“I want to help inspire confidence”

Katie Caswell hopes to enable colleagues who experience disability to be able to bring their true selves to work.

As co-chair of CanDo, Network Rail’s employee network for disabled people, she’s reaching more staff than ever.

CanDo, which helps those with physical or mental, or visible or non-visible impairments, is one of six employee networks at the company.

It has signed up about 430 members since it launched four years ago. The figure represents a 20% increase on membership since just last week, when CanDo held Disability Week (16 to 20 July) with a string of events (pictured below right).

Katie (pictured above left), who works as project management office manager within the Group Transformation team, said CanDo offered a level of support unavailable at previous workplaces.

She said: “Having been disabled for over 20 years with epilepsy, I have suffered prejudice and bias in the workplace. Network Rail is the first company which has accepted me for myself and in which significant attempts have been made to understand my disability.”

Lucy Cashin (pictured above right), co-chair of CanDo, said: “I became involved in CanDo as I wanted to support fellow disabled employees in Network Rail. There are so many challenges that come with having a disability. I’d love to remove the stigma of disability and encourage people to be open about their own experiences.”

Achievements

This year its focus has been on internal conferences with Network Rail functions to improve awareness of CanDo and the importance of disability confidence.

Its achievements include internal changes such as improvements to reasonable adjustments - changes to a working environment to enable people to work productively and safely. Adjustments can include changing recruitment processes, providing equipment or services or allowing flexible working hours.

The network has also ensured it formally carries out diversity impact assessments, which examine the aims of a project or piece of work, and the potential impact it will have on people with protected characteristics such disabilities. CanDo makes sure the assessments take any negative impact into account during the planning phase.

Engagement

CanDo’s events during Disability Week were well publicised across the business. At London Waterloo station, it celebrated the 70thanniversary of the Paralympic Movement with wheelchair sport organisation WheelPower. Members took part in exhibition games at the station, which celebrated its 170th anniversary on 11 July.

Staff could also attend CanDo-supported talks at The Quadrant, Network Rail’s Milton Keynes office, about finding confidence (pictured left). Furthermore, the network is organising a series of Disability Week events for employees across the railway - it will hold further disability awareness talks at depots and explain the benefits of supporting, recruiting and retaining disabled staff.

CanDo has attended events held by the Business Disability Forum - a non-profit organisation focused on working with disabled people - to provide information on Network Rail and the lessons it has learnt from others.

CanDo is itself a member of groups such as the NR Neurodiversity Group and Midland Ability, whose members include National Grid, HS2 and the Department for Transport, to share ideas.

Coming up

CanDo is looking forward to organising activities for Everyone Week, Network Rail’s week-long event aimed at showcasing and celebrating diversity. Running from 1 to 5 October, it provides an opportunity to raise awareness about relevance of diversity and inclusion to everyone at the company.

It will also take part in Purple Light Up on 3 December, a national event for which businesses light buildings purple and encouraging staff to wear purple to raise disability awareness.

In December, CanDo hopes to mark the United Nation's International Day of Persons with Disabilities with an internal campaign for which colleagues share their own disability stories. It will also take part in Purple Light Up, a national event for which businesses light buildings purple and encourage staff to wear purple to raise disability awareness.

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