Posted by Shani Dhanda, Work With Me Ambassador, Virgin Media
Transforming the experience for our disabled people and customers: the reflections of a disability changemaker
18 September 2020
I joined Virgin Media just under three years ago as a Disability Programme Manager, working across the business coordinating our activity to transform the experience of our disabled employees and customers, with an emphasis on inclusion, accessibility and equality.
When I started my role, the business was already two years into its five year (2015-2020) sustainability strategy. The team had just completed a company-wide accessibility review, which helped us to identify the areas that we needed to improve on and what we needed to tackle as a priority. We developed a Disability Action Plan to help us manage all the things we needed to achieve, engaging with teams from across the business to help move the dial on disability inclusion for our people and customers.
As our work on the Disability Action Plan has developed and changed, so has my role within the business. All of my positions have been connected by a focus on improving the lives of disabled people, something that is my personal purpose too. I discovered my role and all the work Virgin Media were doing on disability inclusion through LinkedIn, and my story of how I found a job was featured in LinkedIn's first-ever UK TV campaign.
I had never seen a role like this before until I was scrolling on LinkedIn one rainy day in September. It immediately stood out to me, and I was intrigued to find out more. My background is in event and project management, and alongside this, I was building a profile as a disability activist. Throughout my personal life and in my career, I've always integrated inclusion into frameworks, challenged biases and broken down barriers. So if ever there was a perfect for a role for me, it was this one, it enabled me to combine my project management and disability advocacy skills to create real impact.
When you experience disability yourself, like me, and are working on programmes to transform culture, policy and practice on inclusion, explicitly focusing on disability at a company-wide level, it's a unique space to occupy. It really shouldn't be, because disabled people are the ones who understand the solutions to the barriers that disable us. But we're not often part of the core team driving that transformation. Disabled people offer so much untapped societal and economic value, yet it's still a topic that business remains uncomfortable approaching.
I'm humbled to be in a position where I'm holding space for others who have experienced barriers across their everyday life from gaining employment to accessing products or services. Over the last five years, we've not only made disability our business, but through focused and strategic partnerships we've been able to:
- Help over 500,000 disabled people gain the skills and confidence and tools to get into and stay in work through Support To Work a digital employment service we set up in partnership with Scope in 2018
- Created a network of over 100 businesses committed to being more inclusive for disabled people and supporting each other through our #WorkWithMe community in partnership with Scope
- Inspire 250 UK & Irish businesses to create more inclusive businesses for disabled people and providing practical resources to help them do so through our partnership with The Valuable 500
- Raise public consciousness and shift attitudes towards disability through our sponsorship of the Paralympics GB team
In addition to our partnerships, we've been busy transforming every part of our business. Some of the things we've changed include having Board-level accountability for disability, updated HR policies, providing new training for managers, and streamlining workplace adjustments to become more inclusive for disabled candidates, our people and customers.
My main reflection from the last three years has been that creating systemic change requires education, teams from across this business and time. Transforming our business and culture towards disability has certainly not happened overnight and we have more to do.
I'm proud to work for a business that is not only is using is brand power and recognition to tackle business issues, but important societal ones too. We need more businesses and leaders to follow suit and help make everyday equality a reality for disabled people.
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