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ISS disAbility Awareness Day

Key members of a Ministry of Defence (MOD) disability awareness group came together recently to highlight the need for greater understanding in the workplace.

The Disability Action Forum (DAF) hosted the disAbility Awareness Day at Information Systems and Services (ISS), a part of the MOD based in Corsham, Wiltshire. With 11.9 million people in the UK living with a disability, and a staggering 53% of people in the UK experiencing barriers in the workplace, the event was about raising awareness of what people go through and changing the public's attitudes – at home and at work.

The day was introduced by the ISS Disability Champion, with presentations following throughout the day and stalls outside.

The head of the Defence Stammering Network gave an in-depth and informative presentation, highlighting the fact that stammering is both a “seen and unseen” disability. He spoke of his experiences growing up, and within the MOD, and encouraged people to be patient and work with those who live with a stammer. Set up in 2014 with military colleagues, the Network has gained growing popularity, and the trio’s work has even inspired US Military Personnel to create their own Stammering Network.

With stalls from the ISS Mental Health First Aider Network, ISS and ATLAS Accessibility needs, Designability Charity, Epilepsy Network, Diabetes UK and Hounds for Heroes, the day attracted many ISS personnel, with many even dialling in from Skype to listen to the inspiring presentations.

Leaving their mark (and dog hair everywhere!) was Hounds for Heroes which provides specially trained assistance dogs to injured Armed Forces and Emergency Services personnel, with the aim to enhance and improve their lives. 100% of the money raised goes towards the dogs’ care, including vet bills. Allen Parton, the Vice Chairman, gave a moving talk about his story – but not without his two faithful furry friends EJ and Rookie by his side. He overcame disability after being injured in the Royal Navy, and founded the charity after his own experiences with a service dog called Endal, who helped him regain his independence. 

Jennie Cooper, the Project Manager for the Invictus Games, spoke about the Games and their impact, with local UK athletes Kelly Ganfield and Joanne Hursey. Kelly, a former Corporal who is visually impaired, competed for the first time at the Toronto Games this year in athletics (100m, 200m, and discus) and rowing. She spread a message of hope that you can do anything you set your mind to, no matter who you are or your struggles. She will be competing next year in Sydney and is going for gold for her daughter Bethany, who lives with cerebral palsy.

Staff Sergeant Joanne quashed the pre-conceptions of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), speaking about her journey in the Army and in the Games, and the struggles (including an ongoing knee injury) that came with it. She competed this year in the cycling and swimming and is now looking to be a part of the Friends & Family Programme.

Jayne Kavanagh, the Chef de Mission for the UK Team, said, “The Invictus Games offer many of our servicemen, women and veterans with life-changing injuries or illnesses a launchpad to rebuild their lives, in whatever direction they choose, not just sport. That is the power of the Games and that is very evident with what we achieved in Toronto.”

Head Architect of Design talked about Accessibility on MODNet (Defence’s new IT infrastructure) and other initiatives across government, and the Corsham padre gave two presentations; Dementia Awareness, which encouraged us all to be “Dementia Friends”; and Mental Health, about how to identify it and what to do when it starts to impact on our overall health and work.

The planning committee for the day would like to thank everyone involved in making this day happen, and those that took time out of their busy schedules to come down to or Skype the event. If you would like to find out more information about the presenters or stalls involved, please follow the links below.