25 October 2019
If you open a number of today’s national newspapers you’ll see a full page letter calling on UK business leaders to make their companies more open, inclusive and equal for disabled people.
This letter has been signed by the members of The Valuable 500 – an organisation which aims to get 500 business leaders to commit to putting disability inclusion on their Board agenda.
Virgin Media is a strategic partner of The Valuable 500 and it’s with huge pride I added my name to this letter.
It’s time for change
Last night I took to the stage at the One Young World conference in London with Caroline Casey, the founder of The Valuable 500, to urge business leaders to take action to unlock the social and economic value of disabled people.
In the UK there are 14 million disabled people – that’s one in five of us. Yet, they continue to be ignored by business because they’re being left out of the workplace in huge numbers, and products and services fail to cater for their needs.
Disappointingly, many businesses fail to include disability in their inclusion strategies. Many claim they will “do disability next year” with other issues taking priority. But, with the number of competing priorities, the sad reality is that “next year” rarely comes as there’s always something else to focus on.
And, as result, disability and disabled people are left at the bottom of a long to do list.
These out-dated attitudes are also at odds with people’s expectations of how modern, progressive businesses should operate and the way they should treat their employees and customers.
My plea to my fellow business leaders is to take a step back for one minute and look at the bigger picture. Should one area of diversity take priority over another? Can you claim to be diverse if you’re ignoring 14 million people? Are you happy with an exclusive approach to inclusion? Or are you simply divers-ish?
I believe it’s time for a new way of thinking where all forms of diversity and social difference are treated equally. It’s time for disability to be part of these conversations.
I’m proud of the approach Virgin Media has taken to disability inclusion with our partnerships with The Valuable 500 and our long-standing partnership with the disability equality charity, Scope.
We’re making positive progress in transforming our workplaces and culture to support our disabled people, and to create more inclusive products and services for our disabled customers.
But we are a long way away from where we want or need to be. We’re still learning – but I know we’re on the right track.
We’re making disability our business and it’s time for other business leaders to do the same by joining The Valuable 500’s inclusion revolution today.
Jeff Dodds is Virgin Media’s Chief Operating Officer.