INCLUSION and equality are at the centre of a Basingstoke business, which is working to help companies become accessible to disabled people.

Founded by Esi Hardy in 2017, Celebrating Disability is looking back at a successful first year.

Esi was inspired to set up the business after suffering discrimination in the workplace as a result of her own disabilities, caused by cerebral palsy spastic quadriplegia.

The 36-year-old former social carer works with businesses to help them make changes so that disabled people are able to work there comfortably.

“Companies tell me that disabled people don’t want to work for them,” explained Esi. “I say that’s probably because you aren’t inclusive. If disabled people don’t see themselves working in that business they aren’t going to apply for the job. It’s not because they don’t want to be there, it’s because they can’t be there.”

Esi believes that many disabled people are held back in their careers because of discrimination.

In her former role as a social carer she worked with disabled people, and said: “A lot of the disabled people I worked with struggled to understand what their choices were because they didn’t have the experience of making choices. I helped them to understand they had choices.”

This inspired her to set up her own business, which she also hopes will dispel some of the taboos around disability.

“Taboos create a world where things aren’t inclusive for disabled people,” she said, adding: “It means businesses don’t ask the questions, such as is the building accessible. People think of accessibility as putting in a ramp. I go into their business and I can get in using the ramp but then I can’t get into a room. It’s about feeling confident around disabled people.

“It’s not about making everything perfect, it’s putting in a Plan B. So if I came to the Gazette offices and I wanted to get in the front door and it didn’t have a ramp, how long would it take to come up with a plan to get me in? It’s about having the knowledge of getting around the barriers.”

Celebrating Disability supports businesses to employ disabled people, and includes engagement during the recruitment process and access coming to an interview.

Esi, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at four-months-old, has a lack of control over her limbs, which means she needs support at work.

Having experienced discrimination throughout her life, she is able to truly understand the problems faced by disabled people, and what businesses can do to support them.

“It affects my body, but it doesn’t affect my mind,” she said. “By not being inclusive of disabled people, businesses are losing out on money and talent, so it’s an investment to recognise that. I congratulate business on taking on my services.”

Esi said that, on average, a disabled person will spend £550 more a month on the cost of living, pointing out: “That money has to go somewhere, so those businesses which are inclusive are getting the money.”

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