“I help people to be brilliant at employing disabled people”

Graeme Whippy.

This was the opening statement made by disability consultant Graeme Whippy when he visited Sightsavers recently to tell us about his work with Channel 4.

Graeme explained that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher helped to establish Channel 4 in 1982 to be innovative and different – to stimulate debate and to change people’s perceptions. He said: “Channel 4 was created to reflect diversity on screen.”

Graeme introduced us to the way that Channel 4 employs a diverse range of people to plan and present its shows. “Difference is critical to Channel 4,” he explained. “All TV producers are chasing the best TV talent to create the best TV. You can’t turn one fifth of the population away simply because they have an impairment or condition… difference is absolutely critical to innovation.”

of Channel 4 employees have a declared disability
Graeme Whippy speaking to Sightsavers staff.

One of Channel 4’s efforts focuses on disability. You’ll probably know that Channel 4 broadcasts the Paralympics every four years, and it also produces light entertainment shows such as topical comedy chat show ‘The Last Leg’, and ‘The Undateables’, which focuses on the challenges people with disabilities face finding love. In Graeme’s words: “Both of these challenge the viewing public on their perceptions (and probably misperceptions) around disability.”

In 2016, Channel 4 declared a self-designated Year of Disability and devised a competition called ‘Superhumans Wanted’, asking advertisers to create campaign centred around disability. Graeme explained that the competition was won by confectionery company Mars, which subsequently saw an 8 per cent uplift in sales arising from the adverts.

He revealed that Channel 4 has set itself “the goal of being the best employer of people with disabilities by 2020, and has three pillars to achieve that goal.” The first is to have “the best culture – where there is no stigma, where people can be themselves, where we can have open conversations about disability, where people can ask for adjustments and support.”

The second pillar is “having the best capability and confidence – equipping managers and people to be absolutely confident about the topic of disability.”

The final pillar of Channel 4’s strategy is around “having the best infrastructure, so disabled people can thrive within that workplace,” Graeme explained, “It includes things like accessibility of IT and systems, communications, and even the building.”

This sounds very similar to the journey we are on at Sightsavers, particularly within the Social Inclusion Working Group. We are testing more of our systems and outputs to make sure they are accessible and striving to become an organisation where people can talk about disability without fear.

The talk inspired all of us to think about how we at Sightsavers can do more to help our organisation be more accessible and more open to working with staff with disabilities, where staff can seek the support that they need. Our goal for Sightsavers is to become the best at this.

Two women embracing and smiling.

Sightsavers and social inclusion

Our social inclusion group was established to help reach our goal of diversity in the workplace.

Learn about the group



Sightsavers logoKate Bennell is the organisational inclusion coordinator at Sightsavers UK. Severely sight impaired herself, she coordinates the Social Inclusion Working Group and champions accessibility.


On reflection

“Listening to Graeme’s statements about the importance of diversity made me think this is true in all spheres of life. People with diverse conditions including ADHD and dyslexia, people with visual impairments like me, all have different ways of doing things, which will give different results. None of them is necessarily wrong, but it is this culture of difference that allows innovation and invention.”

Read about Sightsavers’ commitment to inclusion

Social Inclusion Working Group

More from the
Social Inclusion Working Group

Susie Rodgers holds her gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Susie Rodgers: from the Paralympics to international development

Sightsavers' Kate Bennell reflects on Susie Rogers' lunchtime talk about her experience as a Paralympian swimmer before joining Sightsavers.

A close up of two women holding hands.

How we make our work inclusive

Ensuring your work can be understood by everyone should be an essential part of all your communications. Here’s a rundown of how to do it.

A close-up of two people holding hands.

A history of inclusion

From the Old Testament to the Paralympics and beyond: we track the progress of disability rights and accessibility from ancient times to the present day.