To celebrate and recognise National Inclusion Week, and to announce becoming an Inclusivity Champion for the Vertas Group, Kim has shared her story as someone living with a disability and given perspective on the significance of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion.
When did you join Opus and what made you start a career in marketing?
I joined Opus People Solutions, part of the Vertas Group, in September 2020 as a Marketing Assistant, so I have been here just over 3 years now!
I have always enjoyed being creative. When I thought about what I wanted to do as a career, it always involved using my creativity skills. I did have my own blog when I was 13 where I documented and shared my journey through cancer which at the time, I used to deal with what I was going through. It had around 20,000 views so it can’t have been that bad! So, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do after high school, I came across marketing and that seemed like the perfect role for me.
What hobbies do you have outside of work?
I'm not sure if you can count it as a hobby but I am TV lover, there isn’t many series I haven’t watched. As well as socialising, I enjoy watching a lot of sports; particularly football, including attending Ipswich Town games, and Formula 1. I am also a ‘Volunteer Visitor’ for an organisation supporting amputees, so I provide peer support to individuals who have or are about to have an amputation.
We have launched an internal ‘Inclusivity Champions’ group which you are a part of, why is being an Inclusivity Champion important to you?
I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, when I was 13 and I unfortunately ended up losing my leg at the age of 14. It was an incredibly traumatic experience which completely changed my life and I suddenly had to adapt to living with a disability and learn how to walk again. My rehabilitation journey was difficult, but I am grateful to still be here and this experience changed my perspective on life.
I've had to overcome challenges, stereotyping, and face barriers in my personal and professional life since then, and I believe that everyone, regardless of their background, should be treated with fairness and respect so I am dedicated to breaking down barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential. Our differences are what make us unique.
What are the goals of the Inclusivity Champions group and why will the group help Vertas Group become a more inclusive workplace?
This group was created with the mission to enhance our equality, diversity, and inclusion culture and to take action ensuring that our objectives are achieved. The aim is to make inclusivity an everyday reality for all of us. Our initial goals are to increase awareness and understanding of what Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion means and why it is so important across the Group.
We're here to make Vertas Group a more inclusive workplace, and with the implementation of this group, I think it's a massive step in the right direction. It’s a chance to make real change. We have been working on this behind the scenes for many months so now that we are able to launch to everyone, and I’m excited to get started and encourage more volunteers to become Inclusivity Champions.
What does Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion mean to you?
As someone with a disability, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion holds a significant personal importance to me. These are principles that shape our collective progress towards a more just and compassionate world. To me, Equality means every individual, regardless of their abilities, background, or characteristics, should have the same opportunities, rights, and access to resources as anyone else. In the context of disability, it means that I should not be disadvantaged or discriminated against because of my disability.
Diversity acknowledges, celebrates and embraces the uniqueness and differences among individuals. Inclusion is the practical application of equality and diversity. It involves creating environments, policies, and attitudes that ensure all individuals are actively and fully involved in all aspects of life. For me, inclusion means not being excluded or marginalised because of my disability.
These principles mean breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and adopting a sense of belonging for everyone. They are not just about making accommodations; they are about reshaping our society to recognise the worth and potential of every individual.
What advice would you give to those who are wanting to make changes in what words they use or what behaviour they use, but feel like they can never get it right?
How people want to be identified is all down to personal preference. Not everyone will agree with a term to use so it’s important to ask the person what their preferred choice of terminology is. In my case, I prefer to refer to myself as ‘someone with a disability’ rather than a ‘disabled person’ as I’m not just ‘disabled’ and that doesn’t define who I am as a person therefore I am just someone ‘with’ a disability. Not everyone has the same opinion and that is completely fine, it’s all down to the individual which is why it’s important to ask so don't be afraid!
With our behaviour, we don’t always realise what we are doing or saying and how that can come across to someone else. This forms part of our unconscious bias but that’s a topic for another day. What I would say, however, is to think, acknowledge and put yourself in the individual's shoes. Think about what you are doing or saying and acknowledge your behaviour. How might that be taken by someone else? Be accepting and welcoming to everyone, regardless of differences, and treat others how you want to be treated, with fairness and respect. Don’t assume that if someone is different to you, such as they have a disability, they are automatically at a disadvantage and are worth less because that’s not the case.