Hello. I’m DAN! A Quick Guide to the Triad Disability & Accessibility Network by Lee Atkinson and Darren Williams

We wanted to write this blog to explain how we set up a support network for Triad staff with disability and accessibility needs.

The Triad Disability & Accessibility Network (DAN) is a support network that the two of us run at Triad. DAN is here for anyone who wants support within the workplace. Triad staff can access DAN through a specific DAN email address or by contacting one of us directly. Staff find out about DAN through the staff induction packs when they join Triad and DAN is on our intranet.

We like the acronym DAN because it sounds like a mythical person: “I’m going to talk to DAN!” It gives our support network some personality while humanising it. We hope that this helps break down the kind of barrier that a formal name like “The Triad Disability & Accessibility Network” may have.

The importance of DAN (Disability Accessibility Network)

We started DAN after Triad applied for the Disability Confidence award. Our MD, Adrian Leer, was looking for someone to champion it. Lee was intrigued and felt compelled to impact such a positive campaign. He immediately approached Darren to see if he would be interested in partnering up. From there, DAN evolved.

We both have disabilities. We understand that people with disabilities face challenges that can be hard for able-bodied people to understand or comprehend.

Darren has Fibromyalgia. Some days, simply getting out of bed and into his home office on time can be a massive achievement. Anyone who knows him will appreciate it because Darren is at the top of the list of people who just ‘Gets stuff done’. The challenge of being ready to start your day may not sound incredibly significant to most people.

Lee has cerebral palsy in the form Spastic Diplegia. For him, simply carrying his morning coffee to his office is a sign that it will be a good day! He has to do it by putting his cup up two steps at a time, shuffling up two steps, and then repeating the process. It’s something that he and his family see as normal.

If you are living with someone with a disability, or you have a disability, this is an easier concept to grasp. For us, it is an unspoken bond between us. We understand and know what each other is thinking or looking out for. It is the reason we partnered up.

For Lee, it is not about what he cannot do. It is about taking advantage of the things he can do. And that could mean turning physical disadvantages into an experience-driven advantage for Triad and colleagues.

Living with disabilities can sometimes make you feel limited. It can be frustrating or embarrassing to single yourself out and ask for help. Something as simple as asking for a specific mouse, keyboard or chair can feel awkward. But for someone working an office role and living with disabilities, having the appropriate kit is one less challenge to overcome.

Triad staff with these needs must know they can talk openly about their requirements. That is what DAN is about. Breaking down these barriers because we work for a company where ‘Doing the right thing’ is one of its core values.

How DAN helps

What’s important is that we ensure that Triad is doing everything it can to make the most of the skills and abilities that disabled people can bring. We are constantly working to ensure that everyone’s journey at Triad is as it should be, such as having jobs advertised in an accessible format and considering accessibility requirements through the rest of the recruitment process, from shortlisting to interviews, onboarding, then on to employment and joining a client project.

DAN helps us with our goal to champion good practice by simply being visible. Information about DAN is contained within all of our new starter packs, but it is also something that is mentioned in our job adverts and on the careers section of our website too.  There are also internal communication opportunities to reference DAN on our intranet, through our staff newsletter and blogs like this!

In many cases, when we get approached with a DAN related enquiry or need, it’s by someone who knows that the two of us operate DAN, but we do also have a DAN email address that can be used too. Our ethos is to listen and not judge.

There’s no standard way to help someone with a disability. Every situation is different. Some staff members may need temporary support because, for example, they have an injury or short-term requirement for support. Other people, like the two of us, have a more permanent solution.

Progress so far

We’ve got DAN to the point where it is now a set of self-driven conversations with a support network available when our people need it. From that perspective alone, we feel it is already a success.

Operating DAN in a business like Triad is challenging because we are a largely remote workforce distributed across an ever-changing set of clients. And the project setup for each client can vary.

We can say that we are confident that all Triad staff know who DAN is, what DAN can and can’t do, and how they can approach DAN.

Our current priority is to ensure that all current and future Triad staff know of the private healthcare options and mental health support available to them. So, it is important to make people aware of the services, that they have an account, and that they have the apps, etc.

DAN’s mission will never be fully complete. It’s a work-in-progress initiative because there will always be insights and learnings that we can apply to Triad and make small changes to increase our effectiveness.

If you have a question about our DAN or want to contact the Triad team, please get in touch.