‘I don’t think of myself as disabled – for me it’s normal’

Steve Brown, chair of the disabled staff council. He is sitting in a room in front of a white door with a rainbow lanyard round his neck.

Published on 30 November 2020

Disabled isn’t a label Steve Brown likes to use about himself – but as chair of East Kent Hospitals’ Disabled Staff Council it’s one he’s learnt to accept.

He was born with hip dysplasia and scoliosis, meaning walking is painful and he has to use a crutch, but Steve sees his condition as part of him rather than something that is different or problematic.

As part of the council he’s now helping others across the Trust with different needs, and hopes to encourage more people to join him as part of the staff network.

He said: “I don’t know any different, so for me it’s normal and it doesn’t stop me doing anything.

“I do know I have a disability but I don’t think of it like that.

“Walking is quite painful but sitting down and working is fine so for most of the working day I’m just like anyone else.”

Steve has been a senior information analyst with the Trust, specialising in HR data, for two years, and has worked across the NHS in his career, including for a CCG and for Guys and St Thomas’s in London.

But EKHUFT is the first Trust where he has joined a dedicated group for disabled staff.

He said: “I wasn’t aware of anything like this at other Trusts but it’s a really positive thing.

“It’s a good place to meet people who are also disabled, but anyone can join if they have a passion for equal opportunities and supporting staff.

“You can put forward ideas about how to improve things, and it’s the perfect platform to get things moving.”

Members also offer support to staff, whether with requesting reasonable adjustments to help them continue to work, or offering practical solutions such as a disabled parking space near their office or department.

Steve said: “Every Trust is different in how they work and the support available to staff who have a disability – for example Guys provide free parking.

“It’s always awkward when someone with an obvious disability starts in a new role as people can tell you are different.

“I think it’s important to talk about my disability rather than let people make assumptions. For example, if there’s a meeting at the other end of the hospital I’ll be there – but it might take me 20 minutes to get there.

“But my team are fantastic and will offer help if I need it, like carrying my laptop if we have a meeting upstairs.

“Little things like that can make a huge difference – for some people we’ve been able to get them a new chair which really helps them every day.”

The Disabled Council is holding its annual meeting on Thursday, 3 December, which is also the International Day of People with a Disability. All staff are welcome to attend, and for more information visit Staff Zone.