Guest blogger: Becki Morris

Guest blog: Working collaboratively for change in the heritage sector

In the continuation of our Disability Confident blog series, we speak to Becki Morris, Director of the Disability Collaborative Network for Museums, to discover how organisations in the heritage sector are reaping the rewards of their Disability collaborative network. 


Why did you decide to create a Disability Collaborative Network for the heritage sector and why was it needed?

We initially started the Disability Collaborative Network (DCN) as an online resource for museums and heritage organisations of all sizes and for all stakeholders, with the aim of enabling the sharing of inclusive practices and practical support. Prior to setting up the Network, it was difficult for us to find practices and solutions already available or gather feedback from employees and customers.

Another key element to our development was that we wanted to look to other sectors and organisations for best practices regarding intersectional inclusion to help us determine where the heritage sector was in regards to service provision, working practice and the workforce.  


What sort of issues are discussed in your meetings and what outcomes have these discussions driven?

We’ve collaborated with families and charities on the services provided by museums.  One of our key actions has been to continue this collaboration through meetings, conferences and events such as our informal meet ups. One actionable change we’ve identified so far is toilet accessibility in our sector, so we’re working with partners and policymakers on making changes to our toilet facilities and we’ve already seen a steady increase in Changing Places facilities.

Another key action for the DCN has been to understand current barriers to diversifying the workforce, recruitment and retention of employees, including neurodivergent people and how this reflects inclusive practice.  We've identified an online tool to support all members of staff, begun new recruitment and apprenticeships in Work-Life Balance positions, and are supporting reasonable adjustments to reduce the need for staff to declare their disability.

In the space of Disability Confidence, what do you see are the main challenges and opportunities going forward for the heritage sector?

There are great opportunities to work towards widening participation in the sector, and we have already seen some great work across organisations particularly in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. We recognise and advocate that inclusive practice can be low cost, innovative, and is absolutely necessary.  However, it’s important that museums recognise that people shouldn’t need to declare their disability to access services and support; access should be universal by design. Every voice in the heritage sector is critically important.

Disability Confidence is currently an evolving practice, and organisations are always improving, but in terms of an end goal, what does Disability Confidence actually look like?

It creates and supports a workforce which is reflective of society and enables organisations to become proactive in supporting their team and their customers. It also creates better services and working practices, including employee recruitment and retention.  All of this is supportive, innovative, and empowering to both individuals and organisations. 

What has been your greatest learning or most exciting experience relating to the Disability Confident Scheme or diversity and inclusion?

The biggest learning is that collaboration is key, learning from other organisations and sectors about what it takes to create sustainable change in embedding inclusion and accessibility.
 
And we’ve now taken this to the next level - Disability Collaborative Network C.I.C is now a member of EMBED and have collaborated with this innovative consortium to create a unique opportunity for the heritage sector. The goal is to support your organisation to develop and deliver sustainable business change, change that shifts the culture of an organisation to becoming inclusive for its employees, voluntary staff, and visitors.  
EMBED is a recently founded consortium of professional independent consultants that offer in excess of 30 years’ experience in the development and cultural transformation of organisations across private sector including corporate, public sector and charitable sector.  The core purpose of EMBED is to offer a cross-sector expert based model that is able to call on sector or topic specific experts to work with clients.  This model offers an informed, structured and planned approach to embedding real change using their EMBED lifecycle model and is available and accessible to organisations of any sector, size or shape.

As part of this collaboration we aim to empower organisations to become more disability confident, identify barriers and remove them to increase and support disabled and neurodiverse people working across all sectors. We’re really proud and excited to be representing the heritage sector on this consortium. 

If you are interested in learning more about how your organisation could benefit from embracing Disability Confidence, take the first step by watching our recent webinar. Asif Sadiq, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for the Telegraph, and Mark Lomas, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at HS2 (high Speed Rail 2) discuss why supporting diversity and inclusion in your workplace makes good business sense. Watch it here: text.help/blog-bm.​

About the author
Becki Morris is the Director of the Disability Collaborative Network for Museums, Trustee for AchieveAbility. She’s an enthusiastic, experienced museum professional specialising in intersectional inclusive practice in the service provision, working practice and workforce of the Heritage Sector.She’s also a trained access auditor, coach and screener for adults with neurodiversity profiles. Becki specialises in collaboratively working across sectors in reducing barriers to museum participation and engagement.

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