Jason Bates: What disability pride means to me
Jason previously worked as the Chair of Disability at Tesco. Jason has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. We spoke to Jason about what Disability Pride means to him.
What does Disability Pride Month mean to you?
As Disability Pride Month gets underway, I’ve been naturally reflecting on what that means to me. It’s easy when you’re in the grind of work, to always focus on the present moment. So often we don’t take time to think about what we’ve achieved or what’s in store for us tomorrow.
I write for a living so my days, like everyone’s, are naturally hectic. Whether looking for that perfect turn of phrase, that headline to draw people in, or how to connect with my audience. I also happen to have cerebral palsy.
I’ve never believed that my disability defines me but over recent years I’ve come to realise that it gives me a unique perspective. I truly believe that the skills you learn as a disabled person set each of us up for success.
The ability to problem solve and think around creative solutions. Doing that daily, navigating your way from A to B in unfamiliar surroundings for meetings makes you pretty resilient, pretty fast.
The skill to be able to notice when someone is having a tough day, needs a break or could do with a coffee. Even more impressively, the ability to listen, understand and be there with empathy.
Or the patience, dignity and calmness we show when things haven’t gone our way.
I’m proud of each and every one of these attributes and I’ve come to realise that my disability gives me these qualities. And I’m richer for them. They make me a better colleague, a better boss, a better human.
How does your disability pride come through in your work?
I’m equally proud of the work I’ve done for my company to place diversity and inclusion at the heart of the organisation. From celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, to landing industry-leading initiatives like Changing Places or the Sunflower Lanyard. These helped customers get the best out of their shopping trip. I’m proud to have played my part and set the direction of travel.
Like in any other business, there are so many people that work behind the scenes to get projects done. Every time they do this, they see things from our perspective. Changing the conversation on disability gets just a little easier. I can feel perspectives change before my eyes.
Then there are the things that change because of it. Disability being mentioned more regularly. It being considered in how we look at things and what we deliver. This means perhaps most importantly that people with disabilities feel that we just get them. As a disabled person, that sense of affinity isn’t lost on me.
So what’s the aim of all this? What’s the end goal? For me, it’s all about delivering tomorrow by the actions we take today.
I want young people with disabilities growing up today to achieve their full potential. I want them to know that their disability gives them gifts that set them up for success. That they have a place in the world and a contribution to make.
We all have a responsibility to help them in their goal. Whether that be in the jobs we do, the lives we live or the conversations we have. That’s what pride means to me. Taking action, speaking up and being the change you want to see. We can only do this if we lay the foundations for a better tomorrow, today. Change never happens by doing nothing and there’s still so very much to do.
I’m delighted to celebrate Disability Pride Month with you all. I promise to do whatever I can this and every month, to make tomorrow better.
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Jason Bates, Lead Communication and Engagement Manager at Tesco Maintenance and former Chair of Disability at Tesco.