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Posts tagged ‘Equality Act 2010’

A Very Reasonable Adjustment

Jared O’Mara MP

The Speaker of the House of Commons ruled recently that male MPs need not wear a tie when in the Chamber. There has been much fuss made in various newspapers about this. As well as ill-informed comments by MPs themselves. Many correspondents to letters pages seem to regard it as a lowering of standards. 

The House of Commons is a strange and at times, eccentric place of work, with its old traditions and rules. All MPs still have a ribbon attached to their coat hook for hanging a sword on. Less than 20 years ago MPs still had a wear a collapsable top hat if they wanted to raise a point of order. MPs are also never referred to in the Chamber by their own name. My MP, for instance, is the Honourable Member for  Vauxhall. MPs who are members of the Privy Council or have a knighthood are addressed as Right Honourable. 

Such old style forms of address hardly sit well within a 21st century House of Commons. Many new MPs find themselves baffled by the procedures and customs. They do not make for a welcoming work environment. Some have likened it to going to Public School for the first time or even arriving at Hogwarts. 

The Speaker, John Bercow gave no specific reason for his decision about ties other than it was for him as Speaker to decide what was “seemly and proper”. He continued saying that in his view; “a tie was no longer an essential part of business attire”.

But there is another story behind this announcement. That of making a “Reasonable Adjustment” at work for disabled people, as required by the Equality Act 2010. The new Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, Jared 0’Mara has cerebral palsy and is unable to do up buttons on a shirt or fasten a tie.  He had previously indicated that he may need to ask for such an adjustment. 

John Bercow, like any manager in a workplace has had to make a sensible and pragmatic decision. And not wanting to cause embarrassment to a new MP who has a disability, he made a general announcement. Would it have been better to give a more specific reason? I think not. As disabled people we do not what to be  called out for our differences. But we do need employers to make suitable and reasonable adjustments so we can do our jobs easily and well. 

This is precisely what John Bercow has done. He has also handled his decision with tact and sensitivity. I wish all employers would behave in the same way. 

Many City firms, still require their female staff to wear skirts and high heeled shoes to work. This sexist and outdated attitude should be long gone. It was at the end of the 1960’s that the then Speaker Dr Horace King decreed that women could wear trousers in the House of Commons.

Surely this too, is a change that all employers should be making? Women should have choice in what they wear to work.

The law requires reasonable adjustments for disabled people. I can see no reason to restrict dress codes just to those of us that need them, they should be equally valid for all. 

This post first appeared in my Blog on the Huffington Post UK site, where more of my writing can be found.

5 More Ways to Survive being Disabled

Logos.jpgSome more useful ideas

6 Use or Loose

Use your previous skills to enhance what you can still do. I gave one example in the previous blog post about being organised and thinking ahead. Those were two skills I leant and enhanced throughout a career managing nursing homes and charities. I gained computer skills over 30 years ago and am still learning. I’ve taught others to use social media, basic spreadsheet knowledge and how to manage databases, all from my bed. 

My carers keep everything tidy and my bedroom has all my computer kit and books to hand. People are taken aback at first, but soon understand when I explain that lying in bed reduces my pain levels and enables me to do more.

7 It’s your pain

Only you know what you can and can’t do without being in pain. It’s your pain – no one else knows how bad it is. Pain is telling you something, it’s telling your body to stop. Listen to your body, learn what triggers your pain or muscle spasms. When your body says stop, take notice. 

Please, don’t be bullied by professionals who tell you differently or that you are not trying hard enough. It’s your body – not theirs. I know there is a theory of breaking though a pain barrier – but you are not an elite athlete!  Treat yourself and your body carefully. 

8 Learn who to ignore

Find a way of dealing with the idiots who will ask you stupid questions. For me this is difficult, I have a low idiot tolerance level. I’m also very good at thinking up an answer 5 minutes after I’ve turned away from the idiot in question. I’ve had senior doctors ask why I’m using a wheelchair, judt because they didn’t look at my notes properly. 

I have several different medical conditions which mean I need to use my chair all of the time. When I’m asked what’s wrong with me by a non-medical person, I usually quote the two main reasons, then say, ‘But there’s several others too…….’ the look on the other person’s face usually means I’m kind to them and say nothing more. However I have friends who will respond to that question with ‘………and why have you got such bad dress sense?’ It works for them, I’m not so brave. 

9 Ask for help

One thing that disabled people know lots about is disability. Whether it’s dealing with pain, how understanding how your local Social Services work or getting a good wheelchair. Through years of experience and learning the hard way – we have lots of knowledge and most of us are really happy to share it. It’s the same when choosing a GP or knowing which care agency actually cares. Don’t be afraid to ask. If we know we will tell you and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll probably know someone who will. 

Know the websites to use, Benefits and Work, for everything you need to know about DLA, ESA, PIP and more. Turn to Us, Benefits eligibility checker and great advice on where to get more help. Radar, the best site for finding out your rights.

10 Be an expert

Understand your condition and the effects it has on your body. Understand your medications too and learn about interactions. For some people being part a local group with a national organisation is brilliant. My friend Val who has MS really benefits from going to her local group and being part of the MS Society. You may just want to get a regular newsletter or magazine and know there is a helpline if you need it.

Know your legal rights – if you live in the U.K. – the Equality Act 2010 is the main legislation to understand. If you are in the US it’s the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990. 

If you are able, campaign in some way to change thinking and attitudes. I do and through that I’ve met a great bunch of people and we support each other too.

I just don’t believe it!

No access at a disability AGM
 
Today is the Disability Labour AGM. It’s a 2 hour meeting being held in Manchester. For health reasons it’s not possible for many of us living down south to travel so far for such a short time.
 
My friend Sophie asked for, what in legal terms is called ‘a reasonable adjustment’, under the Equality Act 2010. Practically this means that she would like to take part in the AGM via Skype – or a similar video conferencing system. 
 
This would have been wonderful not only for Sophie, but for me too as well as others in a similar position.
 
But Sophie’s request has been refused. A refusal for a reasonable adjustment at a disability event – you couldn’t make it up! 
 
This is not an April Fool – but a real situation.
 
We are hoping that a mutual friend, who will have a laptop and mic with her will be able to and allowed, to link up with Sophie. 
 
Watch this space……………………
  
Will it happen? 
 

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