Haydn, Ellie and Kurt of Happy Smiles Training
by Alex Winstanley
We asked Alex Winstanley, MD of Happy Smiles Training CIC to interview Haydn, Ellie and Kurt.
What easy-to-implement suggestions do you have that would dramatically improve workplaces?
An easy way of making workplaces more accessible for disabled is to simply include disabled people in any discussions around accessibility. I think it is really important for disabled people to have their voices heard, as we often see and notice aspects that non-disabled people might not see. I personally really appreciate being asked questions around how best to include me in any aspect of my life, after spending a lot of time being told how to live my life. I now have a job that is built around my abilities and strengths, which allows me to show people what I can do.
The thing I would change is to put Changing Places toilets into every workplace. By putting Changing Places into workplaces, you’re giving more disabled people the opportunity to work. Take my experience for example, I did some work experience in a nursery and I loved it but the only downside of it was that I had to wait until I got home to use the toilet because I need to be hoisted. As you see, people like me need Changing Places to access the working world.
I feel it would be very beneficial to implement welfare days or mental health days, not only would it help the employee's but it would also help the employers. People could talk about issues they're having at home or the office.
What standard practice or advice should they (the line manager) ignore? Or, what bad recommendations do you hear?
I would ignore someone who tells you that you cannot do something based on your disability. Whilst there will be jobs that I might struggle to do, if they were adapted to suit my needs, it wouldn't be a problem.
Always ask a disabled person what job they would like to do and don’t just give them a job to do. Don’t assume that just because someone is disabled that they can’t do the job or need help with the job, give them a chance to show you what they can do.
When I was working at my previous employer I was not given the opportunity to do an aspect of the job that I wanted to do. An assumption had been made on my behalf that due to my body I wouldn't be able to do it. I wanted to give it a go and it was deflating to not be given the opportunity to prove myself.
For a line manager/employee, how would you recommend approaching a conversation about disabilities/health-conditions & workplace adjustments?
I would really appreciate a manager approaching me first to have an open and honest discussion about the best way to support my needs and wishes. Non-disabled people can often assume that they know what is best, without consulting the individual who requires adjustments to be made. It would be really nice if all workplaces were universally accessible so that adjustments wouldn't even need to be considered.
I would approach the line manager with a conversation by saying that the workplace is not disability friendly and stuff has to be improved if they want more disabled employees. For example, dimming down the lights, having quiet places, having a spacious work area, having a Changing Places for people who need it and to allow their carer to come to work with them if they need them there.
The best way to talk about disability and health conditions is to just talk about them with the person involved. If it's private, talk with them in a different room.
If you could wave a magic wand, what one change would you make to all workplaces?
I would make every workplace universally built to accommodate anyone's needs and wishes. This would help massively in decreasing the ableist attitude that many people can have, that assumes that disabled people are unable to work to the same standard as non-disabled people.
If I had a magic wand, I would make the working world more disabled-friendly. I would make employers know that disabled people can do anything if they put their mind to it.
I would change all light bulbs to make them autism-friendly.
What's the best piece of advice you have been given that transformed your work life?
My friend Alex often reminds me that I am capable of positively impacting and educating anyone, through my lived experiences. I am proud that being a disabled person allows me to do this.
Based on my own past experiences, I gave my own advice to myself and that is to not to get off track with work because you might fall months behind. Being proactive really helps!
My mum said something to the effect of: "you're disabled, you can let that define you or you can put in the time, put in the hard work. People will only remember the hard work, not the disability. Now shut up and get on with it."
Managing Director, Happy Smiles Training CIC
At Happy Smiles Training CIC, our aim is to create inclusive communities, by empowering disabled people to deliver awareness and inclusion training, to schools, community groups, businesses and more.