I lost sight in my right eye this weekend. Don’t panic, nothing major, just a foreign object that I couldn’t sluice out meaning a trip to hospital. The nurses were lovely and kind, “just a simple corneal abrasion” they said, “take this ointment for a few days and wear some dark glasses”.
As I write, it’s Monday and I can manage without the dark glasses indoors now. My vision is settling down apart from when I put the ointment in. It’s not a huge inconvenience but it meant that I almost didn’t get this post written.
Such a simple thing took away my freedom of action and stopped me doing some of the things I love, such as reading. It will heal quickly enough but for many others they live daily with conditions which stop employers seeing their true worth or potential. Some of the conditions may be obvious, physical disabilities but others may be mental health challenges or learning difficulties. After such a summer of Paralympic sport I’m pleased to say that attitudes are changing but there is still a long way to go, particularly in the field of mental health (regular readers will know that this is a subject close to my heart). Earlier this year the MP Gavin Barwell proposed a bill to address such discrimination, not least in the parliament in which he serves. I’m excited about that legislation and urge you to let your own MP know your views but what about closer to home, in your organisations. families, networks?
I will give you an example. When I worked for London Underground there was a recognition that the network needed overhauling for disability access. That’s a given. However, one of my colleagues also saw that we could and indeed should change the profile of our employees. There was a pilot scheme which enabled a handful of new staff to join the company and all these people had some fairly large health challenges. I won’t go in to all the detail here but single out one member of staff. They were trained up and sent to work at a busy central London station. As they had Aspergers Syndrome it was felt that they would need to be buddied up with another member of staff. Not least because they would struggle to pick up the vocal inflections and moods of customers (and trust me there are some moody customers). However he brought something special and amazing to that station. His encyclopaedic memory. Think about it. There were 276 stations served by London Underground and that’s before you add in buses, trams, boats and Docklands / Overground Rail services. Literally thousands of destinations – hospitals, galleries, shops and pubs. His recall was phenomenal.
It took one of my colleagues to see the wisdom in employing someone not naturally suited for empathy in such a customer facing role. They could see a different potential. Could you?
This is a different blog to the one I would have written if I had been able to see properly. Having said that, the points I wished to raise were covered very eloquently by both David Goddin and Alison Chisnell. I urge you to check out their posts and others in the HR Carnival so ably organised by Sukh Pabial