mike_penning_ashridge_minister_for_disabled-PeopleBy the time readers open this copy of Able Magazine, a host of employers and disabled people will have taken part in the very first #DisabilityConfident Roadshow in Birmingham.

From Able Magazine #109 (January/February 2014)

The Roadshow forms part of the #DisabilityConfident campaign which – in a nutshell – is all about helping employers become more confident about hiring and retaining more disabled people in their work place.

Savvy employers know that a diverse workplace is better for their staff and better for their customers.  They also know that the spending power of disabled people – the so-called purple pound – is worth around £80bn to the UK economy.  The message for employers is therefore loud and clear – being #DisabilityConfident makes business sense too.

We know from our research that more disabled people cite employers’ attitudes as a barrier to work than transport, so I’d argue that – along with our support through schemes such as Access to Work – engagement with employers is key to getting more disabled people who want to work into work.

KPMG have stepped up to sponsor the first event in Birmingham and there will be at least six more Roadshow events across the country next year, including England, Scotland and Wales.

The Roadshow brings together employers large and small that have different experiences of hiring disabled people.  Some of the businesses already have best practice in place, whereas others will be coming along because they want to know what more they can do to make their workplace more diverse.

The special guest for the Birmingham Roadshow was none other than 2012 Paralympic Gold medallist, Sophie Christiansen.  She’s someone who’s made it very clear that supporting people to fulfil their true potential both can and should be done.  And she has been an outstanding role model in doing just that.

At Birmingham, aside from the likes of KPMG, I discussed #DisabilityConfident with around 150 businesses, public sector organisations and community leaders, including well-known brands such as Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s.

But it’s not just well-known brands that will be the ones to make a big difference to the 3.6 million disabled people of working age in the UK who aren’t in work.  Mark Esho is a West Midlands IT businessman who attended the Conference – and he’s been involved with #DisabilityConfident from the start.  He has recently recruited a disabled person to his enterprise who – he says quite simply, is the best person for the job.

It’s people and businesses like these, who think about diversity when they make their hiring decision who will make the difference we’re aiming for with #DisabilityConfident.

That’s something I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about from one of Britain’s most famous war veterans, Falklands hero, Simon Weston.  He’ll be part of one of our Roadshows, and he’s someone who has had first-hand experience of a life-changing injury where he’s had to take stock of his future.  He’s also someone who’s then still followed his dreams.  And I for one will be doing my best through #DisabilityConfident to make sure as many disabled people can do so too.