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LUNA Look In - Creating an Accessible and Inclusive Working Environment by Sophie Mattholie

This blog post is part of our LUNA Look In series! Today, I wanted to talk a bit about all the ways we make LUNA as inclusive and accessible an environment as possible. This is really important to us as a majority disabled team, especially due to how many of us have various Energy Limiting Conditions - I think it would be really tricky for LUNA to continue as it does without these principles at the heart of everything we do. I’ve never worked in an environment quite like ours, and I would love to see other organisations adopting these ideas and thinking carefully about how their working environments can suit a range of disabled people.

1) Flexibility is EVERYTHING!

Flexibility is by far the most important thing I could possibly put in this post. Many of our volunteers have fluctuating health, other commitments, and generally busy lives. As such, the whole way we work is built around embedding as much flexibility as possible! There are many ways we do this:

  • With the exception of external deadlines, like conference dates or the end of grant funding, no deadlines we give ourselves are ‘hard’. There are never any consequences for not doing something you said you’d do - we know how life gets! In the event that we do have an external deadline, we always set an internal one a bit earlier to give ourselves some breathing space.

  • We encourage everyone to be as open as they want about their capacity with no judgement attached. One of the big things we use to help with this is our Slack statuses. This allows everyone to see at a glance who’s busy, who’s on top of things or could help them out with a task, and who’s away.

  • Similar to this, we’re very flexible in terms of passing tasks around. If you agree to do something, and life crops up, you can ask the rest of your team if one of them could pick it up. Usually someone can, but if nobody can, 95% of the time it can wait! We try to have a culture where people don’t feel obliged to share more details than they want to when asking for help with something, or feel the need to apologise for what they can’t do. This can be a bit easier said than done given how much hustle culture and internalised ableism are ingrained into us, but we give it a good go.

2) We allow whatever communication style suits people best

Some people like to talk in meetings, others prefer to type it in the chat or add it to the minutes before/during the meeting. Some people like Slack messages and others prefer voice notes (which Slack now automatically transcribes with decent accuracy!). Some people come to meetings just to watch, and might give us their thoughts later or not at all. ALL of these are equally valued by us as a team. We all do our best to make sure everyone feels able to contribute, when and how they want to. Especially when someone is new to the team, we know it can take a while to warm up and feel confident enough to contribute, and we completely respect that.

3) Similarly, we allow for whatever level of engagement works for different people

We have volunteers who come every single week, do lots for their working groups and get involved with other projects too. We have volunteers who regularly come to their working group, only come occasionally, or pop their head in every now and again. No matter how much time anyone has to give, we love to welcome them, and do our best to keep good minutes and explain things so that nobody is confused by what they might have missed. We also don’t mind if people’s engagement changes over time - sometimes work or uni is busy, or health gets bad, and that’s completely okay!

I think the bottom line is flexibility, but there are a few things that underpin that for us. The first being that we’re a really friendly team, and many of us are friends outside of LUNA. If you were a fly on the wall in our meetings, you’d regularly find us cheering each other’s achievements, commiserating the flares or bad days, and having utterly random conversations. In a recent trustee meeting, we had an intense debate about whether it’s socially acceptable to take a whole, unchopped bell pepper to the uni library and eat it like it’s an apple. (we did not reach a conclusion on this).

The second thing that underpins this flexibility is that we’ve ditched a lot of the traditional ways and expectations of how a charity ‘should’ work that don’t work for us. Aside from the things laid down by the Scottish Charity Regulator, none of that is actually mandatory, so we’ve made it work for us.

I think all these things give us a much better working environment, where everyone is welcome. Given how often people join our meetings from bed, in pyjamas, after a long and much-needed hiatus, or even from hospital, that certainly seems to ring true for other volunteers too!

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