At a conference today (5 December) in Edinburgh, key names in Scottish business, including RBS and VisitScotland, will address the wider business community on innovative ways in which their organisations are addressing the needs of disabled employees and disabled consumers, and the positive impact that it is having on their businesses.

The conference, organised by Business Disability Forum and hosted by RBS, is the first of its kind in Scotland and is part of a week of events around the world to mark the UN International Day of People with a disability (3 December). Tickets for the free event were sold out early on, highlighting the importance that Scottish businesses are placing on the issue.

Business Disability Forum is a well-respected not-for-profit membership organisation. Through its Disability Standard programme it works with businesses across the world, offering advice on how organisations can meet the needs of disabled people and benefit from their skills and experience in the workplace. Business Disability Forum has been working with RBS since the bank became a member in 1992.

As a result, RBS was recently the first organisation in Scotland to achieve the Disability Standard Silver Status.

At the conference, RBS will be sharing its experience of becoming ‘disability smart’ and talking about the benefits to its business of involving disabled people. RBS will be joined by an impressive line of influential speakers from world of business and academia.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, said:

“We are very excited to be holding out first ever conference in Scotland and are very grateful to RBS for making it possible. We look forward to meeting with the Scottish business community and sharing with them our experiences of working with organisations around the world to help them gain a better understanding of how they can best meet the needs of disabled people, whilst at the same time benefiting from their skills and talent.”

At the conference, Business Disability Forum will also be launching ‘Going Places’ a two year campaign aimed at raising awareness of the barriers that disabled people face, both in terms of physically accessing the places they want to go, as well as progression within their places of work.

Diane Lightfoot said:

“Business Disability Forum’s Going Places campaign is all about removing barriers and opening up opportunities for disabled people, whether they be physical barriers, or workplace cultures that make it difficult for disabled people to advance their careers. At present only 47% of disabled people are in paid work, and once in work many find progress is limited.  At the same time disabled people have a huge potential spending power of £200bn, but find that physical access issues often prevent them from being able to enjoy their rights as consumers.

“It feels fitting that we are launching the campaign today as part of celebrations for the UN’s International Day of People with Disabilities and at the headquarters of RBS, an organisation which has recently introduced a coaching scheme to help disabled colleagues fulfil their potential.”

Phil Friend is Director of disability consultancy Phil & Friends and led the coaching at RBS. He will be speaking about the training and interviewing some recent course participants, he said:

“Personal development programmes provide disabled people with a unique opportunity to explore and identify what’s holding them back and what they need to do in order to be more effective.

“The programme explores what belongs to the individual and what is the responsibility of others. Participants are encouraged to develop a strategy which is designed to dismantle disabling barriers and enhance their personal effectiveness.”

Professor Kate Sang, from Heriot Watt University, will also be joining the line-up of speakers and will be sharing insights from her recent research into the opportunities and barriers that people with a disability or health condition experience when pursuing a career in academia. She said:

“My research with disabled employees suggests a range of barriers can be identified, these include inaccessible recruitment procedures and rigid ideas of the ‘ideal worker’. Sadly, many disabled people are working well below their skill level, often leading to in-work poverty.

“However, many disabled employees are, with the appropriate adjustments, able to work at very high skill levels, making important contributions to organisations. Often adjustments are not expensive, for example, provision of an accessible parking space and can support a disability inclusive workplace.”

Other speakers at the event will include disabled entrepreneurs, as well as disabled employees from RBS who have overcome barriers associated with disability in their careers.

Business Disability Forum’s ‘Going Places’ campaign is running for two years.  The Business Disability Forum is currently carrying out research around the barriers that disabled people face in different areas of their lives from employment through to transport. For further information on the Business Disability Forum and the Going Places campaign, go to x

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