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I was very honoured this week to receive the Executive Disability Champion award for my commitment to disability in business at the 2016 Disability-Smart Awards. It’s a subject I feel very passionate about and feel humbled to have received such recognition. Being disability confident isn’t just about doing the right thing – it’s about doing the right thing for our business.

As successful businesses we continue to fish for recruits from an ever-decreasing pool of talent. We need to broaden that pool if we want to remain sustainable and reflect the wider work in which we live and work and our customers operate. Embracing the value of disability is a one of those key steps.

As we push for greater digital transformation it is crucial that some of the gains and savings are redeployed to ensure those with a disability are not left out. Both employment and digital services should be accessible for all.  And especially in IT services, many roles require only minimal adjustments can be well suited to those with a disability or impairment.

What does being disability confident mean to CGI?

Disability affects around 16% of the working population. And even more people through caring responsibilities. So being disability confident is all about equipping everyone in our business with the tools and knowledge they need to engage with and understand their colleagues. It’s about recruiting the best talent and then supporting colleagues to help them work to the best of their ability regardless of disability, impairments or caring responsibilities.

Most people aren’t born with their disability. And disability isn’t something that people have chosen to have in their lives, or perhaps they even identify themselves with. Indeed they may have already made adjustments to their life and don’t consider the term ‘disability’ something they relate to. It might not be something that they actively want to face or share. However, very importantly: we know that people work better when they can be themselves.

So to support people to be themselves at work, one of our keys initiatives at CGI in the UK has been our Capability Network for people with an interest in disability and their subject support networks. Their objective is to share stories, provide mutual support and develop the confidence of our managers and colleagues. As senior sponsor for the group, we started the conversation with my own personal story of an issue I experienced earlier in my life. As the network continues to grow, I have been overwhelmed by the other stories which our members had previously kept to themselves and, through the network, finally had the courage to share. It starts the ripples of confidence and conversation.

Thinking more broadly about disability, another one of the initiatives I’m particularly proud of is our mental health awareness and first aid training programme. We know that 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health problem during their lifetime, so it makes sense to have people in our offices that are trained to listen to colleagues in distress, offer informal support where needed and signpost them towards the sources of formal help available.  Also included in the programme are building resilience workshops, mindfulness training and webinars - 66 people so far have attended the two day course organised by Mental Health First Aid so we are well on the way to reaching the recommended ratio of 1:50 employees, approximately 110.   As part of this programme we’ve started drop in sessions in two of our offices and, if successful, we’re looking to roll it out further.

Like our Capability Network, it’s all part of starting conversations and building disability confidence across our organisation. I’m very proud to be in a position to have started the conversation and see ripples grow into waves throughout CGI and beyond.

Steve Thorn accepts Disability-smart Award

About this author


CGI’s CSR Team

Corporate Responsibility is a key value at CGI. We recognise that we have a responsibility to the environment, our members, and to the communities in which we work.

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