I was invited to join my organisation’s disability network because of my reputation for delivering successful knowledge-sharing events.
This was prompted by a conversation with a colleague who, with his encyclopedic knowledge of history, had been a source of inspiration over the years. I knew that he regularly gave presentations on dyslexia to colleagues in his office, from the most senior executive on down, and yet my colleague was always the most junior person present. Until one particular conversation got more personal, I had not appreciated that in the workplace he was classified as having multiple disabilities, what are now called neuro-diverse conditions.
For someone like me who is not disabled, the Disability Network was an eye-opener. This group had been meeting regularly to discuss the challenges that they faced in the workplace and to support each other. Other disabilities represented included epilepsy, deafness, colitis and Crohn’s Disease, diabetes, poor eyesight and more. The issue that was irking them was how to get people to understand that not all disabilities are visible and to make allowances. This included avoiding using the disabled toilet facilities when other toilets were available, or being aware that some rooms have better acoustics than others for the hard of hearing.
So what is normal anyway?
This is where I came in. I was able to bring my experience of arranging knowledge-sharing events and steer them to creating a disability education series. We called this series, ‘So what is normal anyway?’.
These talks were designed to give the speaker an opportunity to share their own story and to raise awareness of how their condition may manifest itself differently in others. It was also an opportunity to identify the charities that offer support, and to advise colleagues what they might do in support.
Having attended the talks on dyslexia and on epilepsy, I not only learned about these conditions but I discovered that I was working with some very capable and articulate people, who I might otherwise never have encountered in my place of work. Their intelligence and positive attitude made it a privilege to be able to assist in their mission.
It made me wonder why these type of talks had never been done before, or at least in that manner.
The Knowledge Maverick challenge
If you have the opportunity to introduce a disability education series into your workplace, then I urge you to do it. It can be both enlightening and inspiring.