Breaking myths around disability in the workplace: Ball Northamptonshire campaign

Member News

A campaign to raise awareness about people with disabilities in the workplace has been launched by global can making company Ball Corporation, who have a team based in Northamptonshire.

Ball, the world’s leading manufacturer of infinitely recyclable aluminium drinks cans, are set to open their fourth manufacturing plant at Burton Latimer near Kettering in the New Year. As construction has picked up pace, so too has Ball’s recruitment drive, with the company firmly focused on attracting and recruiting a diverse and inclusive workforce – women as well as men, people of all ages, from all backgrounds and of all abilities

Ball Corporation has marked the United Nations (UN) International Day of Persons with Disabilities [Saturday, 3rd December] with a myth-breaking campaign about disability in the workplace. The company has released a short film to demonstrate that people with disabilities can do anything they are skilled to do – even in the manufacturing sector. Featured in the film are Lauren, Neil and Grace, three employees with different disabilities and job roles. Below are extracts from their stories:

Lauren Touré is Diversity & Inclusion Manager for Ball’s Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia region and has played a key role in Kettering’s recruitment drive. Lauren is registered blind, a disability which has never held her back:

“I find the question ‘Disabled people? What can they do’??’ so interesting. It’s like asking ‘What can that stranger over there do?’. In both cases we know nothing about the individual and what their skills are, what kind of person they are, how they were educated and what they want to do career-wise. We think we can make assumptions just by knowing which part of their body may or may not be disabled. Yes, my disability has determined some jobs or things that are inaccessible to me. However, whilst I do not have the skills, ambition or ability to be a train driver, or the knowledge to be a maths professor, which would be accessible to my disability, I do have the skills & ambition to succeed in MY chosen career.

Neil Howitt is Warehouse Manager and manages a team of more than 20 operatives, responsible for handling, packaging and shipping all the cans coming off the company’s Northamptonshire production lines. Neil was diagnosed with Asperger’s, now commonly known as Autistic Spectrum Disorder, at the age of 35.

“Being autistic may be classed as a disability but I don’t view myself as disabled and I want to show people what you can do with autism. It does not have to hold you back in the work place, particularly if you have a good team. I rarely hesitate to explain my autism to colleagues. There is always, no matter how well I mask it, out of the norm responses so I believe it is important for people around me to understand that I am not being awkward, it’s just who I am. When I was growing up I was the weirdo in the classroom. Today, I’m successful, confident and almost never get a negative response when I tell someone about my autism.”

Grace Danes is Plant Administrator. Her hearing impairment was first detected during covid:

“It was only when people started wearing face masks during the pandemic that I realised I couldn’t hear everything. It’s taken time to get used to my hearing aids – they make everything so much louder and in some places it feels a little overwhelming. I recently visited the Milton Keynes plant, where I needed to wear ear protectors. They didn’t fit over my hearing aids and when I pointed this out the team were quick to act. Within a few hours I was testing out different ear protectors and I am now piloting a few options for other plants, to make sure any other hard of hearing employees or visitors can have the appropriate equipment. For our Kettering plant I will have a radio headset with inbuilt hearing protection, ideal for fitting neatly alongside my hearing aids.”

Jason Bridger, Plant Manager of the new Kettering site, added: “The more diverse a business is the healthier it will be, which is why we want to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Disabilities and long-term health conditions take many different forms. Some are visible, others are not. Some people with disabilities may need adjustments made in the workplace. Most do not need any at all.

“At Ball we embrace ability not disability and we are delighted that people with a range of skills, abilities and disabilities and from a variety of backgrounds are taking up essential roles in all areas of our business – from the shop floor to the head office. With this in mind, we are excited to be officially opening our new plant in the New Year – a plant we are proud to call truly diverse and inclusive.”

Organisations, charities, social enterprises, businesses and community leaders are invited to join Ball and share this campaign.