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2012 Paralympics has inspired the workplace

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Two thirds believe London 2012 created a lasting legacy within the workplace as Attitudes towards disability within the UK workplace have significantly improved since the London 2012 Paralympic Games, according to research by Nationwide Building Society.

The results highlight the impact that last summer’s event had on people’s lives, with the winning efforts of Paralympians David Weir, Jonnie Peacock and Ellie Simmonds becoming the top three memories that helped create a legacy within offices, schools, warehouses and shops across the UK*. Giles Long MBE, triple Paralympic Gold medal winning swimmer, said: “The Games really paved the way for people to start talking openly about these incredible athletes without feeling the need to side-step the disability issue. It is no longer a taboo subject, simply part of normal conversation.” Around 78 percent of disabled people acquire their impairment aged 16 or older, according to disability charity Papworth Trust. Nationwide Building Society currently employs 182 people recorded as disabled and has a strong track record for promoting disability through its charitable work and meeting the needs of its disabled members. The Society is recognised for its employment strategy through the ‘Positive About Disabled People’ two ticks symbol* and launched a dedicated staff disability network in January, which is backed at Board level and provides a forum for disabled staff to bring relevant issues to the attention of the organisation.

Nationwide’s poll shows that more than two thirds (67 percent) of all UK adults believe that the profile of disability – such as the awareness of different types of conditions – has been raised since the Games, while less than a fifth (18 percent) said companies are less supportive of the needs of disabled people since the Paralympics. Public opinion also suggests that the change in attitude has led to an increase in job opportunities for disabled people – 35 percent stated that the barriers disabled people have faced in work, including access to work and promotion, are less significant than they were before the Games. Furthermore, nearly two thirds (65 percent) agreed that disabled people have been recognised more than ever as being able to lead normal lives and achieve great things since the Games, while 61 percent stated that people’s attitudes have changed in thinking that those who are disabled can be active members of companies, communities and clubs. In both cases, only 7 percent of people surveyed disagreed.

Employees also feel that colleagues have become more aware of disability since last summer, with 39 percent noticing an improvement in their place of work, while 7 percent were aware of an incident in which a disabled employee has not been given support they require, such as specialist equipment or general assistance. Despite a positive outlook, the survey also reveals that poor access at work remains the biggest bugbear of those wishing to see improvements made for disabled people over the next 12 months, in addition to a need to recruit more disabled people into companies*. Nationwide prides itself as a diverse employer with a distinct culture, reflective of being a mutual and run for the benefit of its members. Drawing from a diverse and rich pool of talented employees makes good business sense and can be linked to its leading customer service satisfaction levels and wider business performance. The Society offers a unique and diverse work environment and is committed to developing staff, regardless of background. Nationwide had worked with Disability Sports Events (DSE) for over ten years (ending March 2013) to help increase participation for disabled people by supporting national sporting events and developing the charity’s profile and volunteering networks. On an annual basis the support from Nationwide has helped DSE to engage 500 swimmers at a national level and 1,000 at regional level.

In addition, a number of Nationwide’s branches support a range of local disability charities: for example the scheme has recently supported Riding for the Disabled Association, autism support groups, carers support and relief groups, and clubs for people with learning difficulties and disabilities across the country. Alison Robb, Group Director at Nationwide, said: “The London 2012 Paralympic Games marked a turning point for disability awareness in the UK. As a nation, we are placing increasing emphasis on the ability within disability. “At Nationwide, we pride ourselves on being a diverse employer with a fantastic culture, which is why we refuse to see disability as a barrier to work. And just as we have drawn inspiration from the Games to further develop a dedicated staff disability network, other businesses should embrace this step-change and look to make as compelling case as possible for people with disabilities to apply for jobs. While inequalities remain, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”

Giles Long MBE, triple Paralympic Gold medal winning swimmer and inventor of the ground-breaking LEXI info-graphic system*, first used on Channel 4's BAFTA winning coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, said: “The Games really paved the way for people to start talking openly about these incredible athletes without feeling the need to side-step the disability issue. It is no longer a taboo subject, simply part of normal conversation. “It’s wonderful that awareness and acceptance has emerged as a legacy by entering into our everyday lives. While there is much more to be done in addressing inequalities that still exist, the Paralympics has clearly got us moving in the right direction.” Paul McAllister, Head of Customer Services for Savings and Mortgages at Nationwide and Sponsor of the Nationwide Disability Network said: “Although Nationwide has always been an inclusive employer, the creation of the disability network has really raised the profile of disabled staff. Having a collective internal voice and being able to communicate with those at the top of the organisation is massively important and can be a catalyst for change where needed.” Annette Angell, Corporate Fundraising Manager at the Papworth Trust disability charity said: “There has certainly been a spike in disability awareness since the Games and this has affected the corporate world in a way we might not have imagined 12 months ago. Equality can only be achieved by giving disabled people more choice on where they can work and greater independence. We should therefore champion those companies who are doing the right thing by being committed to recruiting and developing disabled staff.”