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Diverse Matters awarded Natwest Chairman’s Award at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards

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Diverse Matters was awarded the Natwest Chairman’s Award at the 19th Asian Women of Achievement (AWA) Awards on 8th May 2018 at a star-studded event in London in the presence of Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, and Her Grace The Duchess of Wellington.

The Chairman acknowledged “Yasmin’s approach in tackling disability, both visible and non-visible, with such breadth and depth and all at the same time as she becomes accustomed to her own life-changing experience after sustaining a spinal stroke at the age of 29. Her humility and the way in which she challenges pre-conceptions and uses modern methods to de-stigmatise views of disability, LGBT and ethnic minorities is truly awe-inspiring.”

The awards celebrate the incredible achievements of Asian women and the contribution they make, both professionally and in their communities, across a vast range of industries and professions, from science, medicine and technology to sport, business and charity work.

This year’s list of winners featured an incredibly diverse and exciting group of women. Despite their varied backgrounds, the winners are united by their shared ability to inspire; to be role models for the next generation, and their determination to drive positive change in their respective fields.

You can watch the full video below:

Zahra NurmohamedDiverse Matters awarded Natwest Chairman’s Award at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards
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Diverse Matters invited to give a TEDx Talk – Disability does not mean inability

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Yasmin Sheikh, Founder of Diverse Matters, is going to challenge your thinking about how society looks at disability. You may feel uncomfortable as you question what you may have thought or said in the past about and to disabled people.

At the age of 29, Yasmin had a life-changing event which made her see the world completely differently. One of the challenges she has faced is that suddenly overnight people saw her differently too. Yasmin will share with you her experiences and how you can build a bridge by including disabled people and see the world through a different lens.

You can watch Yasmin’s full talk below:

Zahra NurmohamedDiverse Matters invited to give a TEDx Talk – Disability does not mean inability
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Diverse Matters Invited to Speak at the Lord Mayor’s Appeal Event

Diverse Matters Invited to Speak at the Lord Mayor’s Appeal Event

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Yasmin Sheikh, Founder of Diverse Matters, a specialist Disability & Diversity Training consultancy, was invited to deliver a talk at the Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2017 Power of Diversity Breakfast entitled ‘Disability: A Desirable Disadvantage’. During the talk, which was sponsored by Barclays and Aon, discussed how organisations and their staff can create a culture of self-examination to make their organisations more inclusive and accepting of diversity and disability. You can watch Yasmin’s full talk below:

Yasmin SheikhDiverse Matters Invited to Speak at the Lord Mayor’s Appeal Event
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Are you a racist? Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Are you a racist? Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

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 The Telegraph reported on 22 April 2017 that Oxford University’s Equality and Diversity Unit has advised students that “not speaking directly to people” could be deemed a “racial microaggression” which can lead to “mental ill-health”.

Other examples of “everyday racism” include asking someone where they are “originally” from, students were told.

Oxford University’s Equality and Diversity Unit explains in its Trinity term newsletter that “some people who do these things may be entirely well-meaning, and would be mortified to realise that they had caused offence.

Whilst I am uncomfortable about preventing people from interacting with different people from different backgrounds and being free to ask questions and learn about each other, this article does resonate with me.

I am a wheelchair user, woman and mixed race so I tick a lot of boxes. I also experience comments everyday about my wheelchair. Am I offended? Sometimes. Am I bored of it? Mostly yes. Is everyone malicious and would it constitute a disability hate crime? Never (well apart from one guy on the tube who was so drunk I don’t think he even knew what he was saying, does that count?!).

Am I being paranoid? Maybe sometimes as you are wary about strangers stopping you as 9 times out of 10 it is about the chair. How do I know? Well because I didn’t use a chair for 29 years of my life and when I did I was treated completely differently.

To give you a flavour of the kind of things I am talking about, here are the 10 of the most shocking/annoying things which people have said to me since using a wheelchair:

1.You’re quite good looking for someone in a wheelchair.

Quite!!

2. Ohh could we swap places? I’d love to be pushed around all day!

(Erm could I just push you in the nose. Hard!)

3. In a bar this varies from,

“oh women drivers, don’t drink and drive, don’t run me over, you’ll get a speeding ticket!”

(hilarious, heard it probably 1,000 times plus and counting. Yawn). No, I am not devoid of a sense of humour.. There are just so many times I can split my sides laughing.

4. That’s nice your friend is taking you out today.

Love, I think you’ll find I’m taking her out. She’s 13. (she was actually 26 but you get my point).

Just so they got the point I added, “I’m a lawyer, you know.” Yes, I actually said this. I’m still cringing, I was desperate.

5. You’re so brave. It’s amazing.

Yes, I know. I am having a sandwich in Pret. Where’s my f*cking OBE?

6. What happened to you?

I used to make stuff up. Stunt woman, gymnast and rock climber just led to more questions.

Now a simple, “I usually say hello first” gets the message!

7. Have you tried walking?

Oh my God, why didn’t my Consultant tell me that?!! Wait until I get my hands on those useless physiotherapists.

8. I would seriously kill myself if I had to be in a chair. I think you’re amazing.

I think you’re a BLEEP!

9. Do you work?

I think people assume I watch Jeremy Kyle all day.

10. Are you ok?

You cannot wait anywhere alone for too long on your own when out. I get asked this waiting for a friend, in a bus queue, in Tesco..

People mean well and are probably not used to seeing people in chairs alone going about their daily business.

Now the really hard thing about this stuff is that most of time people do not mean to cause offence at all. In fact, they are trying to communicate with you in an albeit clumsy and sometimes lazy way. Sometimes they just want to help. The wheelchair is so visible that it’s too easy to use as a conversation starter (or stopper).

Now I can’t expect everyone to understand this unless you use a wheelchair or have a visible identity (race, disability etc.) which prompts sometimes unwelcome comments from people.

Let me use an analogy which may make it clearer. Ladies, if you’ve been pregnant, how boring was it sometimes answering questions about the sex of the child, how many weeks are you? Blah blah. Now this is good and exciting news right? Now imagine you’re pregnant for the rest of your life (a hideous concept anyway but bear with me on this) and strangers will always ask these questions, touch your tummy and give you unwanted advice. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! They’re probably all well-meaning too.

This is what makes this stuff so hard. I don’t want people to be discouraged from asking questions and talking to me although there is a time and a place and there’s such a thing as rapport.

If you showed every scar, painful experience of your life – illness, bereavement a divorce as you walked out the house tomorrow and people made “jokes” about it, brought it up in conversation all the time, I am sure you would get tired of it.

I think the key is that we need to talk about this but stipulating to students how to interact seems unnatural and just creates more awkwardness. People need to have conversations about this as this can lead to empathy and understanding.

I am proud of myself today for having a useful and open dialogue with a lady who asked me in the queue in Costa after saying a brief hello, “so how come you ended up in the chair then?” Ended up? It sounds like death is knocking on the door (see, told you I sounded paranoid). I rolled my eyes and just said something about this being inappropriate and frankly quite boring. She realized what she had said straight away and it was a useful conversation. I explained that I get so many comments about the chair on a daily basis that it is tiring and if we had got to know each other better (preferably not in a busy café) then maybe I would have brought it up, if relevant. She got it and thanked me for explaining.

I’m not perfect though as the other day I did tell someone to “F*ck off”. See, I don’t get it right all the time either. In my defence, it was 7am, before my first cup of tea and he told me, “Jesus still loves you.” See, I’m still learning too…We are all human.

 

Yasmin SheikhAre you a racist? Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
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EY (Ernst & Young) to Participate in the Diverse Matters Wheelchair Challenge

EY (Ernst & Young) to Participate in the Diverse Matters Wheelchair Challenge

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The Diverse Matters Wheelchair Challenge organised by Yasmin Sheikh

Do you struggle to keep disability on the diversity agenda?

Do you have a disability network or perhaps it has died a bit of a death?

Maybe you have a low disclosure rate for people with disabilities (both visible and non-visible) as they are worried about sharing this information which means that they are less productive and unaware of the adjustments which can help them thrive at work.

If you have answered yes to any of the questions above then the Diverse Matters Wheelchair Challenge gives visibility to disability.

The Diverse Matters Wheelchair Challenge

FAQs

1. What is it?

The Diverse Matters Wheelchair Challenge is an exciting movement, which is now in its third year, involving volunteers in London organisations across the legal, banking, financial and insurance world, who wish to give visibility to disability in the workplace. Volunteers will spend 8 hours using a manual wheelchair during the working day and will only use the chairs in their offices.

2. What are the benefits of doing the challenge?

EY (Ernst & Young) have taken part in the challenge and have shared a short video which can be viewed below.

 

Yasmin SheikhEY (Ernst & Young) to Participate in the Diverse Matters Wheelchair Challenge
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Understanding Disability in the Workplace

Understanding Disability in the Workplace

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By far the most popular questions I get asked by my clients as founder of Diverse Matters and as my role as Vice-Chair of Lawyers with Disabilities Division (LDD) at the Law Society by both employers and employees is around the issue of “disclosure”.

Should I tell my employers about my disability or from the employer’s point of view, how do we engage with disabled employees and encourage them to share their disability?

Yasmin SheikhUnderstanding Disability in the Workplace
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Tips for employers employing people with disabilities or health conditions

Tips for employers employing people with disabilities or health conditions

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Tips for Employers employing people with disabilities or health conditions

I think the best way to start a good employment relationship is to ask the individual, who has a disability/health condition whether he/she would like his employers to know anything particular in advance, which would make his/her life easier. Perhaps he/she has her own questions. It is a good start to involve them from the outset.

Does s/he have any pointers or guidance for the employer in advance of starting work?

I have some general do’s and don’t below but this list is not exhaustive. I use the example of employing a wheelchair user below.

Yasmin SheikhTips for employers employing people with disabilities or health conditions
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