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O2 Ability Awards

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

O2 Ability Awards

The annual O2 Ability Awards award businesses for best practice in the inclusion of
people with disabilities, both as customers and as employees. The O2 Ability Awards are open to organisations of all structures and sizes from the public and private sectors as well as not-for-profit and voluntary organisations.

The O2 Ability Awards recognise business leaders whose vision has created successful organisations that embrace people of all abilities - able bodied and disabled - as customers and employees and who have made that vision an integral part of their business. Organisations and businesses like Eircom, Kerry County Council, Microsoft, McDonald's Restaurants of Ireland and Aura Sports & Leisure are just some that have turned this vision into a reality and have changed how business embraces people with disabilities.

The deadline for nominating for the awards is on 6th November.

Who Is The Guest?

Seonaid Dunne:
Representative from Kanchi. Kanchi set up the ability awards. Seonaid is a triple amputee and is in a wheel chair. In the past she worked for RTE and now works for Educate Together.

Chiarra O'Riani:
Manager from Eye Cinema Galway (they have been open for the last 4 years) they won the Environmental Accessibility Award. Chiarra is from Italy and has lived here for the last 4 ½ years.

Seonaid Dunne representative from Kanchi:

Can you tell us about the awards?

The O2 Ability Awards are the first Irish business awards which recognise best practice for the inclusion of people with disabilities as customers, employees and members of the community. They were created by Caroline Casey of Kanchi and examine all aspects of employment and customer service.

They recognise progressive attitudes in organisations that see disability and diversity as a corporate asset and key to success. They aim to celebrate organisations and business leaders that think and act differently about people with disabilities; seeing an employee's strengths and abilities over any disability and recognising the economic potential of making their products and services available to all customers.
For me, they are about accentuating the positive things that people are doing out there. They reward the companies that recognise the business case for disability.

How did you get involved? How long have you been involved?
I got involved in 2004 when the awards had just started out. I met Caroline Casey, the creator of the awards and worked with her organisation, Kanchi, to help edit the assessment tool used while out doing the audit in a company. I also worked as an Assessor, going out to organisations and conducting the audit. I gave companies advice and guidance in the area of accessibility. And I promote the awards amongst business leaders.

I get such a kick out of seeing the amazing things that are being done in organisations to make them more accessible to people with disabilities. For example, companies that have held on to the talent in their workplace by accommodating someone who acquires a disability; changing their working hours or making their work area wheelchair accessible.

What kind of categories are there?Have things changed much since the first awards?
There are category winners and there are awards for overall category winners in the private and public sector. The categories are:
. Leadership
. Customer Service
. Environmental Accessibility
. Recruitment and Selection
. Learning, Development and Progression
. Retention and Well-being

So they cover all aspects of employment, customer care and the built environment.
Things have changed somewhat. Every year the standard gets better and the competition increases between companies which is great as they improve all the time. The awards have also become more recognised in the corporate world as a measure of good performance. And previous winners often say that their client base has increased since they got the award.
But the enthusiasm of the Kanchi team never ceases and they provide fantastic help to companies who are just starting the application process or who aren't sure whether to apply or not.

Do you yourself have a disability?
Yes, I'm a triple amputee. I lost both legs and my right arm in a fire at my house when I was 18. So I have had my disability all my working life.
The O2 Ability Awards are business awards for Best Practice in the inclusion of people with disabilities, both as customers and as employees.

As someone with a disability have you found getting work or access to places over the years difficult?
Most definitely! There are some employers that can't see past the disability and think I have no abilities at all. And similarly there are some businesses that don't realise the spending power of people with disabilities. And that if your business is accessible to someone with a disability, it is also accessible for many other groups of people. A ramp outside a premises means that people with disabilities can get in and mothers with buggies find it easier too.

Do you think that facilities have improved over the years?

Attitudes are beginning to change. Although recently businesses are forgetting that accommodating a disability is not about doing the right thing, it makes business sense. There is a business case for disability.

What is the business case for disability?
Essentially there are four aspects to the business case for disability, each of which contributes to the overall success of an organisation.
. Access to Markets
. Access to Talent
. Retention of Staff
. Reputation Management

Access to Markets
The main function of business is to create value by producing goods and services required by society, which generates income, leads to profits, and creates employment.
One in four people have a disability. Therefore a significant proportion of an organisation's target market are customers with disabilities. Disability is a business reality and recognising it as a business opportunity ultimately leads to greater market share and prosperity. Disability has become a strategic priority in achieving a competitive advantage in the market place.
Friends and family of mine avoid places that are not accessible to me so companies must realise the huge potential spending power of people with disabilities.

Access to Talent
An organisation that strives to be an employer of choice does so in order to attract the best people for the job, enabling the company to meet its organisational goals.
An employer of choice provides equal opportunities to all their employees and recognises the different perspectives and knowledge that people with disabilities bring to their organisation. They openly promote and demonstrate how they value their employees, and the productivity and innovativeness of a diverse work force.
Often employees with disabilities are those that can think outside the box and work around a solution as we do it in our everyday lives. These are skills that certainly come in handy in a recession.

Retention of Staff
An organisation's human and intellectual capital is one of its most valuable assets and pivotal to maintaining a competitive edge.
85% of people with disabilities acquire their disability during their working life. Should an employee acquire a disability, employers now recognise the business advantage of retaining them and their intellectual capital. This also reduces staff turnover, the cost of litigation, ensures an organisation complies with legislation and helps increase staff morale.

Reputation Management
Organisations need to be accountable, not only for their financial performance but also for the impact of their activities on society and the environment.
In this new business environment an organisation's reputation has become a valuable asset. Acting responsibly generates trust, loyalty and goodwill among customers, employees, business partners and other stakeholders. Reputation has become a critical success factor in this challenging and competitive economy. Moreover, Government agencies, organisations and companies seek to do business with organisations that promote equality, diversity and inclusion for all.

What advice would you have for someone in a similar situation in relation to going after their dream job?
Keep trying! Never give up or let someone tell you that you can't do something. It is up to the person with a disability to show their abilities and demonstrate to the world how capable they are.
Times are hard now but keep your skills up by volunteering or getting involved in community activities.

What would you say to encourage business to get involved with the awards?
A company is getting free advice through the site visit on how to increase their customer base. There is a business case and previous winners can vouch for the value it has brought their company. It is not about doing the right thing, it is about increasing profits and increase their client base.

The staff at Kanchi can give you more information and you can call them on 01 634 0018 or email them at or look at the website

There are great videos on the site showcasing previous winners and organisations can take a look to see if they are doing something similar.

Chiarra O'Ranaigh - Eye Cinema Galway:

About Eye Cinema Galway
Good environmental accessibility allows people with disabilities to go where everyone else has gone before. It also refers to the accessibility of information about the organisation's products and/or services.
Eye Cinema in Galway City caters for everyone in the community. The service which they provide includes audio descriptions, screen talk showings, voice packages and sign language interpreters. Information to employees and customers is outlined in simple English and is available in alternative formats. Trained staff can communicate with customers who have speech impairments, who are visually impaired or who are deaf.

How long have you worked for Eye Cinema? What is your position?
I'm with the Eye since April 2005 so pretty much since my arrival to this country. I started off as general staff making popcorn, selling tickets and sweeping floors. After about a year I got promoted to supervisor and then to Duty Manager. Besides my Duty Manager's tasks I also do some work in the office helping out our head of operations with the weekly film schedule and marketing.

Can you give us a description of the services that Eye Cinema provides?
The Eye Cinema is an independently, Galway owned and operated cinema that provides a fairly broad selection of movies for the Galway audience to enjoy from mainstream Hollywood flicks (now also in 3D!!) to foreign and art house movies that sometimes involve the presence of a film director/actor/producer at one of the screenings for a Question & Answer session after the show. Recently we also started a live broadcast of Opera Performances from the Met in New York via satellite which reached a different type of audience.

We always work very close to the Galway Community and sideways to our weekly schedule we do organise special screenings for schools, clubs, charities, special needs groups who come in on a regular basis mostly in the mornings.
Once a month (the second Wednesday of every month) we put on in the morning special screenings for Parents and Toddlers (we call it 'Eye Scream') and for the elderly people of our community (we call it 'Golden Eye').

We also try and arrange on a weekly basis the so called 'Audio Description & Screen Talk Show' that provides on-screen subtitles for the hard of hearing and Audio Description coming through special infrared headphones for the visually impaired. We normally pick one show a week on a Saturday afternoon, depending on our schedule.

Where did the idea of Eye Cinema come from?

We were looking for a catchy name that had something to do with the idea of 'vision/watching a movie' and Eye was the simplest and more obvious so we stuck to it and proved popular as people just say 'We are going to the Eye', they don't even need the word Cinema next to it but everyone knows what they are talking about in galway.

Does Eye Cinema also employ people with disabilities?
We sure do

What kind of reaction do you get from the customers who use Eye Cinema?
They are thrilled! We do get some children who have to be literally dragged out of the screen by their parents at the end of the movie and they are dancing around the auditorium over the credit tracks of the movies until the very end J
Adults love it because they can appreciate the quality of our equipment in the projection booth which is very high from the surround sound, the digital projectors, and the clean picture - it really makes you feel one thing with the movie while you are watching it.
We also have a fully licensed bar on the premises so people like to hang out after or before the movies to have a chat. The Eye Cinema is meant to be more like a meeting point for socialising as opposed to an aseptic place where people are just thrown together in a room for a couple of hours and then go off separate ways again after the show.

Were you all delighted when you received the award at the 02 Ability Awards?
We were really pleased with the awards because it was a public acknowledgement to the hard work that everyone puts in on a daily basis. And most importantly, our customers were very happy too and sent in lovely messages of congratulations.

Who nominated Eye Cinema?
When we first heard of the 02 Ability Awards Jacquie, one of the managers at the time, simply sent in an application form and some time after the judging panel contacted us and turned up on site to carry out interviews and check out the facilities.

What would you say to other businesses to get involved with th2 02 Ability Awards?
Well, best of luck and remember that sometimes all that takes to make your business a better environment for disabled can be something very small and simple like a gesture but that can make a world of a difference for someone with a disability. That's what we all believe at the Eye Cinema?

Additional / Misc' Info:
For viewers/ businesses wanting to enter the awards, the site is and for further information on Kanchi, it's
An Ability Company is an organisation that recognises and values the contribution made by people with disabilites, as employees or as customers. They see disability and diversity as a corporate asset and key to success. They are winners of an O2 Ability Award.

Today there are over 100 Ability Companies in Ireland. More than 100 champions of change. Together, they have made disability visible within business, not as a worthy charitable cause but as a solid business venture.

Abbott Vascular
Athlone Institute of Technology
Aura Sport & Leisure Management
Automatic Plastics
Bank of Ireland
Bank of Scotland (Ireland) Ltd
Belfast Waterfront Hall
Belleek Pottery Ltd
Bord Gais
BT Communications Ireland ltd
Cavan County Council
Clarion Hotel Dublin IFSC
Clarke & Associates
Clontarf Castle Hotel
Commission for Communications Regulation
Cork City Council
CPL Resources
Creative Labs
DCU Sport
Dell Ireland
Delta Centre
Department of Finance
Department of Social & Family Affairs
Diageo Ireland
Dublin Airport Authority
Dublin Bus
Dublin City Council
Dublin City Public Libraries
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council
Eagle Star
Enterprise Rent a Car Ireland
Equifax Commercial Services
Eye Cinema, Galway
Fingal County Council
Four Seasons Hotel
Galway City Partnership
Garvey Group
George Best Belfast City Airport
Hanna Hats
Hewlett Packard Manufacturing Ltd
HSE, Galway University Regional Hospitals
Iarnród Eireann
Irish Life & Permanent Plc
Kernan's Centra
Kerry County Council
Kilkenny County Council
Killester College of Further Education
Knock Travel
Laois Sports Partnership
Leisure World, Cork
Limerick County Council
Mayo County Council
MBNA Ireland
McDonald's Dungarvan
Merit Medical Ireland
Microsoft Ireland
National Aquatic Centre
National Gallery of Ireland
O'Brien Irish Sandwich Bars Ltd
Oracle EMEA Ltd
Penn Engineering
Public Appointments Service
Radisson SAS St. Helen's Hotel.
The Railway Procurement Agency
Rosfm Radio ltd
Rural Bus
Savills Hamilton Osborne King
Shelbourne Park Greyhound Park
South Dublin County Council
South Hill Enterprises
Supermacs Ireland Ltd
Tesco Ireland
Tesco Ireland Arklow
The Merrion Hotel
Ulster Bank
University College Cork
University of Limerick: Arena
VHI Healthcare
Waterford City Council
Waterford Crystal
Waterford Institute of Technology
Wicklow County Council
Xerox (Europe) Ltd