Becky Elliott recently joined Business Disability Forum as a Disability Business Partner. Here’s her take on this year’s Disability Smart Awards ceremony, sponsored by Microlink and hosted by Freshfields.
As the newest Disability Business Partner to join the BDF team, I felt incredibly fortunate to be sitting on the 22nd floor of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer at the Disability Smart Awards, among the great and the good of disability inclusion specialists – people who are driven to make the lives of disabled people just that little bit better, easier, and happier.
I wanted to congratulate all the finalists because whether or not they stepped onto the stage to receive an award, invitation to the event meant that their work had been recognised, and almost certainly appreciated, by a disabled person somewhere. After the ceremony, I took the opportunity to meet with some of the finalists and hear their stories.
I now know that if I want to drive to the coast to sit by the sea for a day out, I can hire a WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) from Enterprise and they will allow me to use a surrogate driver if I don’t have a driving licence myself.
And should I ever to be detained whilst on holiday, perhaps by Avon and Somerset Police, I might end up in a brilliantly designed, calming custody suite, to make the whole process so much less traumatic (and as a result, reduce the frequency of attacks on police force staff).
Having chatted with Victoria Jenkins, founder of Unhidden, I’m confident that adaptive clothing will soon be more readily available, and this means people wearing medical devices will be able to wear functional and stylish clothes.
Technology has an incredible power to improve lives and I think this is particularly true for disabled people. Inclusive design means that everyone benefits, whether disabled or not. No one could fail to be impressed by XRAI Glass‘s AI and AR glasses, which turn speech into text in real time for the wearer. As they say in their advert, “Life. Subtitled.” How brilliant!
Amazon deservedly won the Disability Smart Technology Award and I’ve learned about many more accessibility features which will help my partially deaf husband. Amazon technology is very much part of my family’s life; it’s mainstream but becoming more inclusive with each new innovation. And let’s face it, we all know ‘she-who-shall-not-be-named’! Alexa is so ubiquitous all of us are now adept at both requesting her help and circumventing her interruptions.
At my home, we have these devices installed in each room. If I’m ever stuck and need help to move, I can call my son in his bedroom by “dropping in” to ask for assistance and every morning, Alexa wakes me with a few cheery motivational words, followed by “Here Comes the Sun”.
As a disabled person, I encounter many barriers to participating in work and accessing services, so I was heartened by the quiet determination I felt rumbling around those mingling at the reception afterwards. All the finalists I met seemed fired up to continue their inclusion journey, and to go further. To do more and maybe return next year.
I hope that they do. I’m looking forward to seeing what they achieve over the next 365 days and celebrating their achievements with them.
Now it’s time for me to meet my new Members and help them make the most of their BDF membership to become more disability smart, perhaps in time for next year’s awards!