Welcome to the Workplace Blog

There’s advice about disability relating to the workplace, legal requirements & accessibility in this section.

houses of paliament

Update on our Campaign for better access and improved disability training for door and security staff qualified through the SIA

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

UPDATE 09th March 2016

We’re delighted to announce that through our campaigning we have arranged a meeting with Justin Tomlinson MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People) and Norman Lamb MP (Shadow LD Spokesperson on Health) to meet with Jennie Williams (CEO, Enhance the UK) and Gary Mazin (Head of PR & Marketing, Enhance the UK) to discuss the EDM motion 1103 about giving disability awareness training for security staff. This meeting will be held on Thursday 24th March at 10:15am, Department for Work & Pensions, Caxton House.

We can also confirm a meeting has been arranged for Jennie and Gary to meet with Tony Holyland (Development and Technical Manager, SIA) and Karimah Pedro (Competency Officer, SIA) at 12pm on Thursday 10th March.

Background

It feels like we have come a long way with our campaign which started back in January after I’d been refused entry into the Fire Station Bar by the doorman. At the time I had no idea that what was an extremely traumatic experience, could turn out to be a real positive for the disabled community.

It became clear that the Security Industry Authority (SIA) needs to improve its clarity and ensure disability awareness training is given to all people who receive the qualification as a door supervisor or security guard.

We then spent a lot of our time and energy lobbying MPs and trying to bring this important discussion as much publicity as possible.

After a lot of campaigning and discussions Norman Lamb MP agreed to table an early day motion to discuss this in the House of Commons. Over the course of 3 weeks, this motion has received 29 signatures (and counting!). We also managed to gain support from Lord Holmes and Baroness Campbell. As the MP for Lambeth where the original refusal took place Kate Hoey MP also helped by writing directly to the Home Secretary and Justin Tomlinson.

Full details of how this campaign came about can be read here:

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/partially-blind-man-refused-access-to-waterloo-bar-and-shoved-because-he-had-guide-dog-a3156866.html

http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/security-industry-silent-on-flaws-in-disability-equality-training-for-bouncers/

The current EDM:

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/1103

The Disability Discrimination Act – 20 Years On A Long Way to Go?

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that 2015 marks twenty years since the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 came into place. Old footage unearthed by the BBC shows inspiring and vigilant scenes of disabled people at the 1995 lobby of Parliament standing their ground and fighting for what they believe in. Not unlike what we have seen from the suffragettes or the black civil rights movement.

The DDA has since been replaced by The Equality Act 2010, but this marked the first time full civil rights for disabled people were formally acknowledged by law. Thirty years after the Race Relations Act 1965 and twenty since the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Yet another reminder that the needs of disabled people are firmly at the bottom of the list in terms of civil rights and how change comes just that extra bit slowly.

Core concepts in the DDA include “less favourable treatment” related to a person’s disability and failure to make a “reasonable adjustment” (in the workplace or with a service provider) to accommodate a person’s disability, and the two go hand in hand. These “reasonable adjustments” would naturally include things like installing ramps in shops or ensuring hearing loop systems are in place at universities.

These are basic rights, documented in a discrimination act twenty years ago no less, to enable disabled people to contribute and participate in society. It is maddening to walk into big businesses and institutions, in this century, who have not given accessibility a second thought. Or in some instances, even a first thought.

Where “reasonable adjustments” haven’t been made, be that due to funding issues or otherwise, accessibility for a disabled person has not been catered for and that then falls under “less favourable treatment” of a disabled person. It is a never ending cycle of discrimination where somebody is left unable to do their job, access education or even buy themselves some clothes.

Here at Enhance the UK we don’t like to scare people with the repercussions of the law or beat you over the head with policies. We do however want to raise awareness of the fact that prejudice of this magnitude would not be tolerated against any other minority group.

We are fortunate enough to live in a society where multiculturalism is celebrated and

we are now in our fourth wave of feminism. Our society balks at police brutality against racial minorities and sexist ‘lad mags’ are now off our shelves after ruthless campaigns.

 

Let’s show that same passion for disabled people and their rights.

 

BBC See Hear

Systematic Sexual Abuse Against Deaf Children – The Importance of Appropriate SRE

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

BBC Newsnight and BBC SeeHear recently produced a piece about the shocking abuse in Woodford School for the Deaf in East London, which spanned over three decades, and was finally closed in 1991.

The school was run by husband and wife Beatrice and Eric Ingall. She taught the young children, while he was responsible for other general jobs such as driving the bus or ensuring the grounds were in order.

He was also accused of horrifically assaulting the children.

Former pupils heartbreakingly reveal in the film how the abuse “took place every day, at any time” and how Mrs. Ingall was aware and indifferent to the abuse. They also recount how he would enjoy seeing them suffering and even say “thank you” after his ghastly encounters.

The children were aged just 3-11 years of age so most would have been unable to recognise what was happening to them.

Ex-pupil David reveals how he “didn’t know anything. I thought [the abuse] was supposed to be fun and acceptable. I just went along with it, I didn’t realise.”

He says that it wasn’t until later in his life when he was training to become a social worker and was learning about sexual abuse, did he realise what it was that had happened to him.

While we are in no way insinuating that the onus is on the child to be educated about sexual abuse for it to not happen (of course the responsibility always lies with the adult), but David’s story is a reminder of why we desperately need safeguarding measures in place.

However, sadly, in these cases the ability to recognise the abuse would have not been enough for the children to seek help. At Woodford School they were unable to  use BSL and had limited written English vocabulary. This enabled this particular abuse to slip through the net for so long.

There was no true justice for the children at Woodford. Ingall was put on probation and fined £50 in the Seventies but the abuse continued. In 2004 the full case finally came to trial but fell through. The judge stated that too much time had passed and the fact that Ingall was now 80 and senile rendered him unfit to stand trial.

This unfair and disrespectful verdict did not take into account the years of confusion felt by the former pupils and the fact that they didn’t communicate to anyone what had happened to them until they were much older. This proves how dangerous it can be to deny a child the right to their Deaf identity and access to a proper inclusive education.

The NSPCC states that “with hearing children it takes them seven or eight years to disclose [abuse], so you can imagine with a Deaf child it’s much longer.” They also stated that Deaf children “are three times more vulnerable to being abused than hearing children” and that this abuse is still continuing despite many residential Deaf schools are closing down.

Abusers will always seek out the most vulnerable to inflict pain onto, thinking they can get away with it. If we equip Deaf, disabled and other sensory impaired young people with the tools they need to protect themselves we can stop future incidents like Woodward from ever happening.

Here at Enhance the UK we want to create our own online Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) resources which are fully accessible in BSL, highlighting the specific dangers and risks that are prevalent to Deaf and disabled young people and are dedicated to raising funds to do so.

Please sign our petition here and help us campaign for widespread inclusive Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools across the country.

 

 Sources: BBC See Hear ‘Child Abuse, the BSL Bill and Doctor Who.’

 

Claire Holland Head of Training

Claire’s Enhance the UK Update

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

I apologise that it may seem like I have fallen off the face of the earth as it’s been quite some time since I have written my last blog and you may be forgiven for thinking that I have been slacking but the truth is it has been an extremely busy time for Enhance the UK and I simply haven’t had time.

As it stands I am taking a well deserved rest from cleaning on my Sunday morning to share with you all the exciting things that are going on. Funnily enough writing a blog will win hands down over cleaning the bathroom any day of the week!

Well, where to start? We have delivered some great disability and communication training sessions recently at various venues. I am extremely proud of these sessions as I know they are already making such a difference. Staff at Queen Mary’s University reported an increased confidence in communicating with and awareness of barriers that students who have disabilities may face. This can only improve the experience that students have at the university. A newly opened hotel in Colchester are committed to being fully accessible and have realised that this will not happen with physical adjustments alone (although we were able to pick up on a few issues that their architect hadn’t been aware of and help them to put these right) but also with the attitude of staff.

We have helped an organisation to think about ways in which they can make literacy festivals accessible to disabled children and also how they can recruit disabled artists to take part. Being a book worm I am especially excited about this. We have also worked with volunteers and staff of the Big Lunch Extra Eden project to think about ways in which they can make their activities more accessible and am pleased to hear that they are already acting upon all the feedback we have offered. These are just a few of the organisations we have supported recently. Whilst I would like to wave a magic wand and change everyone’s perception of disability I am aware that this simply isn’t going to happen. I take comfort from the fact that we at Enhance the UK are changing perceptions one organisation at a time.

I have had the opportunity to return to a school that we have trained in before and deliver more disability awareness sessions to children between the ages of five and 11. I love these days, although to say they are hard work is an understatement. One little girl made me smile. When asked how I woke up in the morning , she responded sad – bless her. We had a long chat about the fact that I am not sad that I am deaf at all. These kind of conversations with children are essential to change their attitudes towards disabilities.

We launched our new one day introduction to BSL and Communication tactics course at the National Gallery a few weeks ago. All of the staff who attended were keen to practise their new found skills and I am sure will make Deaf members of the public feel very welcome and will be able to communicate with them much easier. The fantastic feedback we received from this can be seen here. This course is something that we are keen to encourage other organisations to send staff on if they are unable to commit to more intense training.

We have also been talking to companies about making their websites accessible to Deaf BSL users and are pleased to say that we have worked with one company to make their website accessible (details will follow once they have launched it) and are talking to several more. This is an area we feel very passionate about and are constantly working on.

We have filmed the first part of our Undressing Disability film to raise awareness of the importance of disabled people not being desexualised and having access to appropriate sexual health advice and sex education. We have more to do before it can be launched but I have every faith that the film is going to be fantastic! The day itself was really special. I have never had the pleasure to spend the day with such a lovely group of people. Many involved had not met each other before and yet the support they gave each other was amazing. Everyone managed to make me feel comfortable stripping off to my underwear and anyone who knows me will know that that is no mean feat. We also have some very exciting projects lined up that will be launched at the same time as the film as part of our Undressing Disability campaign. I literally can’t wait!

We have also been working closely with Scope on their End the Awkward Campaign and looking into developing partnerships with other organisations. All of this work has been conducted at the same time as the day to day running of the charity as well as spending lots of time looking for funding for some exciting projects that we have in the pipeline. All I can say on that matter at the moment is watch this space.

Wow, simply writing this blog has made me realise just how much we have managed to accomplish over the last few months. I have every faith that we will continue to change the perception of disability over the upcoming months as we at Enhance the UK are not the type of people to sit on our laurels. Now I really must get back to cleaning that bathroom, but I promise I won’t leave it as long for the next update!

Claire Holland Head of Training

Claire Holland on… ETUK at the Specialist Skills Network

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

This week I was very pleased to be invited to talk at the Specialist Skills Network which has been set up by the National Gallery and the Museum of London. On the day, a number of professionals from different galleries and museums situated around London came together to share experiences and expertises regarding planning events for children with Special Educational Needs.

The planned activities already being held sounded wonderful and the enthusiasm in the room for ensuring that disabled children and those with additional needs were able to access and experience the exhibitions fully was inspiring. I was there to fully support the scheme but also to add a note of caution as requested by Orlagh from the National Gallery.

As I am sure you are all aware, Enhance the UK is a charity which very much focuses on the perception of disability. Now the perception in the room was very positive as I had expected it to be. Those attending the network are there because they are already engaging with disabled children and young people. I wanted to stress the importance of ensuring that all staff working in a venue who interact with the public having Disability and Communication awareness. To do this I was able to highlight several times I have been unable to fully access museums and other heritage sites, simply because the frontline staff were unaware of what they have to offer. I have lost count the number of times I have been told that a loop system is not available for audio tours to find out at the end that this wasn’t true.

Worse still are the staff who won’t listen to my needs and insist they know better. I have frequently been told to try in the ear headphones as they are very loud, after I have told them I wear a cochlear implant and have no natural hearing and cannot use headphones. When I refuse this opportunity I am then given a look as if to say, ‘oh dear she’s trouble.’ Taking a hearing dog into a museum can also be a stressful experience. Constantly having to repeat that she is an assistance dog and is therefore allowed in becomes tiring after a while. As is the attitude of some staff who have to repeat themselves as you miss what they say when they are not looking at you. All the examples I have given are hearing related simply because these are my experiences, however I know from talking to other people that regardless of the disability there are barriers that need to be overcome.

If I am sounding very negative about staff then I must stress that I don’t mean to be. The majority of staff who work in museums and galleries are very helpful and will do everything they can to ensure that you can fully access the exhibitions. I believe that those staff that I have spoken about already who aren’t helpful are only like this because they do not have an understanding of disability and therefore simply do not know how to react.

Unfortunately negative experiences are likely to put people off attending heritage sites and that is a real shame. I was delighted to see that a key objective of the Specialist Skills Network was how to ensure that disability awareness and the good practices already developed are spread throughout all teams at the museums and galleries. This to me is a very positive step in the right direction.

Claire Holland Head of Training

10 Reasons you should book Enhance the UK’s Disability and Communication Awareness Training

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

I was recently asked why service providers and businesses should book training with us and what sets us apart from other organisations offering training. I thought I would share my response with you.

1. Increased Confidence – Ask a disabled person about a ‘rabbit in a headlight’ moment and they can always recount several experiences when customer facing staff have not known what to say or do when realising the customer is disabled. Sometimes it’s funny, other times offensive, but either way it’s never good for business. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I haven’t had to pay for things or queue simply because the employer doesn’t know what to say or how to behave when finding out I am profoundly deaf. A memorable one was when I lost my car park ticket. After realising I was deaf the car park attendant rather than try and communicate with me, simply turned round to his colleague and said, ‘Do you know how to explain to her that she needs to pay for a full day parking? No me neither!’ Before proceeding to give me an exit ticket free of charge! Think of the lost revenue. Incidences like that simply wouldn’t happen if staff had received our training. On our feedback forms we are proud that we always have 100% agreement that the training gives increased confidence with interacting with disabled people.

2. Tips and Strategies – it’s all very well your staff having information about disabilities but unless this is applicable to everyday practice in your business it’s useless. We at Enhance the UK always offer tips and strategies to help your staff better engage with disabled people.

3. Fun and engaging sessions – There is nothing worse than being forced to sit through long boring training sessions. I myself have been to a few. Eventually you switch off and retain very little. This to me is a complete waste of your money. You obviously want your employees to retain information and utilise their knowledge. Training with Enhance the UK is fully interactive and PowerPoint presentations are banned! Attendees have fun and as a consequence remember what they learnt. Please see our testimonials!

4. Develop an understanding of barriers – It’s always better to pre-empt possible barriers that disabled people may face when accessing your venue/ service. It really doesn’t reflect well on you as a business when after being asked if the venue is accessible and a member of staff informs the customer it is to then find out it isn’t. This happened to a colleague of mine recently. We attended a venue together whilst working for Enhance the UK, having been told it was accessible to find out it really wasn’t. This resulted in my colleague having to crawl on her hands and knees into the toilet as it simply wasn’t big enough for her wheelchair. I am quite sure this is not an experience she is keen to repeat and was embarrassing to all concerned including the manager. Barriers aren’t simply physical barriers, I have lost count the number of times I have said that I am profoundly deaf to then be told to ring an accessibility line, err hello? Really?

5. Disabled trainers – Would you want your employees to learn about living in Paris from a person who has never lived in Paris? I suspect the answer is probably not. All of our trainers are disabled themselves and are therefore able to share their experiences with your staff. They are also all very welcoming of questions and provide honest and open responses.

6. Tailored training – we do not provide ‘cookie cutter’ training. We always ensure that we tailor our sessions as much as possible to the requirements of your business. This results in your employees benefiting more from the session and ultimately you as a business.

7. Show you’re a business that cares – Advertising that your staff have Disability and Awareness communication training just highlights that you are interested in more than simply turning a profit and hitting targets. This can be no bad thing for any business/ service.

8. We don’t hit you over the head – A friend who has her own business explained that at times she has been told what she must do in order to ensure that she provides an accessible service without any consideration of the feasibility of such things. This has put her off any further training. We at Enhance always offer advice in ways to ensure your business is accessible but not in a ‘bullying’ way.

9. Team building – Our training is so interactive that not only do participants walk away more confident and knowledgeable about disability but also they have also spent the day together in interactive situations having fun. This is always good for staff morale.

10. Learn about another language – We always ensure that we include a very basic British Sign Language session within our day.

The Undressing Disability shoot 2013 in front of Big Ben, London

Charity Projects at Enhance the UK by The Learning People

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

How do you deal with disability in the workplace? That’s a question asked by awareness charity, Enhance the UK.

Jennie Williams, founder and project manager of Enhance the UK, offers awareness training designed to combat prejudices against disability in the workplace and schools in a fun, interactive and engaging fashion.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START ENHANCE THE UK?

“Part of the reason I started Enhance the UK was because I am a hearing aid user.

“This has given me greater empathy, understanding and passion to support people who have physical and sensory impairments.

“It is important to me that these people have a voice, so that’s why being user led is imperative to the success and integrity of the charity.”

 

WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU COME UP AGAINST?

“Like with anything you set out to do, you will have some amazingly supportive people and then people who completely do not get it.

“We sell disability awareness training to promote equality in the workplace but some businesses simply do not see why they might need it, which can be frustrating.

“More specifically, one of our most challenging but rewarding projects has been the 2014 calendar for our ‘Undressing Disability’ campaign, which featured disabled models in their underwear in public places.

“One of our shoots took place on a boat on the Thames so we had to make sure we were organised – taking enough photos with limited time.

“When the first round of calendars was delivered we were dismayed to find the watermarks hadn’t been removed.

“This was stressful as we couldn’t afford to buy hundreds more of the calendars, but fortunately the calendar company were sympathetic and replaced our order free of charge.

“Finally, we had the calendars but no real platform to sell them on a large scale, however, we did have social media and we also sent press releases to major publications.

“These proved fruitful and we were featured in large international publications such as The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Huffington Post, ending up selling all of our calendars worldwide.”

HOW DOES THE TEAM COMMUNICATE?

“Communication is key to ensuring everything gets done in the different projects we work on.

“Myself and my staff are in constant – several times daily – communication through every given medium, even WhatsApp.

“We regularly stay on top of emails and have a group Google Drive folder which contains spreadsheets for fundraising trusts we approach, which is updated weekly.

“We have a big, face to face meeting every three months, while myself and my core staff will typically have strategy meetings every couple of months.

“Skype is also useful for speaking to potential volunteers or trainers around the country.”

HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND THEIR FAMILIES?

“Many disabled people are fiercely independent and want to get that across by offering us their opinions.

“Others may be more reserved and not used to having their voices heard so you have to try and gain their trust – it’s all about working with what individuals need.

“When it comes to sensory impairments, more technical issues surrounding communication arise, so we make our website – and ourselves – as accessible as possible.

“This will include subtitling our videos, as well as using a BSL interpreter in them and adhering to the correct guidelines for blind people.”

HOW DO YOU MANAGE STAKEHOLDER EXPECTATIONS?

“While setting up our crowdfunding Indiegogo campaign for our teaching children about disabilities book, The Secret Sign, we were required to offer our contributors/stakeholders rewards for their donations.

“We meet these expectations by offering perks such as personalised thank you notes, copies of the book, voice recordings and artwork – all things we can offer while keeping our costs low.

“The estimated arrival time for the product is three months, which we will strictly adhere to, but which also gives us plenty of time to custom print the books so our stakeholders are not let down.”

WHAT DO YOU HOPE SOCIETY’S ATTITUDE WILL BE TOWARDS DISABILITY IN THE FUTURE?

“A new survey by Scope shows us that only 5% of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out a disabled person.

“I hope in the future that this drastically changes, to the point where disability is not an issue for people in any setting.

“If disability awareness training, much like the programme we offer, is implemented in more schools I would hope we would see a much more natural and empathetic approach to disability.”

 

Claire Holland Head of Training

Behind the Scenes with Claire Holland: Enhance and Business

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

Enhance the UK has decided to put its business hat on! I don’t mean that we will no longer be a charity or stop aiming for our charitable objectives but simply to achieve these we recognise that we need to learn from commercial leaders.

In today’s economic climate fundraising is hard work – it’s a case of taking one step forward and three back. Several charities this week have announced they are under threat of closure due to being unable to raise enough money for core costs. Just to explain, core costs are the day to day running costs of a charity which are not linked to a specific project, examples are salaries, admin, financial compliance, etc. All of these need to be paid for in order to continue with our projects, however, these are very hard to find funding for. And fundraising for the campaigning that we do, well that’s a nightmare!

Luckily, the team at Enhance the UK are not the type to admit defeat and crawl into a hole somewhere (although I am sure the urge has been there at times). We have decided to take the bull by the horns. We recognise that one way to finance our core costs and various projects is to sell more training to organisations and have been lucky enough to have met an inspirational woman from a media advertising company who has agreed to mentor us. We met this week and were provided with guidance regarding a business plan focussing on sales. During the meeting we concentrated on our mission and exactly how we plan to get there. I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty, but it’s safe to say that we had some fantastic advice which we intend to use.

Equally as important, in my view, is that we left the meeting drained but enthused by a vision. There has been a lot of publicity this week around International Women’s Day and rightly so. The conversation turned to all the initiatives to encourage women in business as there is immense pressure for businesses to diversify their staff. A large number of businesses now publicly recognise the positive impact that women at all levels of the business can have on them. The changes that are being made are irreversible, although it is acknowledged that there is still some way to go. Wouldn’t it be amazing if in five years time we could be in the same place regarding disabled people in business. In fact, not just in business but in society.

You may think that this is a pipe dream. Maybe it is, but I sincerely hope not.

The secret sign cover

Behind the Scenes with Claire Holland – The Secret Sign

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

This week at Enhance the UK I have been promoting our Indigogo campaign – The Secret Sign. This is a campaign to raise £3,000 to be able to publish the book that we have written.

Anyone who knows us understands that we are all incredibly busy and are likely to be asking, ‘what were you thinking writing a children’s book?’ I thought I would take the opportunity to fill you in with the details.

When running disability awareness sessions in primary schools, I often had teachers asking if I could recommend good books with disabled characters in them.  This made me think about why it is important for disabled characters to be in children’s books. We at Enhance the UK are running the disability awareness sessions in schools because we believe that attitudes to disability are shaped during childhood and therefore we wish to encourage children to develop positive views relating to disability. It has, for a long time, been established that books allow children to see characters who look like themselves, have similar thoughts and feelings. Books also allow children to see characters with different backgrounds and learn about the world. It therefore stands to reason the importance of having positive disabled characters in children’s books in order for disabled children to be able to identify with characters similar to themselves and for non disabled children to learn about disability in a positive way. I then decided that I had better conduct a bit of research and, to be honest, the findings were shocking. Now don’t get me wrong, there are books out there. But in my opinion, they frequently fall into one of three categories.

Firstly, the books which address disability and being different in an abstract way. I am sure that we are all familiar with them. The characters tend to be animals who struggle to fit in. I am in no way discrediting these books. I think they are lovely stories and have a time and a place but I do not believe that the majority of the readers relate these characters to real people with disabilities.

Next, there is the picture book story in which one of the characters is wearing a hearing aid or in a wheelchair. The disability itself is not mentioned during the plot. An argument for this type of book is that it normalises disability. There is a drive to ensure diversity is displayed within children’s books. Picking up books written when I was younger (25 plus years ago. .. cough, cough) nearly all the characters in books were white and it was rare to see a character from a different ethnic background. Now there are far more books out there in which the characters are clearly not from a white European background but there is very little in the written content of the story about the cultural background of the characters. This, to me, can only be a positive thing and I hope that more books will feature children with disabilities in the same way.

Lastly, there is the book which features disabled characters who are central to the story, but tends to address the disabilities in stereotypical ways. In my view it is fair to say that books including disability which do not fall into one of the mentioned categories are few and far between. We at Enhance didn’t want to write a good book about disability. We wanted to write a good book, full stop. We have created a story about twin brothers Seth and Sammy – Seth is deaf, while Sammy is hearing. The book is about their relationship and how British Sign Language affects their lives. It’s the first in a series of books which will include characters who have various disabilities. We are also very lucky to have a fantastic illustrator on board too.

I hope you can all see why this book is incredibly important to us now. If you can support us in any way we really would appreciate it.

Emaciated mannequin

Behind the Scenes with Claire Holland – Body Image and our Workshops

By | Business, Disability | No Comments

This week I was shocked to see a photograph of a shop mannequin which appeared to be completely emaciated, posted on my friend’s Facebook. The tirade of comments underneath were predictably negative towards the practise of shops promoting unhealthily thin body shapes. On further investigation, the photograph had come from an article in the Daily Mail on the 21st February. The mannequin was displayed in a Whistles store in London. Eating disorder support charities had condemned the store and called for shops to be more responsible for setting standards.

Whilst I personally accept that it is not correct to pin the blame for eating disorders on shops who use unrealistically sized mannequins, I certainly feel that the image of body size and shape that these mannequins promote is dangerous. Having previously spent a considerable amount of time researching body image (a person’s inner conception of his or her own physical appearance) when creating Enhance the UK’s Body Image Workshops, I was shocked by my findings. There is extensive evidence that a woman’s self worth in western cultures depends on their resemblance to the thin youthful image portrayed by the media.

Furthermore boys and men evaluate the worth of their partners, mothers, sisters and friends against this unrealistic image. If this is correct then I myself must be seen as lacking! It would be wrong to assume that the media does not also impact on men’s body image. Research findings have shown that the media also provides external pressure for the ideal of the masculine perfection for boys.

You might be reading this and tempted to say ‘who cares?’ But when looking at the impact of poor body image on adolescents the results were worrying. Body dissatisfaction plays a huge part in the development of a low self esteem. Which in turn can impact on mental health and wellbeing. The consequence of this can be seen in nearly all aspects of everyday life. I apologise if it appears that I have got on my high horse, it’s a personality quirk of mine!

So how is my rant linked to behind the scenes at Enhance the UK, I hear you ask. Well, as I previously mentioned Enhance the UK provides Body Image Workshops. These are delivered by positive disabled role models. The day comprises of 3/4 mini workshops focusing on a variety of topics including self esteem, the media, communication as well as fitness and nutrition. The topics are all bought together in a final assembly. It’s important to stress that the focus of the day is not disability. I was privileged to be involved in the delivery of these workshops at a girls school in Kent.

At times during the day emotions run high but the feedback from all the girls involved was highly positive. One attendee wrote that the day had made her think about how she sees herself and she had realised that the expectations she placed on herself in terms of her appearance were not realistic. She went on to say that she would continue to use the techniques she had learnt about raising her own self esteem and that she felt the day was a profound experience for her. With feedback like that we were simply buzzing! I really believe that the day we have created is such a positive experience for young people and urge everyone to recommend it to schools and youth groups etc!

Last week Enhance the UK had an exciting meeting with Platform Productions about creating a short, thought provoking film about Body Image. This is something that the Enhance the UK team is incredibly excited about so keep an eye out for updates.

Top