on this project is informing new design standards being created by the BSI and is also being rolled out across the BBC Nations estates.”

How have the last 18 months been for you both?

“The last 18 months have been challenging for everyone. Prior to the pandemic, it did feel as though there was a rising acceptance and understanding of the ideals of diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI), at least from the standpoint of “We should do this.” However, the pandemic introduced a huge and immediate change for organisations and individuals, which moved mindsets away slightly from building for the future to surviving the present. While the pandemic may have created new challenges for people and stalled some of the progress, it has also changed the landscape so as to offer many opportunities for us to reimagine the workplace and help to make Diversity, Equity & Inclusion a post-pandemic priority.”

What would you say to organisations who want to enter the awards this year?

“There is still much to change and fight for, but the Disability Smart Awards are a wonderful way to recognise the inspiring actions of individuals, businesses, and organisations who are already working toward inclusion. They also open up a network of like-minded people with whom you can learn, share ideas and explore opportunities for collaboration that can build toward our collective vision for a more inclusive future.”


If you are interested in your organisation entering the Disability Smart Awards this year (Sponsored by Microlink), you have until 31 August. You can find the page here.

Learn more about the other Disability Smart Award winners of 2019

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