To celebrate National Inclusion Week 2023, we spoke to Alli Mood at DWP Digital about how they have followed the theme of ‘Take Action Make Impact’ by implementing some changes to D&I work there.
I’m a Deputy Director in Citizen Information, which sits in DWP Digital’s Core Digital Services Function. Across Citizen Information we’re maintaining and protecting the personal information of around 20 million customers, delivering innovative solutions to maximise the re-use of that data within DWP, wider Government and public sector bodies. To deliver better, more efficient services for our diverse range of customers.
As it’s National Inclusion Week, I wanted to share what I’ve been doing recently, as the theme for this year is ‘take action make an impact’. I’ve volunteered to help take forward some Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. Over the last few months, the team have been conducting some detailed user research with disabled colleagues from DWP Digital. This has provided the building blocks for solutions to improve the experiences of disabled people across the department.
I have several invisible disabilities including epilepsy, migraines, insomnia, glaucoma, and underactive thyroid. Reading the personal stories in the user research we conducted, I was able to relate these to my own experiences. Working in DWP Digital has been positive, but throughout my career I have also known how bad it feels when you aren’t supported. Or, how difficult your job becomes when a basic ask, that would help you short term, leaves you feeling like you’ve just asked someone to carry you up Mount Everest instead. I’m therefore keen to help with this kind of work so we are constantly improving the experience for everyone in DWP Digital, and they can get support when they need it.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Glaucoma. I often lose my vision with migraines and after a bad episode when my vision didn’t return, I foolishly thought I needed to accept I was getting older and needed glasses. Off to Specsavers I marched. In the space of a few days, I was diagnosed. I was an outpatient, having holes lasered into my eyes to relieve pressure and prescribed a witch’s wardrobe of potions to put in my eyes several times a day. Initially I thought this was going to be easy to deal with. The fantastic support from the leadership team and my wider team made it as manageable as it could possibly be at work – even helping me get to work – as I was terrified of being in crowded spaces where I couldn’t see properly. This is because my optic nerve in the right eye is so badly damaged, I have no peripheral vision down my right side, or vision in the top half of my right eye. I no longer see colour correctly and to top it off, my depth perception has simply deserted me. Moving on, those holes closed, so another round was done. At that point damage to the optic nerve was deteriorating fast, so an operation like you would have if you had cataracts was proposed. Post operation, I lost more vision and I’m still adjusting to that. My eyes get tired easily because my left is doing all the work. I have no light tolerance and that has worsened my migraines when they decide to join the party. Despite this, I am the eternal optimist, I am much better at planning my working day and taking breaks. I’m also a lot more vocal when encountering accessibility issues, as I have a much greater understanding of what is problematic for those with visual issues like mine. I’m also trialling some glasses, which if I remember not to attempt to walk while wearing them, I’m sure they’ll be great.
My team have been truly incredible, as has my manager Jack Hanson, in supporting me with what is an ongoing period of adjustment. There wasn’t any giggling when I wore my sunglasses in the office, nor have they laughed as I’ve been like a human pin ball bouncing off the metal posts on the floorplates. Although I do have an element of gallows humour in how I deal with this, the one thing I always aim to do is be honest with those around me about my health. If I seize due to my epilepsy or fall over, I may need help and the best way I can enable that is to be open and help the people understand why these things are happening. I also hope that by being as honest as I can be, it helps create the right culture and that others feel more confident in sharing.
Following our user research, some positives have emerged, such as having supportive and understanding line managers or supportive colleagues generally. Our next steps are finalising an action plan, which we will be taking to our Executive Team. We have ideas for a number of recommendations to help improve the experiences of disabled people across the department that I’m looking forward to putting into action.
Find out more about a career at DWP Digital.