Damian Bridgeman, Branch Chair of South Wales and author of best-selling autobiography ‘I’m not a spaz! I’m safe’, believes the pandemic has been a great leveller for individuals with disabilities and that organisations should do more to continue this positive change
“The pandemic has taken away some of the barriers I would have normally faced in the workplace and broadened my business opportunities.
Not being able to work in the traditional way has forced organisations to learn to operate differently and adopt new technologies. These technologies make work accessible anytime, anywhere and for those with disabilities, both physical and neurological, this has had a surprisingly equalising effect. Information has been uploaded onto digital platforms that allow me to access and download it in a format best suited for my way of working. And as a wheelchair user, who has previously not been able to attend events because of limited access, I’m able to attend every meeting and event I want to, as they are all online. All this has enabled me to maximise my time and be more productive.
I hope this equalising effect continues long after the pandemic, not just for the benefit of those with disabilities like me, but more broadly, for organisational performance. The value of diversity to organisations is long-established – in particular the value of neurodiversity. It has been demonstrated that people with neurodiverse skills can often see problems and solutions a lot quicker than others. So actually, it’s not an impairment to the boardroom but rather an advantage.
At the IoD, we see members with learning and thinking differences at all levels and when diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of organisations, it brings significant benefits. A great example of this is Apple’s approach to product development – the iPhone was one of the first pieces of software built with disability equipment integrated into it, rather than expecting disabled people to spend huge amounts on separate, specialist equipment. With diversity and representation at the top of organisation’s agendas they can get started on integrating diverse thinking into their operating models and attracting more neurodiverse talent that will propel them further, as we emerge from this pandemic.”
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