Alison Stephenson, MD of AAA Caring Caretaker, on her company’s equality and diversity ethos and their drive to employ people with disabilities.

In this issue’s Ask the Expert Q&A, we chat to Alison Stephenson, Managing Director at AAA Caring Caretaker, on her company’s journey to being a diverse employer and how her own deafness has helped shape her path to being an award-winning businesswoman…

BNNE: Tell us more about AAA Caring Caretaker and its ethos of being a fully inclusive and diverse? AS: At AAA Caring Caretaker, we’ve got our eyes set on the person and the unique talents they bring to the table, rather than getting bogged down by concerns about disabilities or obstacles to employment. You see, inclusion isn’t just about addressing disabilities; it’s about embracing diversity in all its forms. Take, for instance, some of our fantastic team members who happen to be single parents – they need a work schedule that’s as flexible as their lives demand. What really matters is achieving our end goal, and it doesn’t matter how we get there. Whether it involves adaptations or changes along the journey, the path itself is secondary to the destination.

BNNE: Many of your employees have both visible and hidden disabilities, don’t they? AS: Indeed, approximately 25% of our team members have visible disabilities, while about 40% have hidden ones. At our organisation, we take pride in our commitment to seeing the individual beyond their disability. Instead of fixating on how their condition might impact us, our approach is centred on providing the necessary support to enable every employee to perform their job just as effectively as anyone else.

BNNE: You yourself are deaf aren’t you. How has that impacted you in your career or have you found it made you even more determined to succeed? AS: Absolutely, I have a condition known as Profound Deafness, which has presented significant obstacles to my success. I’ve faced discrimination and bullying throughout my career. When the chance arose to join my father and lead AAA Caring Caretaker, I eagerly embraced it, driven by a fervent commitment to ensuring that no employee under my care experiences the same hardships I did in their professional journey with us. My personal experiences have profoundly inspired my determination to excel.

BNNE: You’re an award-winning businesswoman and now MD of your business, proving that having a disability does not have to hold you back. AS: Certainly, I’ve achieved accolades like Rising Star, Inspirational Female Leader, and Employer of the Year, particularly in Diversity and Inclusion. It’s dawned on me that achieving your goals requires inner drive and a supportive environment to foster personal growth.

BNNE: What would you say to other employers thinking about employing people with disabilities? AS: Individuals with disabilities possess unique abilities. What they may lack in certain aspects due to their disabilities, they more than compensate for in other areas, resulting in a robust skill set. Disabled individuals often contribute skills and expertise to the workplace that are simply unmatched by others.

BNNE: What changes would you like to see to help those people who do suffer with physical or mental health problems? AS: We must place a greater emphasis on businesses recognising the true value of disabled individuals and appreciating them for who they are, rather than viewing them solely through the lens of their disabilities. It’s imperative that we shift the focus away from perceiving them as “problems” and, instead, recognise the wealth of potential, skills, and unique perspectives they bring to the table. Businesses should actively seek to harness the untapped talents and contributions that disabled individuals can offer, fostering an inclusive environment that benefits everyone involved.