When Adam Thomas had a serious road accident his employer, Richard Smithies of Design Matters, worked hard to ensure he could return to work and continue to contribute to its growth. Now the business is fully accessible and has built a strong position as designer and supplier of both standard and specially designed accessible kitchens. Adam explains what they did and how they did it.
What we did
Consider the physical aspects of accessibility
"When I had the road accident, I was in hospital for six months. Throughout that time, my boss Richard was continually thinking about how he could help get me back to work. The premises at the time were fairly inaccessible. There were steps throughout the showroom, for example. Before I returned, he had ensured there was level access from the street, ramps for the steps, locks at eye-level for wheelchair users and accessible toilet facilities. He had also reworked the back office so I would be able to get to my desk easily in my wheelchair."
Change our working practices
"While I was in hospital, Richard was keeping me up to date with everything going on in the business. I was always stronger on the creative and technical drawing sides of the business, so he adapted a drawing board and kept bringing in designs for me to work on. Richard said he would do all the onsite work and I would concentrate on the technical and creative sides. It was just playing to our strengths really and it's worked really well ever since."
Made the most of our accessibility
"Richard felt making the business and premises accessible for disabled people was the best thing to do for the long-term - and he's been proven right. Since the Disability Discrimination Act came into force, disabled people have increasingly had more confidence to demand their rights.
"Since returning to work, we've grown the business in two ways. Firstly the core business has grown because the changes Richard has made allowed me to continue to contribute and play a full role. And secondly we've been able to expand and make the design and installation of accessible kitchens a huge unique selling point."
What we'd do differently
Think about accessibility before taking on premises
"We would have ensured our first premises were accessible from the start. As the business has grown we have moved to a larger showroom which allowed us to find a building that needed minimal modifications."