EY has taken part in the Aspire Wheelchair Challenge, a spinal cord injury charity. To give a more personal experience to the realities of living with a spinal cord injury, eight staff, including five from EY’s UK & Ireland leadership team, spent a working day in a wheelchair. Through the experience the firm hopes to have some of its key people gain a deeper insight into the often invisible realities faced by people suffering from a disability, whether physical or mental.
Aspire was founded in 1982 to support the rehabilitation process for people paralysed by spinal cord injuries. The charity, due to inadequate rehabilitation facilities at the London Spinal Unit (then known as the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore) at the time, sought to build a facility to meet the rehabilitation needs of people suffering from spinal injuries. The £2 million facility was opened by HRH the Princess of Wales in 1991. The facility today offers both rehabilitation services as well as a place open to the public where integration between disabled and non-disabled people is promoted and encouraged. Today, Aspire supports 40,000 people in the UK living with spinal cord injuries lead fulfilled and independent lives within the wider community.
As part of EY’s wider social responsibility programmes and disability integration and non-discrimination initiatives, the firm yesterday took part in the Aspire Wheelchair Challenge. The aim of the challenge, which involves eight non-disabled staff (including five from EY’s UK & Ireland leadership team) spending a working day in a wheelchair, is to raise awareness within the business community of the perspectives of disabled workers. In addition, the challenge raised funds for Aspire’s programme, and will be wheeled at EY’s London headquarters.
Maggie Stilwell, EY’s Managing Partner for talent – who spent the day in a wheelchair – says, “Creating an inclusive workplace is a top priority for us. We want our people to be confident about being themselves at work, so they can achieve their full potential. We hope the Aspire Wheelchair Challenge will help us to understand the perspective of a disabled person working at our offices, as well as prompting our people to think and talk about visible and invisible disabilities such as dyslexia, autism or mental ill-health.”
Adrian Gilchrist, a Partner at EY, who is a wheelchair user adds, “The Wheelchair Challenge is such a fantastic way to raise awareness, to help spread understanding of the daily practical challenges of people in wheelchairs at work and to support Aspire in their invaluable work.”
Yasmin Sheikh, an Independent Disability Consultant, who works with Aspire to deliver the challenge and is a wheelchair user herself, says, “This initiative can seem uncomfortable – or even patronising for some – but we developed it to challenge that thinking; we all need to get over those feelings of discomfort about disability and start talking about it more. EY’s support of the wheelchair challenge will not only raise vital funds for Aspire, to help those with spinal injuries, it will help their employees to have a greater understanding of the challenges a wheelchair user faces on a daily basis.”
Earlier this year EY was named one of UK's top LGBT employers by LGBT employer by lesbian, gay and bisexual rights charity Stonewall.