To mark this year’s National Inclusion Week theme ‘The Power of Now’, we caught up with Leanne Williams, Business Analyst and Chair of enaBLe Network at British Land to discuss their approach to diversity and inclusion in and out of the workplace.
Could you give me a bit of background on British Land and your job role?
British Land is one of the UK’s leading property companies and one of the largest in Europe. We create and manage dynamic and sustainable places for our customers and communities which reflect the changing needs of the people who work, visit or live in and around them. Our places include office campuses located in central London, some large regional shopping centres and out-of-town retail parks.
I work within the Business Transformation Team, focusing on streamlining our data and reporting functions as well as reviewing our finance systems and processes. I am also the Chair of British Land’s Disability Inclusion Network, enaBLe. In this role, I work with colleagues to deliver on our shared vision of increasing the inclusivity and accessibility of our places.
Why is accessibility important to British Land?
Creating an equal and inclusive culture with a diverse workforce is a fundamental part of our business and shapes our approach to developing and managing places. In real estate, we have the potential to reach such a broad range of people, which gives us a great opportunity, perhaps more so than any other field of business, to positively impact their working and living environments and do more to enhance disability inclusion. As a custodian of the built environment, we have a responsibility to the people who use our places to make them accessible to everyone and to ensure that disabled employees and customers have a positive experience.
What is enaBLe and what work do you do?
enaBLe is British Land’s disability inclusion network. We are responsible for driving the discussion around disability and inclusion within the business to improve the experience of our people and customers and raise awareness of these issues in the wider property industry. The network is made up of a variety of people from across the business who are committed to understanding how we can be more disability-smart in our decision-making, and educating others by hosting awareness-raising events, influencing and supporting policy change, as well as working with our on-site teams to ensure our places are accessible and inclusive.
enaBLe has made incredible progress since it was set up in 2019. In September last year, British Land, supported by enaBLe, was awarded the Disability Smart Accreditation from the Business Disability Forum, which recognises organisations that demonstrate disability inclusion is an integral part of their company culture and processes.
As an example of our recent work, we have been raising awareness of the needs of people with cognitive or learning disabilities, holding events such as an autism VR experience at our head office to help colleagues understand the sensory processing difficulties faced by people on the autism spectrum. We also recently organised an event with our charity partner, Support Dogs, who presented the training journey of a support dog and raised awareness of the life-changing potential of support dogs for people who use them.
What have you put in place to provide accessible online information?
We have introduced accessibility training for our IT support desk to enable them to better assist people with disabilities. We took this a step further during the COVID-19 period as working from home highlighted the importance of having the right set-up to work effectively. During the transition to working from home, we were quick to provide adjustments by launching a Tech Buddy scheme to support colleagues with tech-related accessibility requirements.
Both our IT and HR processes are continually being reviewed to ensure they are accessible to everyone in our business. We are currently reviewing our adjustment process to create a much easier route for colleagues requiring an adjustment to seek confidential and sensitive support. Our new process will create a direct line of contact for workplace adjustments, ensuring any individual needs are met efficiently.
How did Recite Me align with your diversity and inclusion strategy, and does a particular feature stand out to your website users?
We have implemented Recite Me on our external website and internal intranet. This started as a corporate initiative from our head office, and the feedback on its rollout was so positive that we now also use it for our asset websites.
Anecdotally, we have found that the styling aids are the most-used accessibility feature across British Land sites.
From a physical environment perspective, what practices have British Land put in place to ensure accessible physical spaces?
We are always working with our customers, colleagues, local groups, and the communities around our places to gather feedback and ensure they are inclusive and accessible to everyone. We recently organised a survey of our retail assets to assess what services were available to customers and the areas where we could improve accessibility. As a result, we have expanded our accessible service provision by, for example, installing Changing Places at more of our assets and incorporating them into the design for our new mixed-use development at 1 Broadgate.
We also provide sensory backpacks for autistic guests at our Fort Kinnaird shopping park in Edinburgh and Old Market shopping centre in Hereford and have worked with the Royal National College for the Blind to help our blind customers navigate Old Market.
enaBLe’s work has also led to significant progress across our office campuses. We have updated our office design guides so that disability-smart decision making is incorporated in the earliest stages of development, ensuring that we deliver workspaces that consider the needs of employees and customers across a range of disabilities by providing non-discriminatory entrances, access points and facilities, and wayfinding which is legible for everyone.
To see the Recite Me toolbar live on the British Land website go to www.britishland.com
The Recite Me toolbar includes fully customisable styling features, reading aids, screen reader and translation tools, meaning web pages can now be consumed in a way that is personalised and tailor-made to each unique website visitor.