Launch of Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology

Chris is APPGAT launchdelighted to be Co-Chair of a new All Party Parliamentary Group on assistive technology. The group aims to disseminate knowledge, generate debate and facilitate engagement and a greater understanding of assistive technology amongst members of parliament. The group is supported by a number of organizations ranging from academic institutions to manufacturers of assistive technology and disability charities. On the day of the launch a group of key stakeholders met to discuss aims and objectives. One key issue raised was the unacceptably high disability employment gap (40% of disabled people are unemployed compared to 5% of non-disabled population) and the role assistive technology can play in providing solutions. Questions were also raised over what was perceived as limited dialogue between the industry and government, and departments with government, it is hoped that this group will help address this communication and understanding gap and lead to far greater access to assistive technology for far more people. The group had invited Hannah Rose to share her experiences of using assistive technology after she was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of fifteen. Thanks to various products including mobility aids, environmental controls (allowing her to turn off the lights and switch TV channel independently) and drag and dictate software (allowing her to use a computer) she enjoys a significant degree of autonomy and loves her job at Cheshire Police HQ – she jokes about how difficult it was to convince officers that she had found a job when she was trying to sign off incapacity benefits. Access to employment is important but assistive technology is not only about jobs. It is about enabling people in a far broader sense, to live independent and fulfilling lives. It is about finding and making available the tools that allow people to overcome barriers and Chris relishes the challenge of  working with the group to make sure that happens.

 

Keynote speaker at Adidas Diversity Day Event.

Adidas Keynote

Chris was invited to speak at a major diversity and inclusion event at Adidas HQ on the topic of inclusion for innovation. The corporate focus was on the belief that the best teams are diverse teams, that the company should mirror the society they serve and that for change to happen, it must be actively pursued. In the words of the CEO’s father: “it takes a long time to do something you’re not really working on.” Chris was delighted to deliver the keynote and so much of the power of his personal experiences and philosophy spoke perfectly to the themes of the day. More than most, Chris understands the power of sport to change lives; his own story of adjusting to the unexpected shock of losing his sight as a child to become one of the country’s most successful Paralympians illustrates a deep understanding of inclusion. As he says, making a case for staying in his mainstream school and continuing in his swimming club were experiences of diversity and inclusion “before the terms really existed”. Chris goes on to discuss the various ways technology can be used to innovate for inclusion – from cassette tapes to Bluetooth beacons! – but also makes the point that innovation of thought is as important as the practical tools. A commitment to welcoming and supporting diversity is the major requirement for successful outcomes. What is often viewed as bold, brave, risk-taking he argues is not actually risk-taking when it’s doing the right thing for the right reasons. He gives many fascinating examples of successful inclusive and innovative achievements around the London 2012 games.  As Chris says “it’s not easy but it is essential”. When thinking particularly about the power of digital to disrupt, his passionate exhortation is to “become diverse or die.”

Seeing isn’t believing"Ted" talk

Later on in the day Chris delivered another short presentation, “Seeing isn’t believing” which focused on his sporting achievements and was inspired by his popular TedX talk.

Chris really enjoyed all the connections and conversations throughout the day and wanted to thank everyone who came to say hello. Discussions covered many aspects of the diversity and inclusion agenda but Chris was delighted by the enthusiasm for one of his key messages; that change can happen when one person believes that things can be other than they are.

Adidas Meet

Chris welcomes Commons Report into Accessible Stadia

Top of the league clubs: Derby County, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Egham Town; all have been named as examples of excellence in making their clubs truly welcoming of disabled supporters. You will note that none of these clubs are in the Premier League. In Sept 2015 the Premier League promised to make all clubs accessible to disabled people. The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report published today states that it’s “very clear” that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.” Given the examples above I would say it is clearly a question of will rather than resources and Greg Clarke of the Football Association agrees, telling the committee “that for the Premier League the problem was not money”. Football is our national sport, beloved by so many of us, and it needs to rediscover its moral compass. If not on its own then with some help. Both the commons committee and the Minister for Sport have said they would support legal action against clubs that miss the August deadline and Bill Bush, executive director at the Premier League spoke of fines of up to £25,000. I would urge both the Premier League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to use all means at their disposal to ensure that disabled supporters are no longer treated as second class citizens when they want to support their football team.

Chris’s letter to the Times: Football’s Failure

Watch Channel 4’s report: Are football stadia no go for disabled?

BBC Sport: Disabled access: Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement

Chris voted best speaker at major HR Conference

The ‘Future Talent’ conference, organised by Changeboard, was designed to inspire and empower senior HR and talent professionals. Over 700 people came to listen to an incredible speaker line up including Ruby Wax and Alain de Botton. Chris was delighted to be invited to take part and the title of Chris’s talk was “Smash the silos: Real inclusion counts”.  He spoke powerfully about the way in which flat structures can allow all the people in an organisation to make their voices heard. Drawing on his experiences as part of the Olympic bid team and then as Director at London 2012 Paralympics leading 70,000 Gamesmakers he underlined that “smashing silos, promoting the purpose and unleashing your people” really is a recipe for success. Chris has a passion for sharing his experiences in leadership, performance management, setting a vision for a team that leads to meaningful improvement and the demonstrable benefits of promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “Not because it’s a nice thing to do but because it improves your organisation.” In advance of the conference, Chris shared further lessons, about the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone to do things a little differently. Chris was stunned to be voted best speaker and described it as an “absolute honour”.

Chris to chair YODA (Channel 4s Year of Disability Adviser Group)

Channel 4 has announced 2016 as the network’s Year of Disability. Exactly a year ago Channel 4 launched their 360 Degrees Diversity Charter which laid out a number of diversity targets. This year, the Year of Disability, Channel 4 has introduced new targets specifically on disability and Chris is delighted to chair the group of experts who will be known collectively as YODA (Year of Disability Advisers).  Other initiatives are to double the number of disabled people in C4’s most popular shows, invest £300,000 behind the scenes, assist the career progress of 20 disabled people among its suppliers and commit half of its apprenticeships and 30% of work experience placements to disabled youngsters.

There are more than 12 million disabled people living in Britain today, yet just 2.5% of people on screen are disabled. Only half of disabled people in Britain are in work compared to four fifths of non-disabled people. There are significant barriers to opportunity and Channel 4’s moves to increase participation by disabled people both on screen and behind the cameras is to be welcomed.

 Chris said:

“Three years ago, London 2012 was seen as a turning point for the visibility and inclusion of disabled people in our society, driving a clear social, economic, physical and cultural legacy for disabled people. Since then, Britain has made progress on many fronts but there is increasing evidence that disabled people are being locked out or left behind.

“Far from enjoying increased visibility and being able to participate more fully in every aspect of life there is a risk that disabled people will become more invisible as both consumers and participants, with organisations losing out on their valuable experiences and custom.”

“I welcome the moves by Channel 4 to make real progress on this issue and urge other businesses and service providers to look again and what they are doing and what they are able to do to increase representation and participation by disabled people in order to unlock the talent that is out there and to avoid Britain becoming a more segregated society.”

“This isn’t about political correctness, or being “nice”, it’s about this, creative, competitive edge.”

Channel 4 enlists YODA for its Year of Disability, Disability News Service

 

Update on campaign to get more women and ethnic minorities to play rugby (and cricket and football…..)

Chris knows, from his own personal experience, all about the opportunity that sport can provide for people and its unique power to transform lives and inspire others. The fact is that some groups, particularly women and girls, Asians, Muslims and disabled people, have disproportionately low rates of participation in sport – as players, spectators, volunteers, officials and employees. The Equality and Human Rights Commission receives money from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to promote inclusion in sport. This funding is allocated to grassroots initiatives administered through organisations like Premiership Rugby .  Another partnership with the England & Wales Cricket Board is expected to be announced soon. The funds are also being used to improve access to stadia for disabled people. Discussions have been held with the Premier League and given the windfall the Premier League has just enjoyed, Chris believes “it would be scandalous if clubs don’t do more to improve access for disabled fans.”

Click here for Chris’s blog in full

Listen here to Chris discussing disabled access to football grounds on Radio 5 live

Click here to read a special report on disabled access to Premier League clubs in the Guardian

 

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