So What Is Equality?

 In Equality and Diversity in Business

This is a question I am often asked. O.K. let’s look at it. Equality – Here is the definition from Oxford Dictionaries online 

Definition of equality

1. [mass noun] the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities: an organization aiming to promote racial equality

2. Mathematics a symbolic expression of the fact that two quantities are equal; an equation.

late Middle English: via Old French from Latin aequalitas, from aequalis

Does that help? Perhaps not? particularly the Mathematics definition but still nice to know the word’s origin. For me, equality means that everyone is able to get the same service regardless of who they are. It’s really about treating people as you would like to be treated yourself. Just a little example: I have chosen to write this in point 16 as this is best for people with visual impairment. Therefore, if I want as many people as possible to read this then I should make it accessible.

It’s not possible to go into all the nuances of the Equality Act 2010 in this piece but if I may, I’d like to give you another little example. In the late 1990’s, I had a job supporting people with learning disabilities. A particular client (I know it’s a horrible word) of mine wanted to open a bank account. I took him down to his local bank (I’ll spare their blushes at this point) to attempt the impossible.

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

Bank Teller: Do you have your birth certificate, passport or driving licence and a utility bill with you?
Client: Erm, no. I was adopted when I was a child, I have never been on holiday abroad, don’t drive and I live in a supported living house, so, the home manager pays the bills.
Bank Teller: Oops, sorry you can’t open a bank account here.
Me: Oh well, perhaps another bank will be pleased with your business

So off we trudged as if looking for the Holy Grail. Some hours later (probably in the region of 2-3) and 5 refusals (how many?) still no bank account opened.

Thank goodness that there has been a tiny wee bit of movement on this today. The CAB advises ‘they should accept a letter from a responsible person who knows you, such as a GP, teacher, social worker or probation officer.’ Probably, the easiest one to achieve is a letter from your GP. However, the last time I asked for a GP letter there was a fee.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an unnecessary expense for a group of people clearly in the lowest income bracket and in a large number of cases living in relative poverty. Did you know that around 45% of disabled people of working age are economically inactive through no fault of their own?

There are plenty of additional stats that would horrify you around access to health (see Mencap’s report ‘Death Through Indifference’) achieving qualifications or just generally what they expect from life.

Anyway, let me get back to the case in point, banking. I still believe that we have a very long way to go. In recent reports 20% of people with a learning disability have had difficulties opening a bank account and with the quality of customer service in banks, with many even reporting that they had been questioned about their ability to manage their own affairs.

Ah, you say “There must be some examples of good practice”. Of course! How’s about this for an example of best practice?
I’m starting a new paragraph because this story deserves it. A number of years ago in the days of the Disability Discrimination Act. I was having a conversation with my local shopkeeper about what I did, so he asked me how the DDA affected him. I explained, ‘He should make reasonable adjustment to how he provided his service and to think about ways that he could facilitate this’. I left it at that and went on my merry way.

A few weeks later I asked if he had considered what I said and he proudly stated “yes and this is what I’m going to do”.

1.Install a bell at the front door so that disabled customers can ring it for me to go out and get their order. If it’s too long a wait I’ll deliver it to them.

2. I’ve also given all my elderly and disabled customers my business card where they can call and place an order and I’ll deliver it to them.

3.Is there anything else you think I should do?

What a great example of making reasonable adjustments.

My point here is if a small local shopkeeper can give a level of service to which our parents and grandparents would have expected why can’t much larger corporations take this on board and deliver the level of customer service that we are all entitled to and they indeed boast that they give.

Thank you for reading and look out for other posts

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