By Tom Jamison

Earlier last month (June 2022) I was honoured to be invited by Shaw Trust to join them, The Disability Policy Centre and the Disability All Party Parliamentary Group to discuss ‘The Power of Diversity,’ in celebration of the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100. 

I think it’s really important that disabled people’s voices are heard and so I was thrilled to travel to Westminster to sit in on proceedings – a privilege extended to me as a judge for this year’s Power 100.

The rooms in Portcullis House are surprisingly compact and while it took a bit of imagination to get the assembled group of differently disabled people in and comfortable, it felt worth it, if only to say that ‘here we are, in the place where things happen’.

Dr Lisa Cameron MP began the discussion by speaking about the work of the APPG for Disability and highlighted the aims of the National Disability Strategy moving forwards.  

More information about their work can be found here: 

Each of the speakers: Marsha de Cordova MP, Sophie Morgan, Kush Kanodia, John Horan, Shani Dhanda and Andrew Miller spoke about The Power of Diversity, providing their insight into the debate and detailing the very real and valuable contribution that disabled people could make, if they had more opportunity to do so. Although much of what they said had a collective frustration striped through it, there was also plenty of optimism and determination that, as a community, we would keep going.

Marsha de Cordova MP spoke about the importance of having disabled people at the heart of legislation, drawing on her own experiences and identity as a disabled women in politics. Marsha described how the needs of disabled people must be incorporated in legislation from the point of formation, ensuring that as a society we are not isolating the 20% of the population who are disabled or have a long-term health condition.

Co-chairs of the event Celia Hensman, from The Disability Policy Centre, and Clare Gray, from Shaw Trust, posed questions to the panellists on subjects ranging from fostering diversity to generate innovation of different sorts, working towards viewing difference as a strength, the importance of appropriate language around disability issues and examining different sorts of bias.

Comments from the floor, once again, centred around the importance of representation, championing disabled people from across industries, ensuring the voice of disabled people was heard equally and that the talents and abilities of disabled people were given the recognition that they deserved. The audience contributors noted that to break down barriers, the disabled community must not only advocate within the accessibility conversation arena, but that the discussion must break through to the policy and industry leaders to ensure success.  

My own question about the state of concepts such as ‘reasonable adjustments’ versus regulation seemed to chime with the panellists and others in the room. The signals were that as difficult as it sometimes can be, that we should start asking for more, in terms of security of promises made that disabled people will be treated fairly and equitably.

It was only right that Clare Gray concluded the session by speaking about the importance of The Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 and how it provides a platform and opportunity for disabled people to be heard, championing pioneers in each sector and showcasing the talents and potential of disabled people. Clare thanked the speakers for celebrating success, inclusion and advocacy, paving the way for disabled people, families, employers, organisations and governments to break down prejudice and work towards the creation of a fairer, more inclusive world and generally recognising, ‘The Power of Diversity’.