Celebrating Disability & Neurodiversity in the workplace #disabilitypridemonth

In this blog, Claudia McIntosh, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, highlights the importance of celebrating Disability Pride as an organisation. By prioritising inclusion and diversity in our decision-making processes and engaging our employees, we are taking steps to recognise neurodiversity and disability in the workplace and create an open and inclusive culture for all. 

July marks Disability pride month – a time to take pride in our identities, celebrate our communities, and reflect on the significant strides made towards inclusivity. Disability Pride initially started as a day of celebration in Boston in 1990, the same year the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed. Since then, this celebration has progressed to a month rather than just a day, with the first Disability Pride Month celebrated in 2015. Year by year, this celebration has grown, providing a space for individuals to share their accomplishments, raise awareness and combat the stigma against disabled and neurodiverse individuals.

At SmartestEnergy, we are using our SmartestBalance initiative to develop and embed the best inclusive practices that promote equality, diversity and inclusion. Earlier this year, it became apparent that although we have groups to support women, the LGBTQIA community, diverse races and cultures, and other underrepresented groups, we did not have a space for people in the workplace with neurodivergent conditions and/or disabilities, so in May 2023, the Neurodiverse Abilities Group was formed. 

The newly emerged group currently has 10 members, who have joined for differing reasons; to learn, share and advocate. Here's what some of our employees had to say: 

"I joined the group as I am interested to hear the views and opinions of those who are or live with someone who is neurodiverse. To understand the challenges/barriers they face within the workplace, and discover what help and support is available."

"It would be great to see adjustments for all, rather than for individuals, and also to inform people about neurodiversity. Most don't really understand what neurodiversity is or view it as a disability and in a negative light – I would like to help share the positives."

We recognise that living with neurodivergence and/or a disability can impact the way we 'show up' at work. This group raises awareness of the challenges, meanwhile focusing on what makes us great as employees despite our differences. We would like to expand this network and engage our wider employees to become active allies and help make a change.

Last week, in celebration of Disability Pride Month, employees from across our offices came together to learn more about neurodiversity and disability in the workplace. We were joined by Neurodiversity & ADHD Advocate, J Grange, who shared his lived experiences with ADHD and conveyed how neurodiversity should be viewed as a strength, not a weakness. It was empowering to hear his story and open the discussion to the wider group to better understand how we can support neurodiverse individuals in the workplace and beyond.

There is still plenty of progress to be made and this will take time, but we are fully dedicated to this effort. By facilitating these conversations, we are pleased to provide avenues for education, dialogue, and celebration, helping us create a workplace that embraces individuality and champions diversity.