Designable 2018: 5 Questions With Sminty Director Simon Minty


Simon Minty Sminty Designable 2018

Sminty Ltd. is a disability and diversity consultancy that works with major corporate organisations in the UK and internationally. The services help clients deliver strategic and innovative programmes that improve the recruitment, retention and promotion of disabled staff and deliver better services to disabled customers.

Simon Minty, Director of Sminty, has delivered training and consultancy in the field of equalities since 1997. Specialising in disability, he has a post-graduate diploma in Disability Management at Work.

Minty has personal experience with disability, being of short stature and of limited mobility. His passion for equality, his knowledge of disability, his ability to listen and address the issue in hand combined with an infectious sense of humour have enabled him to successfully work with clients from a small NGO to a multinational investment bank.

Minty has a creative side as well, helping improve the portrayal of disabled people on screen and through his work with the BBC, Channel 4, Five and Sky Television. He has produced numerous videos and co-produced and performed in the sell out Edinburgh Fringe comedy show, Abnormally Funny People. He is a host of BBC Ouch podcast and Phil & Simon Show

On November 14, Minty will be speaking at Designable 2018 in London, which is leading the charge in calling for brands to be more accountable in representing disabled people in its advertising.

In advance of the event, brandchannel had a chance to speak with him.

How does Sminty work with companies to improve the recruitment and retention of disabled staff and deliver better services to disabled customers?

Simon Minty Sminty

We work with them via training and consultancy projects—be it reviewing what they have, developing policy and procedures, or training staff. And then we review again and help with maintenance.

You work closely with actors and comedians to educate businesses about disabilities. Can you give us a few examples of some of the most successful projects?

I wrote a blog about an Acting on Disability training project we did in New York and Mountain View in the US earlier this year.

Several UK clients use us to train their managers. It works so well as we do the role play for them, and the actors can step out of character and talk about their own experiences as all of them have the impairment in the scene.

There’s a misconception that the comedy with Abnormally Funny People is about education—that’s not our intention! We’re there to make people laugh, the comedians are professional stand-ups earning their living on stage. We just come together on occasion to have fun with a corporation or organisation. It works best when the client bills it as a comedy night, too.

That said, we recently made a specific training video on disability with Skillboosters, as Abnormally Funny People. I was tired of the existing disability training films so thought using comedians might be more interesting.

Abnormally Funny People Simon Minty

How does your executive program “Dining With a Difference” work? Who are typical attendees and what are their reactions?
It’s a choreographed dinner for senior executives, those people who don’t come to training. Every course has a theme and purpose, and the content is higher-level, more strategic, less day-to-day.

It’s about getting senior people to see the value of disability, to get them talking about it, to bring it in to the boardroom and not have it as something intangible and different outside.

What types of positive results have you seen in the media industry when it comes to portrayal of disabled people?

An essay itself. Perhaps I am most pleased that some 15 years ago I said in an interview, I’d be happy when a short person like me appears on EastEnders as a regular character going about their life.

Well, a few years ago that happened. Unfortunately, after a four-year stint, actor Lisa Hammond has left EastEnders. Maybe I need to start working again.

Overall, what advances have you seen in inclusive design, and where do you expect to see progress in the future?
I’m a techie and like gadgets. As I tell Google, it needs to step up its game as Apple is considered good at accessibility.

That said, Google is becoming great in this space. Taking it more generally but in a similar way, in the US, accessible design of buildings is a given, it’s about making things easy for everyone to use, having a happy customer experience.

In the UK we’re not quite there—and sometimes looks are more important or some daft rule is greater than ease of use and welcoming a customer. I don’t think you’re a good designer or service provider if you can’t do both.

I went to the German Gymnasium near Kings Kross station recently for lunch with a wheelchair-using friend. She came by train and easily came to the restaurant, I found a disabled parking bay very close by as I came by car. We were treated well, looked after brilliantly, given options of where best to sit. We ate, used the easily accessible and very beautiful loo and left via the automated doors.

I said to my friend: “It isn’t yet but life should always be like this for us.”

Get more insights in our Q&A series.