Steve Ingham, former CEO of PageGroup, has become the new chair of Business Disability Forum (BDF).
He will take over from BDF’s current chair, Steve Miller, after stepping down from PageGroup in December 2022.
Steve became a permanent wheelchair user in 2019 after a nearly fatal skiing accident which left him paralysed from the waist down.
As a CEO, Steve has always been passionate about bringing about positive change for disabled people in the workplace, but after his accident, his motivations increased two-fold.
His experiences influenced his leadership at PageGroup, where he advocated for disability inclusion but says it was a long road to recovery. “It took me three and a half months before I went through the doors of the office, but for me, it was never a question,” Steve recalled.
“What would it say to everybody about the effort we’ve made on diversity and inclusion if I didn’t go back? It would say we haven’t created an environment that’s inclusive enough at Page for me to come back and work as a disabled person.”
While many things have changed for Steve now, he’s shown his resilience, grit, and ability to adapt to the new challenges he faces. “Every morning is a two-hour routine for me. I can’t pull my trousers up by standing up, and that’s a really simple thing,” Steve explained.
“I have to do it lying on a bed and roll from side to side to pull them up, which is not easy, particularly with something like a suit. You know, all of these things, like getting coffee mugs down from shelves to make coffee, aren’t straightforward, but you become innovative.”
Steve’s struggles with everyday tasks highlight the real need to identify how we can make the workplace more accessible for everyone and go back to the basics.
Disabled people can ask their employer for “reasonable adjustments” under the Equality Act 2010, but sometimes this isn’t enough. “You’ve got to make sure that offices are accessible, but the culture is as well, so that when disabled people are employed, they also want to stay there,” adds Steve.
“But then you’ve got to change the recruitment process because if you’re rigid about a selection process, it’s not accessible.”
By adapting the interview and selection process, you’re also widening the pool of candidates to pick from, which the new Chair says can be positive. He encourages all businesses to look at their recruitment strategies and see how they can be more inclusive.
“I see [disabilities] as a strength, but I think we all need to change our attitudes towards [disabled] people,” encouraged Steve. “Somebody who’s blind that gets up puts the right clothes on, walks out the door and commutes to work, has great courage, resilience, and innovative skills.
“It makes them an incredible job candidate, yet so many are being ignored. So, I thought I could try to impact that as a CEO from a recruitment background where I understand a bit about employment.”
As part of his new role, Steve will join the judging panel for the BDF’s annual Disability Smart Awards showcase. The Disability Smart Awards officially open for entries today, and will close on 21 January 2024.
There are 10 Disability Smart Awards open to UK and global organisations of any size and from any sector, which are free to enter. There are also three Disability Confident Awards available for organisations that are registered with the UK Government’s Disability Confident employer scheme which are judged by the Department for Work and Pensions Disability Confident Team.
Steve will form part of the judging panel for the recruitment award, and is looking forward to seeing what innovative strategies businesses have developed.
“It’s about sharing great initiatives between companies so other companies can go yeah, wow, that is so sensible, we’ll implement that in our organisation,” Steve adds. “Together, we can move the agenda to make the office a better place, and to me, there’s so much logic behind that.”
Whilst Steve acknowledges that there’s a long way to go with inclusivity in the workplace, he thinks talking about it is a step in the right direction. “The more we try to solve the problem of disability in the workplace, the more we will understand about disability in general,” concluded Steve.
For more information or to enter the Disability Smart Awards, visit Business Disability Forum.