Building disability confidence with purple allies

Dyslexia (and other disability) support groups and employee resource groups (ERGs) are a powerful engine for change within organizations. There are times, however, when they need help and support to drive the change. That’s where the concept of allies comes in.

I was fortunate to attend the Purple Space second-anniversary party that marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities and celebrated all the #PurpleLightUp events. The event was used to launch Purple Champions and Allies Leaders’ Guide’ which is available for anyone to download and share.

Before I continue I know many people don’t consider their dyslexia to be a disability. It is just part of how they think. While I see my dyslexia as more of a difference than a disability there are advantages to tapping into the current thinking on disability ERGs. For many, the protection of the equalities act is also a welcome benefit even if they dislike the disability label.

A “Purple ally” is a term used to describe colleagues who believe that disabled people should experience full equality in the workplace. They are likely to be people who understand that employees can perform better if they can be themselves, and ask for the adjustments they need (if they need them at all) and they will use their role and influence to create a workplace culture where this happens easily. They help to create a safe and inclusive environment and support employees through words, behaviour and example.

Allies are a little different to champions (in my role as network lead I am lucky to be supported by both) as allies can be anywhere in the organization while champions tend to be senior.

What is purple space?

PurpleSpace is a unique professional development and networking hub for disabled employee network and resource group leaders, champions and allies. It supports its members to create real and meaningful conversations that support and help drive internal cultural change.

Membership is available to anyone working in any sector or trade, and across the UK and globally. This includes private companies, government departments and agencies, police forces, NHS Trusts, colleges and universities and local authorities and charities.

Members join in order to increase the effectiveness of their employee networks, develop their skills and learn how to help their organisations to become disability confident from the inside out.

How can an ally help?

The support from an ally can range from simple behaviour changes to helping drive massive cultural change. At the small end of the scale, this could be a consideration of accessibility requirements when organising a meeting. A bigger investment of time might be working with a network to help them set their vision and strategy. The guide has suggestions for things that can be done in a minute, in 15 minutes, in an hour and over longer periods of time.

Want to find out more?

Download and read the Purple Champions and Allies Leaders’ Guide’ which is available for anyone to download and share – it’s free to everyone!

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