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Ford Purple Lights Up Day

December 03, 2020

It’s #PurpleLightUpDay: a global celebration of employees with disabilities

Every year, #PurpleLightUpDay recognises the contribution of the 386 million disabled employees worldwide, in tandem with the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Today, we’ll be one of many companies celebrating their ‘purple talent’. For more information: https://www.purplespace.org/purple-light-up.

We’ll be posting throughout the day on our social channels – which you’ll notice have temporarily turned purple! Our people will also be dressed in purple, and we’ll be holding several celebratory events.

We think it’s important to remember the purpose behind the purple. So, we asked some of our people for their views on the current inclusivity situation, how it could be improved, and about Purple Light Up Day itself.

Here’s what they had to say...

How has inclusion amongst those with disabilities changed over the length of your career?

Darren C: As a person with disabilities, I’ve seen significant changes to inclusion over my lifetime. The UK is much more inclusive than it was when I was growing up and disability is more visible in mainstream media these days. Employment for people with disabilities remains low and there is still work to be done in this space. Outside of work I still sometimes experience negative behaviour consciously and unconsciously. People assume that because you’re disabled, you can’t do things, or that you’ve had help to get where you are. In the UK laws are in place to protect people with disabilities from discrimination,  however I hear regularly people discussing registered disabled. This is a hangover from post-war Britain when the Government made quotas for employing people with disabilities. There’s no such thing today as a register for people with disabilities, and people should be hired based on their abilities. Working at Ford, people don’t see me for my disabilities, but for what I can bring. Over the last 15 years, I’ve been able to help guide on inclusivity and one of my proudest moments was helping Ford in the UK become recognised as a Disability Confident Leader Employer.

Lara N: During the length of my professional career I believe we have really seen disability inclusion grow. Ford aims to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce and has a very clear commitment to supporting employees with disabilities which includes making reasonable adjustments in the workplace as and when necessary to supportFord has a very clear commitment to supporting employees with disabilities and we aim to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce.  It’s a key reason why we are proud to be a Disability Confident Leader and to work with important charities such as #WorkWithMe and Mental Health First Aid England. I am proud of the role our Disability and Accessibility Employee Resource Group and Mental Health First Aiders play in supporting us create a more inclusive environment.  

What can organisations do to raise awareness for Purple Light Up Events?

DC: The Purple Light Up Events are scheduled to support the International Day of People with Disabilities. This gives an opportunity on the day, for organisations to raise awareness of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide that are affected by disability. I would like them to start conversations on what they can do differently to be more inclusive internally, but also look at how they can change their products and services to be more inclusive. People with disabilities need to be creative to navigate the world, as it’s not designed for them. Let’s be creative and develop products and solutions that are accessible to all, wherever possible.

LN: Purple Space have produced a really helpful guide to assist employers support #PurpleLightUp that includes a range of a ideas many of which are really easy and free to implement such as encouraging employees to wear purple or changing your virtual background to purple if you are attending online meetings, through to joining their free 24 hour global broadcast or holding internal events.

This is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the valuable contribution employees of diverse abilities bring to your business, and by showing solidarity with your employees from the top and encouraging others to do the same we can drive increased awareness and inclusion.

In addition, most organisations have an external footprint – this can be a powerful tool in spreading the message further and wider.

What advice would you give to other organisations to help those affected by disabilities?

DC: Don’t assume that there are going to be incremental costs or that they are less productive, when looking at working with people with disabilities. There are tools embedded into technologies today that will make people with disabilities as productive, and often these tools are free or relatively low cost. Support with financial costs and guidance is also available from outside organisations, such as Access to Work. Through thinking differently, the workplace can be adjusted at a low cost. Also, don’t assume that someone needs help, but leave your door open should someone want to talk or ask for help. And remember that employing people with different backgrounds builds strong, successful companies. If you make your hiring policies inclusive, you’ll attract the best talent no matter what their background.

LN: The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is significantly higher than those with no identified disability and there are more people who develop a disability during their lifetime, compared to those who have a disability from birth. The biggest change we can make as employers is to challenge the stigma that surrounds disability and to focus on embracing individual potential. When all organisations focus on the potential everyone has, we will begin to see real and tangible change.  

What advice would you give to friends and families who want to get involved?

DC: Disability can affect anyone at any time of life. If you want to be involved on the day, watch some events. If you’ve a particular interest in a particular disability, do some research and just become more informed.

LN: We all need allies, and in a year when we have all been affected by COVID-19 but particularly people with disabilities, the need for allies has never been greater. We should never underestimate the difference one individual can make to another. This is an opportunity to learn more about our friends, colleagues and neighbours and their specific lived experiences. Many disabled people experience isolation and exclusion – now is a great opportunity to show solidarity with the one billion people with disabilities globally by reaching out personally to someone you know and seeking to connect and to show you care.     

At Ford, we’re committed to creating an inclusive environment for all our people with disabilities, and we’ve put in place several initiatives to help.