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October 5, 2021 29 mins

This episode features Liz Johnson, Charles Catherine, Haben Girma, Esther Verburg, Hank Prybylski, Facundo Chávez Penillas, Christina Mallon, Dan Brooke, Eddie Ndopu and Nilofar Bayat. When Sir Ludwig Guttmann formed the Paralympic movement after World War II, his vision was to use sport to rehabilitate Disabled people back into society to become taxpayers. 70 years later, how much has his vision been achieved? We will talk to experts, brand representatives, entrepreneurs, activists and athletes about their experiences, the challenges and inequality facing Disabled people around the world but also the progress and aspirations for a more equal world moving forward.

Hosted by Sophie Morgan and executive produced by Sophie Morgan and Sinéad Burke, Equal Too has been created by Harder Than You Think, the award winning team behind Emmy award winning Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix, and P&G Studios. The podcast aims to continue the conversation that the documentary started.


Equal Too: Achieving Disability Equality is a new special six-part series, featured on Seneca's Conversations on Power and Purpose series, that explores the biggest challenges faced by the disabled community and starts a conversation about what is needed to drive equality.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
There's a young boy the words that has occurred up
from our surgery prosthetic picture bergery telling me I'm normal,
but normal? Would they never really make me see? They
are always painting discriminated. But in the last episode, we
looked at accessibility and inclusive design and learned that the

global unemployment rate for disabled people is somewhere between fifty
and sev In this episode, we ask why this is
the case and what brands and activists are doing to
change the global picture for the disabled community. Join me
as I speak to disabled entrepreneurs, leaders from companies trying
to change hiring cultures to become more inclusive, and we

ask how can we create a more equitable workplace moving forward.
I'm Sophie Morgan. This is equal to episode five, equal
to the Hunt for Employment Equality. The first time I
tried getting a job jobs like washing dishes, folding laundry,
I kept getting discriminated against. When I learned about four

tens as a foreigner kind of blew my mind. I
had no idea, but it was legal in America to
play people with disabilities less standing of wage. You don't
have to be able to see to wash dishes or
fold laundry, but the employers assumed site was required, so
they passed me over. There are many more people with

disabilities in the world who don't feel that they can
be open about their disability, and particularly in the workplace.
If we're going to be committed and executed the building
a better working world, that world's got to be inclusive
for off and and that world is almost by definition,
incredibly diverse. Once a look with Gutman created the Paralympic

Games following the Second World War. His vision was to
use sports to rehabilitate people with spinal cord injury back
into society. In four a Jewish doctor who was a
refugee from Nazi Germany started a new spinal injuries unit
at Stoke Manderville Hospital, and to do this he gave
them the confidence and the skills needed to join the
workforce again. Almost more than any other outcome, Gutman believed

that employment mattered most. The Paralympics may have evolved from
a small archery competition into one of the largest sporting
events in the world, but has it made the impact
on employment that Gutman would be proud of? To answer

it plainly, many of the incredible athletes that we've watched
compete in the Tokyo Games can't even make a living
from playing sport. Many survive on benefits. Take New Zealand's
Paralympic team, for example, of the twenty nine people who
represented New Zealand this year, only seven of them are

considered full time employees. Or take a look at Annie
is Chiconggo from Namibia, Go miss In Fred Chicongo wearing
him down, Going miss Justin Fred Chicago's got in Chicongo,
Drive through Chicongo one it from Gomez in second, silver,
third fan, fourth Paralympic record two. At his second Paralympic Games,

the visually impaired sprinter returned home from the Rio Paralympics
with the country's first ever Paralympic gold medal. He hoped
that his success might have the very least facilitate an
interview for a job with the police, but he couldn't
even get an interview. Now, it would be easy to
assume that his disability justified such prejudicial behavior. People might

justify it thinking how could a blind man be a policeman?
But therein lies the problem. The lack of employment is
not because disabled people on mass are unskilled or unqualified,
but because we live in a world where our differences
make us lesser, where limits are placed upon us, where

what's possible is dictated to us. In short, we live
in an ablest world. And when you start looking into
employment for disabled people in society more generally, we have
a lot of work to do. Statistics vary by country,
but one thing is the same. All around the world,
employment levels for disabled people are much lower than for

non disabled people. In the UK it's fifty two for
disabled people compared with eighty one percent for non disabled people.
In the USA it's thirty five point two percent compared
with seventy seven point six percent. In Australia it's percent
compared with and these are just the countries where we
can source the data. It's a well known problem that

when it comes to collecting the figures around disability employment,
it's not always straightforward. What we do know, however, is
that the COVID pandemic has made the situation even worse.
As French power as Leach Charles Catherine, the Associate director
at the National Organization on Disability, tells US, I think

the pandemic was a magnifier of issues that we've been
facing for decades for our community. People with disabilities are
usually underemployed, and when there are employed, are usually more vulnerable.
And so there was a phenomenon called last hired, first
fired that really took place in May, June, July, August

when the crisis really hit UM And and it's true
that millions of people with disabilities last for jobs at
that time, and for for people like myself who really
fight too fanail to sometimes create ten or a hundred
jobs in the company, to see a million jobs disappear
like this in just you know, a few weeks was

was crushing. We may not have the exact figures, but
what we do know is that the situation for disabled
people all around the world currently is not good. So
what is being done about it? So The Ability People
is an organization that I co founded with my business
part Steve carter Um, and it's staffed entirely by people
with impairments and disabilities and medical conditions. Liz Johnson is

a former Paralympic gold medalist for Paralympics GB. After her
retirement from swimming in two thousand and sixteen, she founded
The Ability People, an agency to help disabled people get
jobs and the view is to normalize differences within the workplace.
But my primary aim was to create more meaningful opportunities
for people with disabilities. Liz explained that she was inspired

to create the Ability People due to the fact that
the employment gap for disabled people was stuck at thirty
percent and that figure had not moved in over a decade.
Then I was like, well, what what is that? What
is it? Why is it that this is not moving? Like,
what is the issue? Is it that people don't want jobs?
Is it that people can't work, or is it the

fact that they're not understood, or is it the fact
that the system is letting them down? And the reality
is all of the above, because because the one thing
we need to remember is people with disabilities, they're human.
So like the spread of like their abilities and their
needs and all is no difference to the rest of
the population. So you're going to find people that are

qualified or don't have no incentive to work. But but
the the issue in this space specifically was that those
that did want to work didn't have an equitable experience
or opportunity to access employment. And even though Liz found
her career and her platform through the Paralympics. She brought

up one of the big issues of talking about disability
employment in the context of the Games. Not everyone is
a Paralympian. They're Paralympians, so rightly or wrongly, sometimes that
opens the door for you, right and sometimes people are
blinded by the fact that you you, you might and
I'll be able to do that job. But if you're
a Paralympian, we're going to give you a chance. And

my frustration came from the fact that, like I said,
people aren't Paralympians, and probably them don't want to be
like nobody like a lot of time when you're young
and your aspirations to be an athlete or a football
or whatever it is. But like in reality, the majority
of people don't want to go to the Oalympics or
they don't want to have a life that isn't an athlete.
That's fine, And for those who aren't athletes, the job

market for disabled people is equally, if not more challenging.
You may remember Harbon Gurma from our conversation on law. Here.
She is as a deaf, blind Harvard graduate talking about
her own experiences of looking for work. Employment discrimination is
a huge problem over seventy of blind people are under unemployed,

and the statistics for deaf blind people are even higher.
And I grew up with those statistics, with the constant
fear that I would not be able to get a job.
And the first time I tried getting a job jobs
like washing dishes or folding laundry, I kept getting discriminated against.

Those are tactle jobs. You don't have to be able
to see to wash dishes or bold laundry, but the
employers assumed site was required, so they passed me over.
Assumptions like these stem from a lack of understanding. Not
every disabled person will need extra support and accommodations to
do a job, but when they do, employers in places

like America and the UK should be making reasonable adjustments
to support disabled people in the workplace. But what does
that actually mean? Eddie and Doppu, who you might remember
was also in the episode about law, thinks that this
type of woolie language is problematic. I've got a bit
of beasts with the language around reasonable accommodation, right, I

have always had. And it's at a philosophical level. Question
I asked myself is what is reasonable? Who is who
is reasonable who is being unreasonable? Right? And and the
reason why this is important is because when we demand
more um, we get seen as being unreasonable. So legal

support doesn't always help. And in some countries the legislation
can even prevent disabled people from working. Facundo have as
Penniless is a U and human rights and disability advisor,
and he spoke about some countries with shocking laws. We
have laws that for example, we want when we are
not working, so they're excluding us through and the social

protection system and not to be part of the of
the workforce. And and that is changing like in Argentine.
Now in New Zealand, UM there are laws that say
that we cannot work at all, and that also is changing,
like in some Zimbabwe or Samoa. But none of these
changes can happen without an active to society behind them,

right and your understanding of what is to be a
person with disability. What has become apparent through this conversation
is that increasing the confidence and skills of disabled people
is not enough if they get turned away when they
apply for jobs. And we see once again the disabled
people have to self advocate for legal and physical access

to the workplace. We need something more. We need workplaces
around the world to acknowledge the problem and to commit
to changing it. At DAVAS two thousand and nineteen, we
put disability inclusion center stage for the first time and
made a worldwide call. So this is a crisis, but

there is a solution to help end the disability inequality crisis.
The Valuable five hundred is a global movement of five
hundred big businesses from Apple to zero insurance, but aims
to equalize the playing field for disabled people. It provides
companies with resources and support on aspects such as workforce

governance and learning opportunities. The tagline is disability is Our Business,
something that should be true for every workplace. Hank Pribilski
is the Global Vice Chair for Transformation at e Y
previously known as Ernst and Young. He has also their
Global Exact Sponsor and Disability Inclusion. E Y is one

of the biggest consulting firms in the world and they
were one of the founding members of the Valuable five hundred.
Exact producers said asked him how and why the company
lead the way. If we're going to be committed and
executed building a better working world, that world's got to
be inclusive for all, and that world is almost by

definition incredibly diverse. So when you think about that opportunity
for bringing together that diverse world and inclusive environment, you know,
we just see that so core. Uh in the area
of diverse abilities, we see, Um, we're proud of what
we've accomplished, but we see so much more opportunity head

and I think it's a little bit of that, you know,
that continual push to drive and do more in align
with others who share those goals. Um. You know, if
you look at some some areas, like in the America's
where we've been a leader in the Disability Equality Index
for the top five years. Were very proud of that,

but we also recognize, you know, we have a long
way to go. And sometimes that's we look at different
parts of our world where we may be farther ahead
in one world than another. But when you really look
at the value of five hundred UM, it is a
great way of sharing best practices. It's creating an alignment
of five companies, and think about the size and scale

of that. It's over twenty million employees, thirty six different
headquartered country ease I think eight trillion in revenue represented
by that group and and you know, sharing best practices,
learning from each other, and as we said earlier, challenging
each other, you know, bringing your authentic self to work
inclusive and employment journey, accessible inclusive workplace and really lastingly,

equipping all our employees to be disability inclusive and really
rallying that around. I think that's you know, we've enjoyed that, um,
the camaraderie within the five hundred, We've we've enjoyed the learnings,
and I mean we're enjoy the competitiveness of of each
pushing each other. E Y have a great track record
in this space, and it's great to see brands and

corporations like e Y helping to bring around meaningful change.
I wanted to get an idea of how the Valuable
Five work in practice. Esther Berberg, who we heard in
the last episode, works at the fashion brand Tommy Hill Figure.
Her role is responsible for everything related to sustainable business
and in the nation. We asked Esther how aspects of

diversity and inclusion fit into the idea of a sustainable company.
What we're doing at the moment is also in line
with the pledge of the Valuable Um. We're we're creating
a strategy that um, this dismantles able is m within
the organization so as we say it, So that means
that we need better measures to hire people and to

to make sure that people with disabilities also feel like
they belong, but also to create a different attitude within
the organization towards people with a disability. So that's I
think a really important part. UM. We're doing at the
moment a big review of our talent practices in Europe
for instance, with an eye on inclusion and diversity. So
what are all the leavers when we hire, when we retain,

when we promote people, and how can we actually give
the disadvantaged communities or the underrepresented communities, um, you know,
a better a better platform, so create a more equitable
situation uh and help them to be more represented at
different levels um. Recently we had a talk also around

neurodiversity UM. And there are actually people also from the
company that spoke up about how they were new or
diverse and what that meant. And it opened up so
many doors for conversation, but also so many opportunities for
people to say like, oh, okay, so if I act
a little bit more like that or that then that
actually helps you and it makes it all you know,

more agreeable for you, um and and for us in
the end as well. And that connection and that that
conversation really has to happen because first people need to
be aware and then they need to feel like, Okay,
you know, we're all co owner of the of the
fact that we need to make this a place where
people all feel they belong and in the end, you know,
all of us become better if a workplace is more diverse.

It's not only the people from the underrepresented groups. Everybody
benefits from it, because a more diverse environment is just
a more rich environment, and you will get better ideas
and better books and you know, more fun. I think
in the thinking about disability, equity under the umbrella of
sustainability is an idea that other innovators have utilized. After all,

disabled people aren't going away, so making a workplace disability
friendly is making it future proof. Christina Mallon spoke in
the last episode about the design and marketing considerations for
different lived experiences, but much of her work is through
the framing of social sustainability. I've used social sustainability kind

of as the term when I'm explaining what I do
because there's so much talk around sustainability, but people only
really talk about climate sustainability. But it's much broader. So
when you know, we look at the u N sustainability goals,
many of them are about social issues and if you

can link it to the u N sustainability goals, people's
it starts to click more. Also, there's budgets, usually there's sustainability,
but there's heads of sustainability at companies. There's not a
lot of heads of disability. Movements like the valuable five
hundred and concepts like social sustainability are useful as frameworks
to show the possibility to measure success. But most importantly,

they proved the need to employ people with disabilities, especially
since the pandemic, when the number of people working from
home in Britain nearly doubled from twelve point four percent
to twenty five point nine in companies realize it is
possible to accommodate disabled people without compromising their workflow. In
this podcast, we have disabled people from all over the

UK and Canada who have been able to fulfill their
roles with no problems due to the modern technology on offer.
There is a huge opportunity coming out of the pandemic
to support disabled people to gain more flexible working commitments
which suit their daily needs and attributes better than an
office nine to five. But we have to ensure that

we take this opportunity to change working cultures to ensure
that this progress continues as we move out of the pandemic.
The employment numbers are looking pretty good since um, you know,
June July, because the industry that is bouncing back the
fastest are industries that um tend to hire more people

disabilities and average, so that's restoration, tourism, grocery stores, and
so the numbers are now higher than they were, you know,
around two thousand, eight thousand nine, So that is very encouraging,
but we're still at what we look is not so
much unemployment but workforce participation rate, and so now it's

around thirty for people disabilities against about seven for the
rest of the population. So we're still at half and
we know that it should be much higher than this.
So if it's better and we're bouncing back, but the
crisis has clearly shown that people disabilities were more vulnerable too.

If we're losing for her job or being laid off
but as much as the pandemic has brought some opportunities,
there is a long way to go for disabled people
to have true equality of opportunity and employment in the
US as well as across much of the world. In
many US states, they're still upholding a shocking piece of
legislation called four teen C, which allows employers to pay

sub minimum wages to disabled people if the employer believes
that their disability impairs their productivity for the work they perform.
Charles Catherine, who we heard earlier, adds to this, talking
about the disproportionate impact that COVID had had on job
losses for disabled people in the first year of the pandemic.
When I learned about four teen C as as a foreigner,

kind of blew my mind. I had no idea that
it was legal in America to pay people with disability
is less standing on wage. You know, it was part
of in I think thirty eight as a progressive legislation,
and I think it probably was. But now it's completely outdated.
And you know, although a few states have phased out
of four tency, it's still a minority. It's about, um,

you know, a handful. But Charles says the plans are
in motion now to bring an end to this humiliating
and discriminateshy piece of legislation across the US for good.
What we're trying to do with energy is advocate at
the federal level uh TO to change and phase out
of four tency and there are a few initiatives that
are out there. The most popular one is the Transformation

to Competitive Employment ACTUM, which might be introduced in the
Senate pretty soon UM. And that is what we think
as a as a good solution, balanced solution to phase
out of four tency over time and with appropriate support
for companies because it's a significant change. Right, there's hundreds
of thousand people disabilities in America that penny for hours

for a really hard jobs and that has been allowed
by the government because we don't really think about those
as jobs. We think of it more as support right
for people's disabilities and things to do. We spoke with
a para athlete from Afghanistan called Nila f bay At.

Nilopha was the captain of the Afghans women's wheelchair basketball
team in Kabul. As the whole world knows, the Taliban
have reasserted control across the country and their extremest attitudes
towards women in work and sport or people with disabilities
have started to take hold. This led to Nilopha leaving
her home country where she was employed full time by
the International Red Cross, to resettle as a refugee in

bill Bao in Spain. She told us about her initial
experiences in Spain and the lack of visibility for disabled
people in employment, and she starts to look for a
job for herself. When I'm working around, I see there
is a lot of people. They have desible, some of
them use willch here, some of them has crashed or
some of them without that, but they have disability. But
still I didn't see anyone to have a job, and

I do know that it will happen with me as
well or no, like the cr the office that they
are helping and working for refugees here, Um, I didn't
see anyone to have disability. Nil first observation is anecdotal,
but there is evidence for it. In two thousand and nineteen,

a third of the non disabled population in Spain were unemployed,
Yet for people with disabilities it's reportedly nearly three quarters.
I say reportedly, as the numbers can be skewed due
to disclosure rates, as some disabled people do not like
to disclose their disability publicly. Liz Johnson, who we had
from earlier, explains, this is a bit of a double

edged short. You want to be in a world where
people don't have to tell you they have a disability
in order to access and a fair opportunity. But similarly,
you want to gauge how well you're doing. So it's difficult.
So that and and sometimes that's why that number is
load to start with. And actually when organizations are talking
about wanting to be more inclusive, sometimes we're like, do
you have the people already here? They just don't feel

comfortable in this environment, or they're not able to show
their true self, which is why when we interact with them,
when we do pieces of work with them, the disclosure
rate goes up because the messaging is there and people
feel a lot more comfortable and understood. Yes I can, suddenly,
yes I can, Gee, I'm afraid to go on has

turned into yes I can. Dan Brooks, who we heard
from in an earlier episode and it was one of
the pioneers behind Channel Calls hiring of disabled talent to
work on the Paralympic Games, agrees there are many more
people with disabilities in the world who don't feel that
they can be open about their disability, and particularly in

the workplace, because they think that it will be it'll
can against them. And what I would do to those
people is I would say, I understand that, and I
understand why it's the case that people who aren't disabled
in companies may have some apprehension. If we come back

to the beginning of the episode and look with Gutman's
intent for the Paralympics to uplift disabled people in society,
how close have we gotten to his goal. Thankfully, more
businesses are now talking about the need for a more
inclusive employment policy. But considering Gutman began the Paralympic movement
in the progress being made is far too slow, and

we also needed to find success because we cannot rely
on numbers alone. As Eddie and Dopeu explained in our conversation,
if we insist on those things culturally, um and socially
and economically right and start seeing um, you know, disabled
people as CEOs in the boardroom, you know, I think
that creates a critical mass of disabled people with power

and influence who can then you know, sort of spur
um uh and and really catalyze the kind of broader,
you know, human rights changes that we need. Right, So
it starts with closing the disability of wealth gap as well, right,
because let's be real, you know, most of us are
living hand to mouth, even even even when we look successful.

Let's expand on Eddie's point about living costs as a
disabled person. According to the Disability Charity Scope, disabled people
in the UK spend an average of five dred and
fifty pounds a month on costs related to their disability.
For one in ten, costs of this sort amount to
over a thousand pounds a month. Disability is expensive no
matter where you are in the world. In addition, of

the estimated one billion disabled people in the world are
living in developing countries. According to the w h O,
disability and poverty are inextricably linked in many countries, including
some of the world's most developed. Not only is there
no legislation to promote equality of opportunity, but there is
actually legislation that reinforces inequality and a two tier system

to access the workplace if you are disabled. It is
indisputable that it is likely to be harder for you
to find work than if you are not. However, there
is hope with initiatives like the Valuable five hundred supported
by brands like e Y and Tommy Hill. Figure there
is a global force for change, and whilst the pandemic
undoubtedly had a negative disproportionate impact on people with disabilities

in the workforce compared to the non disabled community, it
has also shown employers that flexible working conditions enrich all
employees experiences and can give employers access to a wider
talent pool that they may have otherwise ignored. Join me
in the final episode, when we'll be looking to the future,

specifically thinking about the decade ahead. Will reflect on the
impact that the Tokyo Paralympics has had on the world.
We'll talk to leaders from the Paralympic movement and the
wider disability sector about the potential of the next decade
as the Paralympics head to Beijing. Harris Milan and Los Angeles.
I've been your host, Sophie Morgan. We'll see you next time.

These podcasts have been made possible because of the support
of Procter and Gamble, P and G share our ambition
to create a more equal world, a world where everyone
can have equal access and the opportunity to thrive. We
are very grateful for their partnership in making these conversations
a reality. Of people with a direct involvement in the
production of the podcast, including guests identify as disabled. This

podcast was created by Greg Nugent, co founder of Harder
Than You Think. I'm Sophie Morgan, your host and executive producer.
Fellow executive producers are Chanaid Burke, Greg NuGen and Barnaby Spurrier,
Laura i'ms Mark Pritchard and Kimberly Dobrnner. Thank you to

the I p C and Channel four for their support
and use of archive material. Thanks to our podcast production partner,
Stripped Media, and also to Seneca Women for their assistance
with distributing this show. If you want to follow the
equal To story and join the conversation hashtag equal to,
go to our website ht Whitey dot world, where you

will also find the transcript and video versions of the podcast,
along with subtitles and a BSL signed version in the
coming days.
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