Dr. Shani Dhanda standing at the front of a lecture theatre delivering a talk

On Tuesday 6 February, the University of Birmingham Dubai community had the honour of welcoming Dr. Shani Dhanda, a multi-award-winning disability inclusion & accessibility strategist and consultant, to the campus. Dr. Dhanda delivered a compelling talk on disability and inclusion in the workplace, offering a fresh perspective on fostering inclusion and accessibility in our everyday environments.

During her engaging keynote, she shared her personal journey, shedding light on the challenges and stigma surrounding disability. Growing up as a South Asian girl with a disability in the UK, she encountered numerous societal obstacles, which she transformed into valuable opportunities. Despite the discrimination she experienced, it was inspiring to learn how she remained resilient, ultimately establishing the South Asian Disability Network in Birmingham to empower others.

Reflecting on her experiences, Dr. Dhanda emphasised the financial burdens faced by disabled individuals, highlighting the exorbitant costs of living expenses and the lack of affordable medical aid. She stressed that disability is not solely a personal struggle, but an experience shaped by societal barriers and biases.

As she transitioned from school to university, Dr. Dhanda described the challenges she faced in securing employment, facing rejection from over 100 jobs due to her disability. Persistent and strong-willed, she created a successful career as an entrepreneur in event management, which led to other successful initiatives.

Dr. Dhanda stressed the importance of fostering an inclusive workplace culture, citing research showing organisations with inclusive practices are more likely to achieve financial success and high performance. She is a personal testament to the success of diverse business ventures, with her own start-ups such as the Diversability Card and partnerships with powerful brands like Primark.

During the event, Dr. Dhanda announced the release of her new children's book, "No Horn Unicorn," and generously distributed copies to attendees. She was joined by Anna Kaminski, an ADHD Coach and Senior Employment Advocate at The Butterfly, a social organisation dedicated to supporting the People of Determination in the UAE. Together, they facilitated an insightful Q&A session, encouraging meaningful conversations on the importance of inclusion and equality in society.

The event attracted a diverse audience, including working professionals, educators, postgraduate students, and family members of individuals with disabilities. Attendees had the opportunity to network with Dr. Dhanda and university staff, concluding an enlightening experience.

For more information on upcoming events and initiatives hosted by the Centre for Inclusion Studies (CIS) at the University of Birmingham Dubai, visit the CIS webpage.