August 13, 2013 02:00 ET

Paralympics Inspire UK Business to See Ability in Disability

Two thirds believe London 2012 created a lasting legacy within the workplace as disability awareness soars a year after Games

- 67% believe the profile and awareness of disability has been raised generally

- 65% believe that disabled people are better recognised as being able to lead normal lives and achieve at work

- 39% believe work colleagues are more aware of disability

- 35% think there are less barriers for disabled people regarding work and promotion

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - Aug. 13, 2013) - Attitudes towards disability within the UK workplace have significantly improved since the London 2012 Paralympic Games, according to research by Nationwide Building Society.

The results highlight the impact that last summer's event had on people's lives, with the winning efforts of Paralympians David Weir, Jonnie Peacock and Ellie Simmonds becoming the top three memories that helped create a legacy within offices, schools, warehouses and shops across the UK*.

Giles Long MBE, triple Paralympic Gold medal winning swimmer, said: "The Games really paved the way for people to start talking openly about these incredible athletes without feeling the need to side-step the disability issue. It is no longer a taboo subject, simply part of normal conversation."

Around 78% of disabled people acquire their impairment aged 16 or older, according to disability charity Papworth Trust. Nationwide Building Society currently employs 182 people recorded as disabled and has a strong track record for promoting disability through its charitable work and meeting the needs of its disabled members. The Society is recognised for its employment strategy through the 'Positive About Disabled People' two ticks symbol* and launched a dedicated staff disability network in January, which is backed at Board level and provides a forum for disabled staff to bring relevant issues to the attention of the organisation.

Nationwide's poll shows that more than two thirds (67%) of all UK adults believe that the profile of disability - such as the awareness of different types of conditions - has been raised since the Games, while less than a fifth (18%) said companies are less supportive of the needs of disabled people since the Paralympics. Public opinion also suggests that the change in attitude has led to an increase in job opportunities for disabled people - 35% stated that the barriers disabled people have faced in work, including access to work and promotion, are less significant than they were before the Games.

Furthermore, nearly two thirds (65%) agreed that disabled people have been recognised more than ever as being able to lead normal lives and achieve great things since the Games, while 61% stated that people's attitudes have changed in thinking that those who are disabled can be active members of companies, communities and clubs. In both cases, only 7% of people surveyed disagreed.

Employees also feel that colleagues have become more aware of disability since last summer, with 39% noticing an improvement in their place of work, while 7% were aware of an incident in which a disabled employee has not been given support they require, such as specialist equipment or general assistance.

Despite a positive outlook, the survey also reveals that poor access at work remains the biggest bugbear of those wishing to see improvements made for disabled people over the next 12 months, in addition to a need to recruit more disabled people into companies*.

Nationwide prides itself as a diverse employer with a distinct culture, reflective of being a mutual and run for the benefit of its members. Drawing from a diverse and rich pool of talented employees makes good business sense and can be linked to its leading customer service satisfaction levels and wider business performance. The Society offers a unique and diverse work environment and is committed to developing staff, regardless of background. Nationwide had worked with Disability Sports Events (DSE) for over ten years (ending March 2013) to help increase participation for disabled people by supporting national sporting events and developing the charity's profile and volunteering networks. On an annual basis the support from Nationwide has helped DSE to engage 500 swimmers at a national level and 1,000 at regional level.

In addition, a number of Nationwide's branches support a range of local disability charities: for example the scheme has recently supported Riding for the Disabled Association, autism support groups, carers support and relief groups, and clubs for people with learning difficulties and disabilities across the country.

Alison Robb, Group Director at Nationwide, said: "The London 2012 Paralympic Games marked a turning point for disability awareness in the UK. As a nation, we are placing increasing emphasis on the ability within disability.

"At Nationwide, we pride ourselves on being a diverse employer with a fantastic culture, which is why we refuse to see disability as a barrier to work. And just as we have drawn inspiration from the Games to further develop a dedicated staff disability network, other businesses should embrace this step-change and look to make as compelling case as possible for people with disabilities to apply for jobs. While inequalities remain, we are clearly moving in the right direction."

Giles Long MBE, triple Paralympic Gold medal winning swimmer and inventor of the ground-breaking LEXI info-graphic system*, first used on Channel 4's BAFTA winning coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, said: "The Games really paved the way for people to start talking openly about these incredible athletes without feeling the need to side-step the disability issue. It is no longer a taboo subject, simply part of normal conversation.

"It's wonderful that awareness and acceptance has emerged as a legacy by entering into our everyday lives. While there is much more to be done in addressing inequalities that still exist, the Paralympics has clearly got us moving in the right direction."

Paul McAllister, Head of Customer Services for Savings and Mortgages at Nationwide and Sponsor of the Nationwide Disability Network said: "Although Nationwide has always been an inclusive employer, the creation of the disability network has really raised the profile of disabled staff. Having a collective internal voice and being able to communicate with those at the top of the organisation is massively important and can be a catalyst for change where needed."

Annette Angell, Corporate Fundraising Manager at the Papworth Trust disability charity said: "There has certainly been a spike in disability awareness since the Games and this has affected the corporate world in a way we might not have imagined 12 months ago. Equality can only be achieved by giving disabled people more choice on where they can work and greater independence. We should therefore champion those companies who are doing the right thing by being committed to recruiting and developing disabled staff."

Notes to editors:

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,606 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26/07/2013 - 29/07/2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

  • As part of its commitment to provide a safe and healthy working environment for everyone, the Society is dedicated to meeting the needs of disabled employees and members - whether through better access or the right equipment, adjusted working hours, updated policies and procedures or alternative formats for literature, education and training or awareness raising. Nationwide also offers to make special adjustments to vehicles should staff have a specific requirement.

  • *An open survey question asked which moment of the Paralympics was most memorable a year after the Games. The most popular answers related to the medals won by David Weir, Ellie Simmonds and Jonnie Peacock.

  • *An open question asked what changes regarding disability people would like to see over the next 12 months. The most popular answers were a request for better access at work, such as lifts, automatic doors and ramps, in addition to a request to employ more disabled people.

  • The 'positive about disabled people' symbol with two ticks means the employer is committed to employing disabled people. If a job advert displays the symbol, you'll be guaranteed an interview if you meet the basic conditions for the job.

  • 52% of those polled who worked were in a position of management - ranging from Owner and Chief Executive through to Team leader and Supervisor.

In-branch disability:

  • Nationwide has around 700 branches across the UK, with less than 3 per cent requiring step-free access. Work is currently taking place to install ramps at these locations and is expected to complete in 2015/2016.

  • In each branch there is a Helping Hand unit - a small tool kit containing a number of aids that may assist disabled or elderly customers, such as pen grips, magnifiers and bank note gauges.

  • Chip and signature cards for customers who are unable to use chip and PIN.

  • British Sign Language interpreters, lip-readers and note takers can be booked at branches with advanced notice to accompany customers at branch appointments.

  • Nationwide is committed to the RNIB's 'Make Money Talk' campaign and will be rolling out Talking ATM's in the near future.

The Papworth Trust disability charity:

  • Papworth Trust is a leading disability charity, whose mission is to support disabled people to have equality, choice and independence in their lives. Their work includes:
  • Providing a range of high quality services for disabled and disadvantaged people.
  • Providing advice for disabled people and their families and carers through their Information Centre.
  • Campaigning for changes that disabled people want.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 16,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

Find recent press releases and photos at the Nationwide Media Centre:

Twitter: @NationwidePress


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