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Creating a more inclusive world for people with disabilities

In the UK & Ireland, we’re immensely proud to work closely with Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for Disabled People (QEF). Leo Visconti, Director of Engagement and Partnerships and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead at QEF tells us more about the charity, the work they do and shares his advice for both individuals and businesses who want to help create a more inclusive world for disabled people.

In the UK & Ireland, we’re immensely proud to work closely with Queen Elizabeth's Foundation for Disabled People (QEF), who are based just down the road from our head office in Leatherhead, Surrey. QEF has been one of our main charity partners for over five years now and we’re proud to support all the great work they do to help disabled people of all ages, to increase their independence and live the life they choose.

At Unilever we are committed to creating a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities. We’ve set ourselves the global target of having 5% of our workforce represented by disabled people and to making all our sites around the world accessible by 2025, as well as being the employer of choice for disabled people.

As we look ahead to what we can do to make our business more inclusive this year, we asked Leo Visconti, Director of Engagement and Partnerships and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead at QEF to tell us more about the charity, the work they do and to share his advice for both individuals and businesses who want to help create a more inclusive world for disabled people.

Can you tell us a little more about QEF?

At QEF our mission is to deliver caring and creative solutions for disabled people of all ages, enabling each person to maximise their independence so they can live the life they choose.

Our aim is to help each person to be as independent as possible; whether that’s learning to drive a specially adapted car, giving children their first experience of independent mobility using a mini powered wheelchair, learning key life skills or expert neuro rehabilitation to rebuild lives following an acquired brain injury, stroke or other neurological condition. Our expert teams provide therapy, support and advice to enable people to achieve their potential.

We recently celebrated our 85th birthday. QEF began as a training college in 1934, providing disabled people with employment training. Over the years QEF’s services may have changed but we have continued to be committed to helping disabled people achieve their goals.

What changes do you feel are needed to better support disabled people of all ages, to enable and break down the barriers that exist?

There needs to be a collaborative effort and drive across government, in communities and in workplaces, to remove inhibitors and barriers to disability inclusion. A lot has been achieved but a lot more can be done.

Whilst some disabilities are visible, there are several disabilities that are hidden. It is important to understand what prevents people from living a full life and to use this broader understanding when changes are considered and implemented. We must create an environment that removes barriers disabled people face and allows them to access society equally.

What can we do?

You could become a voice for change by joining and supporting groups who campaign for disability rights. You can find information about how you can support QEF, including volunteering and corporate partnerships, on our fundraising pages on our website here.

At QEF we follow the three core values – everyone matters, everyone works together, and everyone makes a difference - which are important for anyone who wants to advocate and support better inclusion.

1. Everyone Matters

Respectful – value everyone equally, show interest in others, be welcoming, be polite and approachable and consider others

Supportive – be patient, empathetic, understanding, compassionate, helpful, encouraging and friendly

Appreciative – value others’ contributions, celebrate achievements, notice others’ effort and say thank you

2. Everyone Works Together

Collaborative – be responsive, give mutual support, inspire and enable others to succeed

Actively listening – encourage people to have their say, openly engage, explore and build on people’s ideas and contributions

Communicative – share information openly and in a timely manner, keep people informed and updated and take time to talk / interact with people

3. Everyone Makes a Difference

Responsible – be professional, organised, positive, always speak up about concerns and show integrity

Innovative – create solutions, think outside the box, look forwards and shape the future

Learning – share learning, learn from others and broaden our knowledge, seek and offer constructive feedback, create an open culture and measure our impact

What more do employers need to do to create an accessible and inclusive workplace?

Include disability inclusion in your organisations strategy and set targets to measure progress and drive action. Understand the needs of both hidden and physical disabilities and impairments. Ensure a safe and accessible environment for all and provide IT and equipment that can support speech, communication, movement and enable employees to do their jobs. Ideally speak to employees about how their access requirements can be met and what barriers they might face. Enabling you to improve as an organisation and remove barriers for other employees.

Offer disability and unconscious bias training to your employees. We are currently running a Disability Equality Training Course, that has been designed by disabled people. We are encouraging all of our corporate partners to work with us so that we develop a tailored e-learning module specifics to Unilever’s staff needs.

Read more about how we’re working to make Unilever more disability inclusive in the UK and Ireland.