The Government-backed Disability Confident campaign was launched by David Cameron in July when he told 300 business leaders that it is “time to dispel the myths about the complexities of employing disabled people” and there will now be a number of regional road shows leading up to the grand finale in London in March next year. These conferences are primarily for employers and designed to spread awareness about employing people with disabilities and health conditions encouraging them to be more Disability Confident.
It is a fantastic initiative, long overdue and, from what I saw yesterday, will be a great success.
The conference was compered brilliantly by Dawn Milman-Hurst from Equal Approach and the keynote speakers included Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Disabled People and Sophie Christiansen, Paralympics triple gold medallist from London 2012 and one of my all-time favourite sportswomen. I was so excited to meet Sophie in person and she even let me hold her gold medal which she brought with her-amazing.
Following the initial introductions, my KPMG partner-in-crime Richard Day and I delivered our 5-minute speeches. Richard has a neurological condition which affects his walking and his focus was very much on the issues he encounters having a physical disability and the adjustments he has at work to help him deal with these.
I focussed on my depression and M.E both of which are fluctuating and most of the time, invisible, so that the audience got a flavour of the different problems and solutions affecting people with physical conditions and mental illness.
We were followed by Sophie Christiansen who gave a very inspiring speech covering her early childhood, how she first discovered her talent for horse riding, obtaining her First Class Honours degree (and Masters) in Maths and her London 2012 experience. Sophie is not just an inspiration for Disabled People, she is an inspiration and fantastic role model for everyone. Her tenacity, competitiveness and determination are obvious and every day she demonstrates that these qualities are key to her success.
The expert panel members (Dawn Milman-Hurst (Equal Approach), Kate Headley (Clear Company), Amanda Kirby University of Wales), Morgan Lobb (Diversity Jobs), John Beasley (DWP Access to work), John Keeble (DWF)and David Johnson (West Mids Fire Service) then fielded some interesting and thought-provoking questions from the audience. They ran out of time after 45 minutes but could have continued for hours.
The event concluded with a brilliant performance of “As I Am” by Oscar Bell and Jordan Statham.
“As I Am is a song written by Oscar Bell and Jordan Statham. The song is about the struggle people with learning and physical difficulties endure every day. ‘As I Am’ embraces the possibilities that one day these people will be treated equally and noticed for the talents they have. The song has recently been used as the anthem for the Awareness of Autism campaign and has been played on numerous radio stations.”
The song is available on i-tunes and I would encourage everyone to buy a copy because it’s a great song and proceeds support a very worthwhile West Midlands Autism charity.
Go on! you know you want to!