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Workforce Inclusion: Harnessing Diversity for Accessible Environments

by Ellie Rourke

On day 1 of UK Construction Week London, we attended the insightful ‘workforce inclusion’ session on the Barbour ABI Main Stage.

Co-chaired by Ele George, Founder of Elevate, and Guy Harris, Director of AccessiblePRS, the session started by asking the audience four eye opening questions. Guy asked everyone to stand up and when they answered ‘yes’ to the questions, to sit down. The questions were centred around knowing someone with accessibility requirements and by the fourth question, the entire audience was seated.

Joining Ele and Guy were Executive Consultant at Oyster, Kevin Redman, Assistant Professor at NMITE, Steve Bertasso and Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at ISS A/S, Kat Parsons.

If you didn’t get chance to hear first-hand the experiences of the panel, we have listed key takeaways from the session:

It’s about our environment, not our condition 

As a wheelchair user, Steve started the open discussion by sharing his own experiences. Steve began his career as a site worker, but once he became a wheelchair user, he quickly realised he couldn’t function on construction sites as he once could, as they were now inaccessible to him.

Steve poignantly described construction as “a hard industry to be disabled in”, because of the irony in the industry’s power to develop accessible buildings whilst forgetting about accessibility on-site. Furthermore, as an industry we need to think when designing buildings about whether everyone can access them. And if the answer is no, how can we make them accessible?

Build a diverse workforce

Executive Consultant at Oyster, Kevin Redman also shared his personal experience with the audience. Kevin had an unexpected stroke a couple of years ago, the effects of which completely changed his working life.

He explained Oyster wholeheartedly supported his efforts to find an accessible workplace by providing the training and tools he needed to return to work.

A diverse workforce is a productive one. A statistic from EduMe shows that inclusive teams make better business decisions twice as fast. Kevin ended the session by offering the audience a piece of advice: companies will make mistakes and it’s a tough journey, but a great one.

Creatively develop solutions to eliminate barriers

Kat Parsons is Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at ISS A/S and she shared how she is working towards making ISS A/S’ working environments more accessible and inclusive for those with both physical and hidden disabilities. Kat’s guidance centred around evaluating your workplace and discovering what quick wins you can make to deliver a more inclusive space.

Kat delivered information on some keys tools that she recommends for improving accessibility: Mobility Mojo allows you to find out how accessible your site is through your mobile phone and Navilense allows you to create accessible QR codes for the visually impaired – these are just some of the tools you can use to take the first step to creating an accessible workforce.

About the author

Picture of Ellie Rourke

Ellie Rourke

Content Marketing Executive at Barbour ABI

Ellie Rourke is a Content Marketing Executive at Barbour ABI, who joined the Marketing team in September 2021. A recent Marketing graduate from the University of Salford, Ellie joined Barbour ABI to kick start her career and gain experience in a professional work environment.

Ellie also works within the Barbour Product Search team and helps manage the social media accounts, as well as writing engaging content for both Barbour Product Search and Barbour ABI.

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