Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) recently teamed up with disability charity Smile for Life to raise awareness of neurodiversity in the workplace.

WBD's Disability Network hosted an event in collaboration with the disability charity to mark Neurodiversity Celebration Week (13 to 19 March 2023) at its office in The Spark at Newcastle Helix. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term which covers a number of neurological differences, such as Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia.

Attendees heard from WBD Partner and Disability Network champion, Sally Dallow, about the importance of having an open mindset and inclusive attitude, and of creating a safe space so that people can be their "true selves without the need to mask or camouflage our differences" at work.

Smile for Life Chief Executive, Paula Gascoigne, explained how the charity supports children and young people with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties, while neurodiversity and education consultant, Phillippa Chaplin, shared her expertise on what neurodiversity is and provided strategies and ideas for the workplace. James, a chef working at the charity's Café Beam in Gosforth, also shared his personal story of growing up with Autism and the many obstacles he has overcome.

Throughout March, WBD has taken part in the Neurodiversity Umbrella Project, with multi-coloured umbrella displays set up across its eight UK offices as a conversation-sparking, awareness raising, visual representation of neurodiversity.

Michelle Essen, Legal Director and Chair of WBD's Disability Network said:

"We have been overwhelmed by the support that we have received around neurodiversity, both internally and externally. Feedback on our 'Neurodiversity in the Workplace' event has been spectacular.

The reaction to our Umbrella Projects has been incredible too, with visitors to our offices and our own people telling us what an impact it has had for them, by placing neurodiversity firmly on their radar or (for those who are neurodiverse) by making them immediately feel welcome and included. We are so grateful to everyone across the business who helped us take part in this project.

As a Network we will continue working hard to drive conversations and progress around neurodiversity and also disability more widely, not just throughout March but throughout the whole year." 

Nazim Akthar (Co-lead of WBD's Newcastle CSR Committee), Phillippa Chaplin (Neurodiversity and Education Consultant), Smile for Life's Chef James and Paula Gascoigne (CEO), and WBD's Sally Dallow.

From left to right: Nazmin Akthar (Co-lead of WBD's Newcastle CSR Committee), Phillippa Chaplin (Neurodiversity and Education Consultant), Chef James (Smile for Life), Paula Gascoigne (CEO of Smile for Life) and Sally Dallow (WBD Partner and Disability Network champion).