The Employers Stammering Network

Employers Stammering Network

What is it?

The Employers Stammering Network is a membership network of employers where Network members and supporters are committed to creating a culture where people who stammer can achieve their full career potential.

Launched in 2013, Employers Stammering Network members employ over 1.5 million people, with employees who stammer playing a leading role

The Employers Stammering Network is hosted by the British Stammering Association and is the first network of its kind anywhere

Why have a network?

In many workplaces there is little awareness or understanding of the issues that affect the 500,000 adults in the UK who stammer. Since people who stammer may go to great lengths to hide it, their colleagues may not realise what they are going through

Employers rate highly the qualities that people who stammer often possess, including resilience, empathy, listening skills and creativity. However research tells us that a huge stigma surrounds stammering and discrimination is commonplace.

We’re here to change this and show that’s it’s totally OK to stammer at work.

What do we do?

  • Increase awareness and understanding of stammering, making it possible to speak openly about it
  • Help members develop and lead internal networks to support positive change and build confidence amongst employees who stammer
  • Strengthen and develop partnerships between and beyond our members
  • Share learning and practice and provide mutual member support.

Four examples of activities

  1. Campaign posters to raise interest and challenge stereotypes
  • With pro bono support from Ogilvy & Mather we have a fantastic set of templates that members have adapted for posters, banners and leaflets.
  • These feature real individuals who stammer and demonstrate their strengths, why they are an asset to their employers and how both employers and employees benefit from being themselves at work.

EY launched their version to great effect on International Stammering Awareness Day on 22 October 2015.

EY Poster - Dinesh

  1. Ground-breaking workshops
  • We have run a very successful series of three workshops for employees who stammer (first series by invitation to members) on Re-defining Stammering at Work. We plan to re-run this
  • We also offer a workshop for HR, recruitment, diversity & inclusion, line and counselling managers, open to members and non-members (reduced fee for member organisations). This can also be offered in-house to employers by arrangement (fee)

For more information on workshops please contact Helen Carpenter, ESN Membership Manager or 020 8983 1003

  1. Events

We hold high-profile networking events for member organisations and supporters

Speakers Event - Nov 2015
Speakers Event – Nov 2015
  1. Information and advice
  • Our dedicated web pages provide a lot of useful information available to all employees and employers
  • We also provide briefing and information packs on stammering and communication at work for members

Do you support the Employers Stammering Network and the British Stammering Association? Six ways to stay in touch

Can we help you?

  • Perhaps you are planning an event at your workplace related to stammering or want some help in doing so?
  • Want more information about how your organisation can join the Employers Stammering Network?
  • Or maybe you’d like to explore further with us what you can do in your workplace?

Contact Helen Carpenter, ESN Membership Manager on or 020 8983 1003.

We’re always glad to hear from you!

Disabled People and Terminology ~ Michèle Taylor

Terminology is important, because words reflect our attitudes and beliefs. However, some of the terms we tend to use may not reflect how some disabled people see themselves. Using the right words matters.

This is not about ‘political correctness’ but using wording and language which disabled people and disabled people’s organisations working to promote the social model of disability find acceptable.

Some negative terminology to be avoided includes the following examples

  • Afflicted with This conveys a tragic or negative view about disability.
  • Suffering from This confuses disability with illness and also implies that a disability may be a personal burden. Increasingly, disabled people view their disability as a positive rather that negative experience
  • The blind Lumping everyone together in this way is felt by many to take away their individuality. The most appropriate term to use here is ‘people with visual impairments’, or ‘blind people’
  • Victim of This again plays to a sense that disability is somehow a tragedy
  • Cripple or crippled by Use the term ‘the person has …’
  • Wheelchair bound Disabled people are not tied into their wheelchairs. People are wheelchair users or someone who uses a wheelchair. A wheelchair offers the freedom to move around and is a valuable tool
  • Deaf and dumb This phrase is demeaning and inaccurate. Many deaf people use sign language to communicate and dumb implies that someone is stupid. Use ‘a person with a hearing impairment’, or ‘a deaf person’, or ‘sign language user’
  • The disabled There is no such thing as the disabled. Use the term ‘disabled people’
  • People with disabilities The term ‘disabled people’ is the preferred term within the social model of disability. ‘People with disabilities’ suggests that the disability ‘belongs’ to the disabled person, rather than ‘disabled person’ which accurately infers that society disables the individual, thus adopting the social model of disability
  • Handicapped This term is inappropriate, with images of begging and disabled people being cap in hand
  • Invalid The term literally means not valid
  • Able bodied The preferred term is ‘non-disabled’. ‘Able -bodied’ suggests that all disabilities are physical and ignores unseen disabilities, and that disabled people are not able

Some phrases are perfectly acceptable. People who use wheelchairs do ‘go for a walk’. It is perfectly acceptable to say to a person with a visual impairment ‘I will see you later’. Deaf people are unlikely to take offence at ‘Did you hear about…’ Common everyday phrases of this kind are unlikely to cause offence.


Michèle Taylor,
Disability and Equality Consultant and Trainer

Adapted from Manchester City Council’s website:

AXSChat speaks to Becki Morris about the Disability Co-operative Network

Disability Coi-operative Network

AXSChat speaks to Becki Morris about Disability Co-operative Network in Museums

We were extremely proud to be invited to speak to Debra Ruh, Antonio Santos and Neil Milliken from @AXSchat about our work with the DCN, our aims for museums to be more inclusive to people working in and visiting museums and working collaboratively across sectors to champion change.

See Becki’s interview here and storify of the accompanying discussions in the commercial sector and people on the access in museums.

British Sign Language in the Art World ~ Edward J Richards, Cutting Edge Design Limited

British Sign Language in the Art World - Credit: Heritage Lottery Fund
Hello! I’m Edward Richards, a Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) user I set up my own graphic design company, specialising in inclusive and accessible communication.

I have used interpreters for about the last 12 years and kept noticing that no matter the agency I used, the level of choice and quality of the service wasn’t to my linking. I therefore decided to begin work on a better system with fair fees and the ability to give me and other Deaf people back the choice and quality we were missing.. bookONE as it’s called will be operating in the near future.

I ‘m proud to say that I was involved in the London Paralympics Opening Ceremony as an aerial performer, for which I trained intensively for 4 months and last nearly 2 stones in weight, most of which has since found its way back to me! I also work as an Arts Presenter for several leading museums and art galleries in London such as Tate Modern and Britain, Royal Academy of Arts and National Gallery.

As a child I loved all aspects of art but never had full access to the information about the subject for which I had so much passion. I later decided to take on formal art training and studied Art at Camberwell and have always had an interest in how art theory can be expressed in my native British Sign Language.

In 2002, I saw a Tate advert looking for deaf people to become BSL gallery guides and applied without a second thought. This was the first training for Deaf people to become Arts presenters undertaken by Tate or anyone else as far as I know. The programme was very positive and since that time I have given talks at Tate Modern and Britain, the Royal Academy and Whitechapel Gallery, amongst others. I now engage deaf audiences with art and culture and am feverishly learning about new collections, works and ways of presenting. I believe passionately that this work brings deaf people back to the arts and I’m proud that I’m involved in training other deaf BSL guides to widen audiences at Tate and other venues across the UK. Last year, I was asked by Tate to set up and project manage their most recent Signing Art course, where I recruited Deaf experts in Art, research and speaking to Deaf audiences. You can find out more information about the work called ‘Project in a Box’ here I will happily help other galleries and museums set up similar projects, just give me a shout and I’ll be there. Since the course, I have assessed skills and mentored graduates in order to maintain quality.

I’m used to operating in peer to peer situations which helps in creating employment for deaf people where society’s record of recruiting Deaf and/or disabled people is extremely poor.

I also advise on Tate’s Access and Advisory Group. For me, I’m there not just to give a Deaf perspective, but to encourage a different way of thinking for all those involved in access to museums and galleries, creating an ethos of equality and inclusivity that encourages respect for Deaf people in all areas and allows for a more positive experience for everyone in this sector!

The Secret Museum: Film Production with Autistic Young People ~ Suzanne Cohen

Filmmaker and educator Suzanne Cohen talks about her experiences of delivering media projects at the British Museum.

I have been facilitating weeklong film projects for young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (13 – 19 years) in the summer holidays for the last seven years with an organization called Camden Summer University in collaboration with speech and language therapists from Whittington Health NHS.

Most of the courses have been hosted by the British Museum which is an excellent venue as it offers a large classroom plus lots of break out spaces for small group work, access to the collection and a very supportive environment created by Education Manager Katharine Hoare who we work closely with.

My role has been to devise exciting projects inspired by the location/exhibitions using a range of filmmaking techniques, which develop vocational skills. The end product is screened at a cinema in the British Museum in the Camden Summer University Young People’s Film Festival, which motivates us to do bigger and better things each year.

Of course the other important aim is to develop communication and interpersonal skills through group work. This gives the participants the opportunity to meet and make friends with other young people with similar interests who also have social communication difficulties or ASD.

Kate Bayley (Speech and Language Therapist – Team Leader) explains that ‘the course targets a number of vital skills for adulthood such as confidence, teamwork and independence. Social anxiety and individual needs can be supported by the therapists, so that the young people are free to focus on enjoying the galleries of the British Museum, and learning film skills from a professional. The feedback we get from young people and parents is that this can be a huge step in these young people’s lives!’

I was new to working with young people with ASD and initially I found it a struggle because things seemed to move slowly due to a range of issues which varied from student to student. These included short attention spans, focusing in on minute details, difficulties sharing and accepting others opinions, and lacking confidence/proficiency with IT.

In addition the young people with ASD found it difficult at times to be flexible and work in groups which led to some arguments and conflicts with each other. Increasing the number of adults present helped to ensure that everyone could supported to engage in the group as much as they wanted whilst allowing them opportunities to be taken out of the group situation if things became overwhelming for them. This year we had ten young people plus nine adults (myself and an assistant, a parent and 7 speech and language therapists per day).  Some of the young people knew each other from previous years and it was lovely to see them becoming more comfortable within the group situation.

The speech and language therapists have helped me to adapt my teaching for working with groups of young people with ASD, in the following ways:

  • Tightly structured activities, which get looser as the week progresses.
  • Presenting lesson plans on the board at the start of each section so expectations are clear and students know what to focus on now and what is happening next.
  • Explaining abstract concepts more thoroughly using simple unambiguous language and visual examples wherever possible
  • Including movement breaks to assist concentration and help students calm down or re-energise accordingly.
  • Class discussions need some preparation to be fruitful, e.g. break out into pairs first to enable them time and space to sound out or write down their views with others before contributing to the whole group .

The concept of ‘The Secret Museum’ animation was inspired by the mini tours we had been given to areas of the museum, which are not accessible to the public. The story is about a youth group on a day trip to the museum. We focus on four characters that get distracted by something and are lured away into a secret realm where they encounter an object come to life. Finally they come out of the situation unscathed returning to normality.

The idea was to make a collaborative film where each small group devised a main character and wrote and directed their particular storyline. I provided the narrative structure in order to pull the whole thing together and to help the students to create a more focused storyline. The speech and language therapists encouraged the use of interior monologues to develop empathy skills.

We used stop frame animation rather than live action party because the young people found exaggerated characterisation , facial expressions and movements easier to perform than ‘natural’  acting skills.

Each group storyboarded, shot, acted in and edited their sections, which were combined into a 4.5 minute film. You can see the results here (; it is brimming with ideas and humour and is technically very proficient.

It has been great to see some of the young people returning year after year. I find the groups stimulating to teach and think the work they produce is very unique.

Here’s another animation ( using monologues with avatars inspired by the Life and death
 Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition.


Feel the Force Day III, 10 October 2015

Feel the force day welcome

Does inclusion have to cost the earth?  No.

We recently visited Feel the Force Day in Peterborough.  Feel the Force Day is the world’s only Film and TV Convention for people with disabilities and visual impairment. It should be noted that Feel the Force Day is for all, however it is marketed as such as a number of the larger comic con style events are understood to be not accessible to disabled audiences.

Feel the force day - Main event hall
Feel the force day – Main event hall

Feel the Force Day is now in its third year, with a second ‘sister’ Feel the Force Day to be launched in Plymouth.   The organisation is run by two people and a team of volunteers.  They are an incredible group of people whose enthusiasm for sci-fi, film and TV is evident when you visit. But their commitment to access to all to engagement in public spaces is evident by the sheer numbers in attendance (5,000 people visited this year for the 1 day event) and the charged positive atmosphere on the site.

The day itself is accessible on a number of levels.  Firstly, cost is incredibly low in comparison to a similar event.  Each ticket costs £3.30 per person.  We spent almost 5 hours at the event, which for £3.30 a ticket is an absolute treat itself.

Feel the force day - sensory table
Feel the force day – sensory table

Secondly, there is lots to do and all manners of engagement.  Such items on offer were touch tables for people who were visually impaired.  These tables had masks, toys, tactile shapes of transport vehicles and fighter ships. Also toys to touch for the concept of what is on screen, such as lightsabres and Doctor Who daleks.  There is the fantastic concept project of ‘Think Stink’ which is a selection of bottles and jars with various concoctions of herbs, spices and other things to create what a place smells like.  So, the Forest of Endor has smells of herbs, trees and plants in a small smoothie bottle.


Feel the force day - Dalek from Dr Who
Feel the force day – Dalek from Dr Who

There were over 1000 costumers, who enabled people to touch their costumes so to interpret what C-3PO looked like, what shape R2 was.  But also to interact with the audience, including young children, family groups and adults.  The costumers really ‘gelled’ with the audience by little quips and comments and engaged into conversation.

Thirdly, the audience meet actors and actresses.  During the day we met actors and celebrities from TV and film.  These included Ian McNeice who was recently ‘Winston Churchill’ in Doctor Who, Jeremy Bulloch who was ‘Boba Fett’ in the original Star Wars trilogy, and Trevor and Simon from Going Live.   We also had

Feel the force day - TV's Trevor and Simon
Feel the force day – TV’s Trevor and Simon

illustrators, the Department of Ability and a Paralympian.

During the day, there were projects highlighted on the main stage including local schools and groups, with a number of organisations and local support groups available.

The key is this, often inclusion is mistakenly seen as a costly venture.  Here it is difficult to see why.  Feel the Force Day does not have a high budget.  Instead it is based on building partnerships and with careful planning and evaluation.

The organisation has the confidence to talk to people, to network and generate new partnerships with local and national organisations.  Inside the large reception area are pitches by local charities and organisations to inspire and support families and individuals.

Feel the Force Day is now raising their profile via fundraising and appeals for Feel the Force Day IV which will be held on 1st October 2016.  More details to be found on there website:


The Department of Ability

The Department of Ability Poster (Comic)

My name is Dan proud father to the incredible, strong, funny action seeking Emily who uses a wheelchair and has Spina Bifida.
When Emily was small she said “i don’t see wheelchairs on the telly..are they allowed?” GULP…WOW…what a statement!
It was then I decided if TV wasn’t going to do it..I would! that’s when the light bulb moment happened and i created…
The Department of Ability! superheroes using their disabilities as their superpowers! I used a mixed bag of characters,

Emily , the only human!, and her flying wheelchair and superior upper body strength Azzazatz the Alien, crash landed on Earth and retrofitted with a prosthetic bio-mechanical arm Pawsy the cheetah, rescued after an accident at London zoo and now reaches super speeds with his fusion powered Running blade Claypole, Ghost, brilliant scientist recalled blind from the afterlife and uses white canes….for justice…!

Comic Heroes of The Department of Ability
Comic Heroes of The Department of Ability

Billy, the dog, rescued from a hit and run, and gets around now with carbon wheels and a tail that acts as a radar and jet!
Each “born to be different..born to save the world”
If you go to my website, FB site or twitter, you can see and read ALL about them! and see the growing army of followers..more every day!

The D.O.A (for short) were designed to be as accessible as possible without losing sight of the aim behind their creation , as I noticed that the majority of Disabled characters across the medium of media were purely static or there to educate, and if this project was to encourage positive, diverse, inclusion then it HAD to be accessible…the kids I meet at Stoke Manderville sports, wheelchair basketball or charity events all tell me they have had enough of discussing their disability, they hate their stereotyped images, they want proper inclusion in the medium that they, like all kids consume! TV and comics! I am hoping the D.O.A can, if a 21st century tv exec can open his aged old eyes, get these kids the the inclusion that they deserve and get all kids of ALL abilities to join in, chat, meet and have a common interest they can share! not much too it?

The Department of Ability Comic front page
The Department of Ability Comic front page

I am writing and drawing the first D.O.A Comic at home, (It is being printed and published by the forward thinking STRONGBONES charity) I have given up paid employment to fulfil this dream, I am convinced, and so are all my wonderful followers online, that it can work! I am writing and drawing outlandish action packed global superhero adventures, whilst annoying anyone I can in the media to listen to me and 12MILLION other incredible people in this stunning community! its tiring and hard work, but it will take a lesser man to light a flame! I believe the time for change is coming, be it my characters or someone elses’ but things need to happen! the dark ages are over.

So far I have had fantastic online support from Disability Horizons/SCOPE/MENCAP/Hannah Cockcroft/Tanni Grey Thompson/Sky tv hosts/paralympians/celebs like Warwick Davies and The Last Leg. I have been shouting the project on : BBC Couch, Sky Sunrise, The Wright Stuff, ABC news, soooo many papers and magazines and radio stations! The want for the comic is coming in worldwide now, so i better sign off and get scribbling! If the word on the D.O.A can be spread to anyone, anywhere as far as possible, any likes, tweets..shares..shouts even! that would be awesome! TV is the next logical step whilst the in demand comic is in production! 12 million is not a minority there is nothing to loose, but EVERYTHING to gain!

The finished comic will be out next March/April, worldwide distribution, anyone can contact me! always need help! working on your own can be tiring! haha!

Please lets work together and open the bigger world to this amazing community of strong, independent people – thank you! you can find teasers/info/pics/even the theme tune by Calling Utopia at:


Lets make this happen…positive, strong, inclusion is a must.
Tv has…nothing to loose BUT everything to GAIN.

Thanks! with a plan

Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability Was Kept in A Box ~ Mat Fraser and Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester

Critically acclaimed actor and performance artist Mat Fraser was commissioned by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester to create a new artistic work, shaped out of a collaborative engagement with museum collections, research and expertise in medical history, museums and disability. This was a key part of the Stories of a Different Kind project (July 2012 – Feb 2014). Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability was kept in a box reassessed the ways in which disability and disabled people are portrayed in museums.

To see Mat’s Keynote Speech at the Museums Association Annual Conference and the Cabinet of Curiosities project, please see here:

Social Media 101 for Community of Persons with Disabilities ~ Debra Ruh, @debraruh

I am often asked why I adore social media.  Why?  It has the power to change lives and connect the community of persons with disabilities.  It is critical for the billion people with disabilities globally to come together on social media.  If our community came together on social media – we would be hard to ignore.  My daughter Sara has Down syndrome and she has made many friends on social media.

Social media is all about connecting, engaging and being social.  People do not want to be ‘talked at” or not ‘followed.  People want to follow someone that is real and engages back with others.  They want to get acknowledgment when they share your work.  They want to ask questions, get answers and have the ability to learn from each other.

I am still surprised by the number of people that will not follow others back.  Social media is SOCIAL.  I am blessed by my followers and enjoy engaging with these amazing people.  I have a pretty solid following and always try to follow back.  If I have missed you – just send me a note on social media and I will follow you.  However – I do not follow accounts that are up to mischief, porn, nasty posts.  I believe in free speech but do not want to contribute to negative or hurtful chatter on social media. I like @TedRubin advice and his hashtag #BeKind.

I believe that social media can be used for great good and great evil.  This medium cannot be ignored by the community of individuals with disabilities.  We must engage and empower with each other.  Plus show solid examples of how and why persons with disabilities add value to society and the workforce.

I use social media to chatter about Inclusion, Digital Divide, Disability Inclusion, ICT Accessibility, Digital Media, Women’s Issues, Civil Rights, Social Business, Robotics, Wearables, IoT, 3D Printing, Smart Cities and Social Good.

I believe that our community is starting to find our voices via social media.  However, there are some accessibility problems with social media.  Individuals with disabilities are often left out of the social media conversation because the social media platforms and apps are inaccessible.  Social media has to be accessible or we continue to widen the Digital Divide.  For example, video needs captions, graphics and pictures need text equivalents.

The Internet and Social Media has opened many opportunities and has improved the quality of life for these users, but many still face barriers.  If social media tools are not accessible those platforms stand to lose out to competitors that make the tools accessible for everyone.  Accessibility should be built into the system, website, app and platform just like privacy and security.

The good news is that social media applications can be made fully accessible allowing everyone to use them. Those efforts will support persons with disabilities, individuals that speak other languages, ICT novice and older users too.

Tips for engaging on social media and finding your voice:


It is critical to engage on social media to take full advantage of these powerful mediums.  For example: use the requote option on twitter to share good content and comment on the content.  Even saying – ‘good content – worth a share’ is appreciated by the authors of the post.  Or Say – “hello – thanks for the follow”.


Please follow others back if you like their content. Following and engaging are critical on social media.


Share content that speaks to you.  If you like the content – chances are others in your network will also enjoy it. Help spread the word about good content by sharing with your network.


It is critical to use #hashtags to help others find your content.  Hashtag important words in your posts like #disabilities, #socialgood, #accessibility and other keywords that people are tracking.  That way others can find your posts. Also this is a great way to find good people to follow.


Join multiple social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, G+, Instagram, and Pinterest are a few common ones) to help build your network and following.


Use tools like Buffer App, Manage Flitter, KLOUT, Tweet Deck or Hootsuite to help manage activities and posts


Create a post to reward companies that are including us.  If a company includes a person with disabilities in their post – reward them by doing a post that reinforces their good behavior. Or a corporation gets recognized in the media for employing persons with disabilities.  Give them a positive shoutout on social media. When @Toyota supported the @SpecialOlympics. I tweeted their content and thanked them for supporting our community.


Often people join social media and start pushing their services or products (books, public speaking).  It is okay to share a little about your services but keep it to a minimum.  It is better to offer good content, share others content, engage and only occasionally talk about your services.  If you share good content people will take the time to learn about your services.


Take the time to set up a good profile that tells followers about your work.  Include your website if you have one and use keywords to describe yourself.  A good profile is worth its weight in gold.  


Social media can be used to help the community of individuals with disabilities find our voice.  We can break down the barriers that prevent us from being taken seriously as a community and market.


I had the pleasure to start #AXSChat with two partners from the UK, Neil Milliken @neilmilliken and Antonio Santos @akwyz.

AXSCHat is an open online community of individuals dedicated to creating an inclusive world; we believe that accessibility is for everyone. Social media has great power to connect people and we hope to accomplish and encourage in-depth discussion and spread knowledge about the work people are doing to enable greater access and inclusion through whatever means.

We host weekly video interviews and twitter chats with people who are contributing to making the world a more inclusive place through technology or innovating to enable wider participation in society for people with disabilities.

The topics will be wide ranging and we want to encourage discussion and ensure everyone has a voice on social media so we encourage you to take part by tweeting and using the hashtag #axschat.

We hold the chat every Tuesday at 3pmEST and 8pm GMT.  #AXSChat is a popular chat and is joined by people that are interested in accessibility, disability inclusion and empowerment from all over the world.  We would be honored for you to join the chat. You can learn more and view accessible and captioned videos of past guests at

Also want to know more about this topic – consider my book.  “Find Your Voice using Social Media” and please follow me @debraruh and I will follow you back.


Remember as @tedcoine a brilliant leader that also has dyslexia says, ‘Be a Giver not a Taker’.


To learn more about Debra Ruh, visit our website at or via social media @debraruh or @sararuh.

Disability Access Day

We’re asking disabled people and their friends and family to visit somewhere they’ve never been before on Disabled Access Day (12th March 2016). To help make this happen we are working with venues across the UK (and further afield) to encourage them to hold an event, activity or offer on Disabled Access Day. Last year over 250 venues across the UK and Europe held events, from behind the scenes tours to entrance fee discounts to BSL demonstration kitchens plus much much more.  We would love you to join us on Disabled Access Day 2016 and help us make it even bigger and better than our inaugural event, find out how you can register at

Danger! Men at Work ~ Ed Watts

Danger Men at Work Sign in displace case.

Founded in 1889 as the first English gallery in a park, the Whitworth has been transformed by a £15 million development. This is a gallery whose visitor numbers have climbed spectacularly in the past five years, whose contemporary exhibitions programmes have given new life to international collections, and whose risk-taking curatorial team has gained global attention.

Part of the University of Manchester, the Whitworth is a gallery that is a place of research and academic collaboration, and whose education and learning teams have generated new approaches to working with non-traditional arts audiences.

Yet despite its ambition and change, the Whitworth is also a gallery that has retained a sense of the personal, the intimate and the playful. It is a place that its visitors love, and feel that they own. For them and for us, the Whitworth is simply the gallery in the park, one of the most remarkable galleries in the north of England.

Over the last year the Whitworth, part of the University of Manchester, turned our attention to addressing a traditionally under-represented audience within cultural activities, older men. This May was the focal point for this work as we launched publications, research, programmes and an exhibition, exploring older men’s participation in society and culture.

The presence of older men within activities at the Whitworth, or lack of, has been apparent for some time. Despite being in Manchester, a city known nationally and internationally for its Age Friendly credentials, older men still fall into a minority within such activities at the gallery. Through conversations with fellow programmers from other cultural organisations, big and small, it became clear this was not just a problem in Manchester.

The closure of the Whitworth for a major fifteen million pound redevelopment gave a unique opportunity to explore this is in further detail, in anticipation of engaging this audience in all of what the new Whitworth has to offer. To understand why older men were not getting involved in such activities, you first need understand what made those activities, that did appeal, so successful. The gallery also wanted to ensure that older men’s voices were at the heart of this research, speaking with those that participate and those that do not. To get their views on why they get involved and possibly more importantly, why they choose not to.

“It’s a lot harder to get through to men. I think men in general are hesitant about joining anything, and I think word of mouth is better from a member than someone who’s running it.” – Participant

The findings of this report, A Handbook for Cultural Engagement with Older Men, were all been gathered through conversations, with groups, artists, organisations and most importantly with older men. Whilst the Whitworth has been closed Ed Watts, Engagement Manager, took to the road, travelling the breadth of the United Kingdom from Glasgow to Bethnal Green, from Rhyl to Belfast and meeting some real characters along the way. These conversations highlighted the diversity of this group that is often too readily described as simply “older men”. These groups are made up of men of all shapes and sizes from a variety of cultural and social backgrounds. It’s clear that an over fifties group can often work “intergenerationally” without the need to involve any primary school. These discussions opened up an array of wider debates, from funding and the role of the NHS to opening the can of worms that is gender stereotypes. It was these notions of “being a man” that made the diversity of the selected case studies so important.

“I can hardly draw a breath, never mind put pen to paper!” – Participant

This handbook, funded by the Baring Foundation, features six case studies of existing best practice from across the UK.  The case studies were selected to show the diversity of this work and included, Burrell for Blokes in Glasgow, a Men’s Shed in Rhyl, a Bengali men’s dance group in London, Out in the City, a LGBT group in Manchester, Equal Arts in Gateshead and the Live and the Learn project with National Museums Northern Ireland. The handbook outlines key findings, including recruitment and barriers, programming and participation, what kind of activities and models of participation older men would like cultural organisations to offer and impact, exploring the motivations and self-reported benefits for older men of engaging in cultural group activities.

At times these conversations were been side splittingly funny and spine tinglingly emotional in equal measure. It was moving to hear these men talk passionately about the impact these activities have had on the quality of their lives. Whether through improved health and wellbeing or simply making friends and developing new social networks, each story emphasised the importance of this work and the need to spread the word to the more isolated older men within our communities.

“That’s the one thing that’s kept me alive. I would not be here today. I’ve discovered all sorts of things. I mean my main objective is meeting people, that’s what it’s involved. I love all the groups- I’m part of it”  – Participant

Alongside this research, a special exhibition was developed with a group of older men in our new Collections Centre, a public space where visitors can gain access to our collections more easily. This new space is where we can show, share and care for our important collections – opening them up for research and display in new ways. Danger! Men at Work, has been co-curated with a group of older male residents at Anchor Housing Trust’s Beechfield Lodge care home in Salford. The residents were visited by a artists, curators and conservators from the Whitworth and consulted about the new exhibition, which explores notions of masculinity, identity and ageing. The group, made up of a retired postal worker, a civil servant, teacher, crane engineer and bus driver, had full control to decide which exhibits and artefacts should feature in the exhibition, which has been funded by the Baring Foundation to tackle isolation and loneliness in older men. The exhibition has been open since May and has proven so popular with visitors it has been extended until October, five months longer than it had originally been programmed for.


Ed Watts
Engagement Manager
The Whitworth

Neurodiversity in Employment by Sean Gilroy and Leena Haque

So, what is Neurodiversity and why are we interested in it?  Well, Neurodiversity refers to conditions which cause a person to process information differently; Autism Spectrum Condition, Asperger’s, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other neurological conditions are becoming increasingly known by the term Neurodiversity and they affect at least one in 25 people.

We started working together around 3 years ago, after I (Leena, Hello) joined the BBC through the Extend Scheme – an employment scheme aimed at people with disabilities.  This is when I met Sean, who was to be my line manager (Hello.)  Now, while we each had relevant experience of each other’s respective fields, we noticed that there was a lack of information regarding Neurodiversity from the perspective of the new employee and for the employer.

Specifically, we felt there was a lack of information regarding awareness of hidden conditions and the effective management of neurodiverse individuals. Likewise we felt that there was similar lack of resources for people with hidden conditions to access when facing the prospect of applying for roles or starting employment.   Basically, where was the consolidated best practice for employers to draw on which provided support for both managers and staff.

So, we set up an anonymous, online survey to explore both the employment experiences for people with hidden disabilities and the knowledge and awareness of line managers. We promoted the survey via social media – an excellent forum often frequented by Neurodiverse individuals and anonymous so as to encourage people to tell us how they really feel.

We managed to get an excellent response to this, 470 people completed the survey broadly split 70/30 between staff and managers.  There were positive stories out there from people that replied, citing the individual creativity of line managers and where people felt they were being actively supported.  But there was also the message that Stigma is still a concern for people and that managers didn’t always know where to go for support and information.

Until recently the disadvantages and negatives of hidden disabilities (if not all disability) have been focused on, while the special talents that often come with these conditions are overlooked. From our perspective on this project, the need to increase awareness is mainly about dispelling the myths, perceptions and even prejudices people may have about these conditions, especially in employment.

This situation is possibly easier to understand if we consider that the conversation around diversity in the work place usually concentrates on visible differences; race, religion and physical disabilities. Increasingly though, more companies are now recognising the need to embrace, nurture and facilitate those with hidden disabilities, especially in those areas where Neurodiversity tends to excel – Creativity and Technology.

While organisations are increasingly aware of the broadest spectrum of what Diversity means, there are still those barriers to employment which Neurodiverse individuals have to overcome in order to get the chance of employment.

Take for example the application and interview process, once you have managed to find a job you’re interested in.  The first barrier is having to complete an application form, which is often full of employment jargon, non-specific descriptions of responsibilities and hidden expectations.  The type-face and font may not be easy to read and decipher and it can be unclear as to who and how you might ask for assistance.  There is also only the one way to apply – in writing, which is not necessarily someone’s preferred method.

Then, if you manage to be selected after deciphering the application, the second barrier is having to suffer a face-to-face interview.  How best to cope with the protocol of maintaining eye contact, answering open-ended questions based on hypothetical scenarios or being invited to give a brief history of your experience to date.

To be fair, as well as anyone with ASC for example, this process is something many of us will probably relate a certain sense of anxiety to.  Which brings us on to a rather interesting side-effect of our research…

When we highlight some of those aspects we’ve identified as being problematic for Neurodiverse conditions, we often receive a positive response from Neurotypical people.  Whether it be the anxieties of applications, the patterns on the wall or floor being distracting, social cues at work being misunderstood, buildings being difficult to navigate or emails difficult to read; it appears that we all share certain things that we would like to change, that perhaps we are all on the spectrum?

So, if we can make changes to help people with Neurodiverse conditions the payback could be larger, in that these changes are likely to help a wider population.  If we can review our recruitment practices, we may begin to identify new streams of talent.  And if we look at making the working environment accessible for all, considering both physical and hidden disabilities, that retention rates and working efficiency could improve for everyone.

We believe it is important to keep in mind that an individual is a unique learner; that no two people are exactly the same and no two people learn and work in exactly the same manner. If we can open up to new ideas and allow individuals to demonstrate skills and talents in a way they feel best able, might we not be able to find more appropriate ways to identify and retain key talent in the workplace.