Scottish Alex Papanikolaou has had the privilege of seeing and experiencing the world from a slightly different viewpoint. Born with Athetoid cerebral palsy, from a young age, Alex has been determined that whatever physical difference he has, it isn’t going to stop him from living and experiencing life in the way that he wants, and from doing the things he wants to do in the way that he wants to do them, freely.
Alex has worked in national retail stores, driven around the country and travelled around the world backpacking. His experiences and insights have led to him starting his own businesses and training and presenting to some of the biggest companies in the world on equality and inclusiveness.
This business was born out of the challenges Alex has faced throughout his personal and professional life having cerebral palsy and using power chairs since he was a child at school. He has developed an independent work and social life as well as visited over 35 countries and 150 cities over 5 years independently with his powerchair.
Travelling worldwide in his power wheelchair meant constant and never ending breakdowns, as his wheelchair was not designed to last a full day for an active adult, in fact, it was barely suitable to support a persons mobility needs in todays global 24 hour world. Alex continually had his freedom ripped from him in seconds, all because his chair couldnt keep up with him. This gave him significant first-hand experience of the limitations that are imposed upon people by powerchairs which are outdated, prohibitively expensive and not fit for purpose. He has been continually let down by his wheelchair, from dozens of flat tyres, dead batteries, broken motors and even cracked frames, to waiting weeks in foreign countries for parts. Despite this, he has developed as an entrepreneur by creating a consultancy around access, equality and inclusiveness. From helping to establish a government funded recruitment agency for disabled people in the United Arab Emirates, to being part of a national team to improve access across the rail network, to training companies on customer service for disabled people. This latest venture of an improved powerchair product and service started from just an idea 2 years ago from a decision that the product absolutely had to change, and this has now grown into a funded and developing business with support and backing from both public and private sectors, as well as a functional prototype
Freedom Equality & Inclusiveness Consulting
From his first day on the customer service desk of a national retail store, Alex very quickly experienced the widest range of behaviour and interactions with people. His worldwide travel opened up interactions with people from countless cultures, and his input in the boardrooms of multinational companies arose from this experience with so many people, living, working and travelling as a disabled person, and also his training in the Equality Act as well as his keen interest in psychology.
He has worked with the United Arab Emirates government to set up the first recruitment agency for disabled people in the region. From HSBC, to IBM and local organisations, Alex worked to establish a new standard and willingness to hire disabled people. Alex also consults in the UK, from improving office space access, to being a part of creating an inclusive rail infrastructure, to training stores on the best approach for people with additional needs. Alex’s consultancy is about improving access and inclusiveness for customers and the public.
We offer Access Audits and Equality and Inclusiveness Consultations in Scotland and the UK to assist businesses, employers, organisations and service providers in meeting obligations set out by the Equality Act (which supersedes the DDA Disability Discrimination Act).
An access audit is an assessment of a building, environment or service against best practice guidance to benchmark its accessibility to an extensive range of needs. Following consultations and a site visit, a detailed report is prepared to help you better understand your obligations, what in your business, organisation or service meets guidance and also what could be reasonably adjusted to better accommodate people with additional needs and avoid discrimination.
An audit report consists of
- The Equality Act related to you and your obligations explained in plain and simple terms
- A summary of the audit and quick reference to get you started
- A fully detailed report with photographs and measurements on every aspect of the building
- Where applicable, reasonable adjustment recommendations along with their cost and priority ratings to help you plan and budget for any adjustments you choose to implement
Our full report includes
- Approach and car parking, including accessible public transport
- Signage and wayfinding
- Horizontal circulation (doors, corridors and ramps)
- Vertical circulation (lifts and stairs)
- Use of the service
- Sanitary facilities
- Communal facilities
- Website and telephone communication
- Material accessibility (leaflets, menus, handbooks)
- On site communication aids
- Emergency egress and means of escape
An access audit will help you to
- Identify and better understand your level of accessibility
- Keep up to date with latest best practice guidance by reasonably removing as many barriers to access as you can
- Demonstrate that you are active in your pursuit to offer the same or equivalent level of service to people with additional needs
- Create and develop your access statement
- Apply for funding – Many government, voluntary sector and private sector grant and funding eligibility criteria now also require an access audit as standard
Freedom One Life have trained with and are members of the Centre for Accessible Environments – the largest training organisation of access auditors and consultants in the UK and the leading authority on designing for accessibility; from mobility and hearing needs, to sight and mental challenges. We have also worked with some of the biggest corporations in the world and small local businesses, from HSBC and IBM to small local charities.
Equality & Inclusiveness
One step further, providing education and support for employers on how to truly allow for equal opportunity and inclusiveness for people with additional needs in the workplace.
Through a series of simple meetings and workshops, we can help with
- Clarifying and overcoming assumptions and fears – such as avoiding offence – allowing for a truly comfortable and fair environment
- Uncertainty on how best to support people with special needs, how much support to offer, or not offer
- Understanding needs and optimal communication methods
- Optimising workspace to allow for highest performance
- What having employees with additional needs communicate with the public and/or customers really means
- Transition and familiarisation support for newly hired staff with special needs
- Respecting additional needs yet maintaining the same standards and expectations equally across all employees
- Confidence amongst employees about their colleagues
- Allowing all employees to feel like valued and contributing members of their team
What we provide
- Meetings with senior management
- Workshops with employees
- Temporary in work support for employees with additional needs
- Needs assessment and support agreement with employees and managers
Get in touch
If you would like to get in touch or find out more about Freedom One Life, please feel free to write to us, call us, or email us:
Freedom One Life
Suite 1, Skyhub
8 Elliot Place
+44 (0)141 258 3150