The recent impetus by both the Ministry of Defence and the civil service to develop a more prominent and positive culture towards diversity and inclusion made me think: what could I do to help my employers promote the disability agenda?
I have had an invisible visual disability which has culminated in two corneal graphs, contact lenses and other eye diseases, as well as a visible disability in terms of hearing aids and t-tubes, for most of my life. However, I felt a calling – I wanted to help and support others with similar hearing and visual disabilities who may feel isolated or have no one that they can talk to at work who understands what they are going through with their disability.
Indeed, those of us with hearing or visual disability know that such disabilities are not nine to five, something that you can switch off at the end of a working day. They are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and every day is a battle against the adversity of a hearing or visual disability.
Earlier this year, I set up four networks: at the Ministry of Defence I launched a visual disability network and a hearing disability network, which includes military personnel, and I formed the civil service hearing and visual disability networks. We meet quarterly, and support staff with hearing and visual disabilities, helping them to feel more included at work but also to look for solutions across the MoD and the civil service to some of the issues and challenges that they face. We aim to help make life for these staff just a little easier to cope with during the working day.
The mammoth task of starting up these networks from scratch at the same time as my day job was challenging to say the least. However, it felt like a tremendous opportunity to promote hearing and visual disability across the civil service.
Following the first meetings of all four networks, I have met wonderful people, many of whom have inspired me to want to do a lot more to help raise the profile of people with such disabilities.
I want the defence and the civil service hearing and visual networks to reach out to every person in the civil service or MoD who either has a hearing or visual disability, cares for someone with one or just purely has an interest, to invite them to become a member of our network. New members will join us in our mission to raise the profile of hearing and visual disability through events, blogs, role modelling and other activities, to help make the civil service and Ministry of Defence become more inclusive and supportive to people with these disabilities. Everyone will be warmly welcomed.