Perito Prize Winners

Perito Prize 2020 – Winner: ‘EVERY/OTHER’ By Keshuan Chow


Keshuan Chow


I can’t remember where I first heard it, or when. All I remember is that the girl who said it was an Every. Long, silvery blonde hair, straight as corn silk, shiny with the echoes of a million others like her.

I brush my hair one hundred times, she said, as she pulled the brush along those long, long strands.

So I adopted the habit, in an effort to be more Every. Each night, I sat at my mirror, looking into my Other face. Looking into my Other eyes, dark like obsidian or black holes or voids. I would brush and brush, counting carefully. Always precisely to one hundred, so that I may become more like an Every. More like her.

Brushing my hair was soothing. So soothing that I never saw it as a chore. The sound evokes such calm that people trawl the internet for videos of women brushing their hair. What these people do with the videos I do not know. I imagine them leaning forwards, ear buds in, staring at the screen with a sort of manic grin.

The sound of brushing hair is otherworldly. (You can approximate the sound by putting the flat of your tongue against the back of your front teeth and repeatedly exhaling. It’s not an exact replica, but it comes close).

As a child, I was like a Bowerbird, eagerly picking up tips on how to be more Every. The Everys seemed to be of peak human stock: often blonde, or at least light-haired. Their noses were small and neat, their skin freckled adorably in the hot summer sun. They had eye creases which didn’t puff up and change location when they cried. They didn’t have epicanthal folds.

I remember attending auditions for school plays, year after year. Being an Other meant that I was consistently relegated to minor roles. It didn’t matter how hard I tried; the main part would go to an Every.

I, like the other Others, would be in the chorus, or cast as a Token. Once, I played a Japanese schoolgirl. Another time, a dirty Vietnamese street child. It was as though all of us who were Others were one and the same. It did not matter if I was Chinese, or Malaysian, or Japanese, or Viet. All that mattered was that I was Other.

The night before my Grade Six play, I scratched my face. There was a mole there, a blemish in my Other skin. It wasn’t like the light smattering of freckles I so coveted. It was dark, almost black, the same colour as my hair and eyes. I thought if I removed it, I would somehow be more Every. So I scratched and scratched, until I felt wetness. When I looked at my fingernails, they were caked in blood.

I did my chorus the next day with a plaster on my face.

I distanced myself from other Others. Picked a football team that sounded very Every. I surrounded myself with Every friends, friends whose parents didn’t carry their belongings around in plastic bags, or make them attend Chinese school. I read Every books, I watched Every television. When I flicked through magazines, the faces were all Every.

As I grew, and traversed the rollercoaster that was puberty, I would sometimes be noticed for my Otherness. Boys would actually say they liked me for being Other.

But I don’t want to be Other, I would say. I want to be like you.

They would say, We wouldn’t like you if you were Us.

No matter what I did, I was distinguished as an Other.

I tried my hardest to get part-time work, but suspected my résumé was often thrown out. My name broadcast me as an Other, and it was almost too hard to say. The Everys in charge of hiring probably didn’t want to bumble through an attempt to pronounce it. So it was easier to just not try.

Years later, I read research that confirmed my suspicion. Some Others had found that changing their name to something more Every-like landed them better jobs. It’s a strategy as old as time, really. People who were Others — women, the enslaved, the persecuted —  changed their names to become more acceptable, more appealing. Apparently, the onus is on the Other, not the other way around.

Eventually, I won a place at med school, where I painstakingly sweated out the letters that would follow my name. Afterwards, I would write out my complicated, unpronounceable Other name, then write those two letters: M.D. It is such a common mark of Others like me, that it could almost be a trademark.

Not OtherTM, but OtherMD. In fact, there were so many Others in my graduating class, that I almost felt more Every.

Almost. But not quite.

My habit of brushing my hair never stopped. Every night, one hundred strokes. It didn’t matter if I was up late, studying the bones of the hand (tip: use this mnemonic. So Long To Pinky, Here Comes The Thumb. Straight Line To Pinky, Here Comes The Thumb). It didn’t matter if I was passed out drunk on my friend’s bedroom floor. Whenever I remembered, I would swipe my brush through my hair one hundred times.

It was shortly after starting work as an OtherMD that I started to inspect the brush. For so long, the brush had just been an object, a prop. But as I rode the cresting waves into adulthood, it became an extension of my arm. A totem, or talisman, something that represented myself, my diligence. The parts of my personality I carefully crafted, just like my now-hidden yearning to be more Every.

I looked at my brush, after my one hundred strokes, and saw long black strands of hair tangled through the bristles. The dust collecting amongst the hair was abundant, and unsettling.

One morning, I put my hands on the back of my head, and felt it.

Maybe I’m imagining it, I said to myself, but my head feels smaller.

Don’t be stupid, said my reflection. Your head can’t get smaller from brushing your hair.

Every night, though, there would be more hair snarled into the brush’s bristles. And every night, more dust was caught up in the hair, grey and fluffy, like a cat.

It soon became clear I would always be an Other. Some of my patients insisted I had seen them before (Remember? In June last year?) and I would shake my head and tell them, No, I’m afraid you’re mixing me up with another Other.

They still could never pronounce my name.

So I shortened it.

When I met my now-husband, it was in a bar. He had the blonde hair and the blue eyes of an Every, and a devastating smile that made my stomach fizz. That night, I imagined my gastric bile, yellow and pungent, bubbles popping on the surface. (You can approximate this sound by bringing your lips together and then rapidly pulling them apart).

He took my hand, his white hand clasping my dark one. I forced myself to forget the names of the bones (do not, I repeat, do not mention the mnemonic). We danced. We kissed. His hand caressed the small of my back.

Later, he pushed his Everyness into my Otherness, over and over again, while he whispered my shortened name into my ear.

We married quickly. Everyone thought too quickly. Except my Mother, who told me I was lucky.

He’s a good man, she said. Rich. He will support you.

I didn’t want to tell her that all his ex-girlfriends were Others. That my Otherness seemed, to him, exotic. Something to be cradled and cherished, like a flower.

But not unique. Never unique.

I brushed my hair on our wedding night, while he was sleeping. This time, the hair didn’t just snarl in the brush. It started falling out, drifting down in a dark mist, collecting in a puddle at my feet. When the hair hit the ground, a cloud of dust puffed upwards, rising into the air like curling fog. I breathed in that dust, the dust that came from me.

I turned my head. The back of it looked flat. My head was shrinking, my features disintegrating. In my quest to become more Every, I was losing myself.

Slowly, each day, my skin cells were dying. And dead cells turn into dust.

When my daughter started growing, I felt her Everyness inside of me. Twisting and stretching, she would kick me from the inside, angry at the fleshy prison of my womb. She kicked so hard she cracked a rib.

It’s a known complication, said the doctor. You Others are built to have small babies. But this baby is half Every, and this baby is Big.

What should I do? I panted, breathing through the pain.

The doctor looked at me squarely, over his glasses. Try not to laugh. He wasn’t even joking.

The first glimpse of my daughter was a thatch of black hair, peeking through the lips of my labia. The midwife asked if I wanted to see, with a mirror. At first I said no, but then I said yes.

Black hair. Black, sticky hair. How very Other.

Four months after she was born, the last of my hair fell out. Nature’s cruel trick means that a Mother at her lowest — sleep-deprived, hormonal, with stretch marks and sagging breasts — is also destined to lose her hair. Of course, I was already losing my hair, but the hormones sped up the process. Each time I had a shower, I saw strands getting caught in the drain. And swirling in the water was the dust that came from me, slowly but surely washing away.

My daughter was born looking Other, but over time began to look more Every. And shamefully, I was relieved. They say girls are born with every egg they will ever produce already in their ovaries. I marveled at this fact, and thought about the grandchildren that resided in her belly. Mendelian genetics means that she might have blue-eyed babies. Just think — in only two generations, my Otherness could fade, and end up as nothing more than an interesting anecdote, or something that results in an almond-shaped eye.

I still brushed my head once my hair fell out. It had become such a ritual; a ritual I couldn’t break. It didn’t matter that my scalp was scratched and bleeding, that dust fell from it like the crumbling wings of dead moths.

It didn’t matter that I was shrinking, slowly fading from existence, becoming Invisible like I’d simultaneously wanted, and not wanted, to be.

The last day I brushed my head was when the last scrap of skin dissolved and fell away. I sat staring into my mirror, now no longer flesh-and-blood. All I saw was a gaunt skull, empty-eyed and grinning, staring back at me.

Finally White.

With no connective tissue to hold me together, I collapsed onto the ground in a clattering pile of bones. (You can approximate the sound of clicking bones by putting the tongue on the roof of your mouth, and drawing it downwards quickly to break the vacuum).

It was then that He approached, all black cowl and shroud and large, curving scythe. Just like I had dreamt last night, and every night before that.

He stroked my head with a skeletal hand, bone on bone. It hurt in a way that was both tangible and sweet.

Come with me, Child, said Death.

Yes, I replied. I will come.

Death gathered me into the folds of his cloak, and made me look in the mirror one last time.

Congratulations, he said.

I stared, entranced, at the sight of my bones. The same bones that are inside every other human. (Remember the mnemonic?)

Congratulations, Death repeated, as he brought down the scythe.

You have what you wanted. You have now become an Every.


Perito Prize Winners

Perito Prize 2020: Transcript of Our Podcast Interview With Perito Prize 2020 Winner – Keshaun (Keshe) Chow

Perito Prize 2020 – Transcript of Our Podcast Interview With Perito Prize 2020 Winner – Keshuan (Keshe) Chow


You can find the audio version of this excellent interview with Keshe on our podcast host and its available on all podcast sites like Apple and Spotify.


Perito:     Welcome to Episode 1 of the Perito Podcast 2020, a special Podcast series all about celebrating the writing and creativity of this year’s Perito prize and anthology.  In this episode we are pleased to be joined by the winner of the Perito Prize 2020 Keshe Chow. Keshe wrote the story ‘Every/ Other’ which can be found in the journal section of the Perito website and was selected by the judges as the winning short story for this year.  Hi Keshe and a very warm welcome to the Podcast and well what an incredible story you’ve created, a bit of a warm up question for you so what’s most important do you think ambition, talent or opportunity, we’ll put luck in brackets on that one as well what do you think?

Keshe:     Okay thanks so much for having me today James, first of all I think with this question it’s a bit of a difficult one because I really think it depends so much on the situation and I think depending on what situation you find yourself in different aspects of those three things would take precedence over the other.  I think if we’re sort of talking specifically about writing and publishing I think probably it’s a combination of all three, I think you definitely need to have the drive to just absolutely put your head down and do the work and get the words out and then obviously there’s an element of having the sort of innate ability to use words and just craft them in a certain way and definitely sort of like opportunity and luck is a big part of it as well because so often writing is so subjective, I think different people respond to different things and what one person enjoys a lot another person might find just too out there or too dry or too bland or too like upbeat or too depressing like it’s very, very subjective so I think it just depends so much on that kind of dual factors of the audience and the writer if that’s what we sort of talking about.

Perito:     (1.54) It’s an interesting point you make about subjectivity within the kind of books and writing, I think that is such an important thing, often people will not read outside of a certain subject matter.

Keshe:     Yes.

Perito:     (2.05) I only read Italian detective fiction blah, blah, blah, I only read American…

Keshe:     (laughter)

Perito:     …something or other and when it comes round to read other stuff there does seem to be a, oh I know blah, blah, I could possibly read short stories well might not, they’re micro stories, they’re really short you can eat them in bite size chunks and you get the satisfaction of the whole story in one, I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with this anthology certainly is put together a collection of stories which is as diverse as possible so everyone’s going to find something there but it’s such a difficult thing to get through and people realise that books are so important to people as well, that’s a good point.

Keshe:     Yeah story telling is just so important really and that’s just what part of what makes us human really, I think the ability to share stories and you know communicate ideas through words and things like that.

Perito:     (2.54) So thinking about kind of sharing your ideas out there. What made you enter the prize and how did you find out about it in the first place?

Keshe:     How I found out about it was probably through like a writing blog or something, to be honest I don’t really remember, I spend a lot of time late at night kind of just like when I can’t sleep and stuff (laughter), it’s like cruising around on the internet and I probably came across it at one stage and I had this already written because it was a very personal story so I had it kind of sitting there and I hadn’t really shown it to anyone and it was just kind of private and I thought it kind of feels the brief of that sort of inclusivity and exclusivity that you guys were trying to hit in the Perito prize and so I thought why not just send it in, I didn’t really expect much of it as I said to you when you first contacted me it was like completely unexpected that it sort of impacted on anyone really, cos to me it just was like this weird little story that I’d written late at night when I couldn’t sleep and yeah so that’s basically why I entered, I just did it on a whim.

Perito:     (4.00) Sometimes the best stories are done late at night where you’re plugging into the depth of creativity that you just might not…

Keshe:     (laughter)

Perito:     …that well is really deep and draw it out.

Keshe:     Sitting alone in the dark it definitely brings out some interesting ideas (laughter).

Perito:     (4.15) Actually you can kind of sense the whole sitting alone in your dark bit of the story actually that does come out.

Keshe:     (laughter) yeah, yeah.

Perito:     (4.22) So let’s think about the story then some people won’t have read it yet but one Judge described it as stunning and I think probably what I’ve just said there probably get the tone and the kind of the setting of the story.  Tell us what Every/Other is all about?

Keshe:     So basically it is a piece of fiction but it’s kind of loosely based on a lot of my experiences growing up as a person of colour in Australia so I’m Chinese Australian, I was actually born in Malaysia migrated to Australia when I was about 2 and a half so I don’t really remember much but grew up in quite a traditional Chinese family and sort of straggling those two cultures where you’re trying really hard to assimilate into like an Australian very white nominated culture which it was back in the 80’s when I grew up, you know it’s a long time ago now but yeah it basically was, it was difficult from an identity point of view because there always that element of having two sides of your lives, you know you’ve got the life that you have at home where you’ve got like really traditional Chinese values or whatever as a culture you identify with and then trying to sort of, yeah basically integrate into a greater society where some of those aspects might not be so easily accepted the general public.  So yeah that’s basically what it is about, it was just about sort of my experiences and that’s why it was so personal because there were difficulties obviously growing up in that sort of environment and fantastic things as well and I look back on it now and I think I’m so lucky to have that sort of rich cultural heritage and Australia is so multi-cultural but there were definitely aspects of it growing up that I found very difficult because everyone wants to be included and especially when you’re a kid you just want to be like everyone else, you don’t want to be the strange one or the odd one out and so having anything that sets you apart from others can be quite a difficult experience and I think it’s hard to know what that’s like unless you’ve experienced that.

Perito:     (6.29) So it sounds like that Every/Other has come from a place of not just social exclusion but certainly exclusion in general, it really drives that exclusion concept quite harder and makes a serious impact on the reader, was that only the place that you were coming from when you decided to write it or were there other elements outside of just the historical sense of social exclusion that you’d experienced?

Keshe:     I think I didn’t really have any specific agenda when I wrote it, I kind of just started and it just kind of came because I think it was from a such a deep place that it actually didn’t really take me very long to write, it kind of just flowed once I got the idea, so I don’t really know what exactly what things it encompasses because I’m close to the story I think but I think that it was really just trying to show that dichotomy of having two different aspects of your life and trying to kind of, I guess it kind of almost self-rejection and self-hatred that can come when you realise you are different from the majority and that can be really damaging and I think that’s what I was trying to get across that sort of, I guess it’s social exclusion from others can then lead to a kind of self-rejection and then that’s the real damaging thing when you sort of don’t accept yourself anymore because society at large is telling you that you’d be better off being different.  Yeah I don’t know, I mean like I experienced a really good childhood, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like it was awful or you know, I was bullied or anything like that.

Perito:     Yeah.

Keshe:     It was just that there’s all little things and I guess being a marginalised person and this goes for any form of marginalisation is that you’re always questioning, you’re always second guessing, it’s always like, you know, if I miss out on this opportunity is it because I’m actually not good enough or was it because I’m different, it’s always having that thing in the back of your mind where you’re like people seeing me for me or are they seeing me because I’m a stereotype or a token of my culture, there’s so many different aspects and it’s very kind of complex growing up as a marginalised person and again I think it can be really hard to see that if you’re not from a marginalised community and I think it’s fantastic that there’s so much push nowadays to understand diverse voices and marginalised voices and that the culture overall is really trying to raise up those voices nowadays and like your anthology and the contest and everything it’s just such an important thing because historically a lot of the marginalised voices, and I’m not just talking about marginalised from a cultural point of view which is obviously what I was writing about but from any point of view, historically those voices haven’t really been heard and if it was written about it was written about from a viewpoint of, you know, the other side not from the person themselves so yeah it’s amazing that now there is that sort of really deep push to celebrate and raise up those voices, I think that’s just so fantastic.

Perito:     (9.31) You mentioned about self-hate and…

Keshe:     (laughter) yeah.

Perito:     …this actually came across from, was something that you wanted to write about or is that just coincidental that that came across?

Keshe:     I think it was probably a bit coincidental and that’s obviously really strong language, there were definitely a lot of times growing up where I felt like I wish I was just the one blue eyed person but overall I’ve really over my life come to like an acceptance but it is very hard to question whether you really like who you are and that has so many different aspects, I mean obviously as a child and as a teenager most people are kind of question that I think everyone kind of goes through, those of angsty, phases of trying to find out who you are and kind of rejecting each version of yourself and things like that, like I actually I have robust mental health so I think overall like I’ve been able to navigate those aspects quite well but it definitely, especially for people who are even more marginalised than myself I think that mental health is such a massive thing that we have to bear in mind that sort of the sort of lack of inclusion can really seriously impact on people’s mental health or just feeling stigmatised for whatever reason that may be.

Perito:     (10.51) That’s a good point. I found the sentences where you encouraged the reader to make sounds for themselves was particularly engaging and kind of the clips and clops as you brush your hair and things like that.

Keshe:     (laughter)

Perito:     (11.04) Was there any specific inspiration of this technique of writing that you encouraged or was, you’ve mentioned that you wrote this story quite quickly was it just like ah that’s, were you making these sounds, were you brushing hair and then you were like I’m just going to put that in because that feels the right thing to do.

Keshe:     I think that writing is such a rich sensory experience really, like often when you write and you write about all the senses, we’re not just using words we’re trying to evoke memories of sights and smells and sounds and things like that and it was just an extra way I think of kind of reaching out to the reader and having them kind of engage, I think one of the things is that I kind of want to, whoever read it, to really understand where the protagonist was coming from like actually sort of put themselves in her shoes, in this case and so that was just a way of kind of engaging someone whose just reading rather than them just reading words they’re actually kind of interacting with the material and it was experimental because I was kind of like oh this is kind of maybe a little bit too weird and I definitely had some readers who read it when I was like looking for feedback and they were like I didn’t like that bit (laughter) they were like that’s too strange and I think my parents will have said the same thing but again everything is so subjective I just thought it was like a device basically to engage someone and actually sort of get them just feeling like they could put themselves in the story rather than just reading it from a distance.

Perito:     (12.42) Well it worked, it definitely worked.

Keshe:     (laughter)

Perito:     (12.45) So as you know the Perito prize is about inclusion, access, inclusive environments it sounds like you’d already written the story before you came across the prize…

Keshe:     No.

Perito:     …but do you think other people or would you if you entered next year, would you find these sort of topics difficult to write about if you came up with things organically from scratch?

Keshe:     Yeah, so I think I already mentioned like I did really find this particular story very difficult to write, I mean it wasn’t difficult from a point of view of the time it took it came very quickly but once it was written I was kind of really shy about it. Like you know I mentioned to you before the Podcast started that I hadn’t shown my parents yet and I’ve shown very few people and actually once it was written I kind of sat on it for ages, kind of too afraid to let anyone read it because firstly I thought it was really weird and secondly it was so personal that I really felt as though it was like a piece of me and I kind felt that anyone reading it would know so much more about me than a lot of people do, so yeah it’s like kind of scary to be putting it out there but I think on the other hand it is an important topic to write about, I think writing what you know and writing about diversity and culture and inclusion and exclusion is really important especially in the current climate because like I said we are, and as a society as a whole I think we are really trying to hear from diverse voices which is a really good thing and I feel kind of like I can’t ignore that side of myself and be kind of true to myself anymore like I have up ‘til now so yeah it’s kind of a big thing, very scary to be putting myself out here like I am but I hope that it helps people understand what that sort of thing is like, yeah, but I’m not being very articulate at the moment but I think it’s just.

Perito:     (14.46) No I think it’s perfect.

Keshe:     and difficult to speak about.

Perito:     (14.50) I had a question about the hardest thing come up with the story for the competition, but I think you’ve answered that one quite clearly.  How long have you sat on the story before you decided to submit it?

Keshe:     I don’t actually remember, I don’t have a very good concept of time to be honest, as particularly a lot of my writing is done late at night when I can’t sleep so I kind of just, I either manically write really fast or like I sweat out individual lines over many, many months.  This one I wrote very quickly in the night but I think it was probably earlier this year and I was writing other things and getting feedback from readers about this and then the first person I actually showed at all was someone who put out a call on like a critic where it’s saying, “I have something really weird would anyone like to critic it” and I was like, “well I have something really weird as well do you want to read it as well” and I was kind of like sweating cos I was like, oh my goodness this is kind of scary to have anyone read something so personal but yeah like it was once it put it out there it kind of became easier to then decide that it was a story that needed to be told.

Perito:     (15.58) I think it’s important for you to understand that we had over 300 entries for the Perito prize this year.

Keshe:     Wow.

Perito:     (16.04) and so many of the stories have the same sort of impact, so you’re definitely not alone having written something that’s dynamic and unusual and that is entirely the point of the prize is to get people to think literally and laterally about all the themes of the competition as well and then ideally when people read these stories they will sit there and think, gosh I hadn’t viewed things from that perspective before, and because it’s bite size chunks it gives people the ability to understand the message in lots of different ways, so don’t ever feel that this is exactly what you should have done and I would say that the competition has been waiting for your story to come on in.

Keshe:     Thank you.

Perito:     (16.48) So the ending is quite specific, I was kind of in two minds we kind of, we ruin it a bit like a movie review on IMDB.

Keshe:     Yeah (laughter).

Perito:     (16.58) And as I read it, it’s what maybe you had in mind as a way of concluding this story did you add it later or did you, what did you learn about your story as you wrote it out, I guess that you can tell people about that journey that you went through I suppose in the dark room and how long it took you to write it through, but what was that bit where you hit that point in the story you just thought, you know what to hell with this bang I’m going to do it, or was it kind of much more calculated?

Keshe:     I spent a long time actually planning it in my head before I wrote it down, I think that’s why I can write it in such a short amount of time, it took a couple of hours to get all of the words out but I had been thinking about these concepts for a while and kind of formulating it in my head a little bit and I guess what I really wanted to get across with that ending was just that, that loss of identity can almost be as bad as death itself, like it’s just so tragic to really be yearning so much to be something different that you kind of lose yourself in the process so again like I don’t know whether I should be giving it away but it was very metaphorical I hadn’t like.

Perito:     (18.11) It’s your story Keshe so you tell it how it is.

Keshe:     So I mean I had one reader who completely, who thought it was literal and so kind of missed that point but most people kind of understood that it was like a metaphorical death and so yeah that was basically just it, I think while I was writing it I kind of, because I’m now at a place in my life where I can look back and think, no actually I really do accept myself and I accept my culture and I want to impart that onto my children that I am proud of my heritage and proud of my culture and that all of that sort of stuff that I struggled with growing up, you know that was so damaging and sort of maybe I didn’t see it at that the time that it was as damaging as it is so my parents probably will feel quite justifying or just they were always kind of like, you know you have to accept that side of yourself and things.  I think it was just kind of straggling my whole life journey up to now and so I think that it was a little learning process was just realising that I have come to accept myself so in this story the fact that the protagonist doesn’t accept herself as almost like a metaphorical death, if that makes any sense?

Perito:     (19.30) It does yes, yep, I’ll leave the listener to read or listen to it and make up their own minds but I think one of the things we’ve hit on here is getting feedback, now I know a lot of people who would be entering the prize or considering entering the prize will be either wary feedback, I personally as a writer I have (laughter) often had. I get quite agitated when it comes around to feedback cos either people are too slow, they don’t understand or they don’t want to do it and they say they will and they don’t and all these other things but it sounds like you’ve got some really good critical constructive feedback from various people.  How did that process work for you and are there any tips you can give listeners about how maybe they could get something similar going?

Keshe:     So I started creative writing again this year actually and so prior to this year I really had no concept as to how to get feedback or the need to get feedback and critics and I just joined like a heap of writers groups and critic groups online just kind of researching like I always kind of do, yeah so many people were just like it’s invaluable to get feedback because sometimes just so close to your work that you just can’t see when something doesn’t make sense or when something sounds a bit awkward or when things could be framed in a different way and sometimes it’s just really minor tweaks like swapping a word or just changing two sentences around in terms of their order, it can be just so minor but it can just make things so much more powerful and so one thing I found with critics is that, I mean I feel like, because I’m just starting out I feel like anyone offering to read my work is doing me like a huge favour so I feel it’s just they’re so generous with their time so I always kind of offer to reciprocate so it’s always, that’s one thing that I always do and yeah I guess like when I’ve had feedback, so sometimes like I said some readers don’t really get the point I’m trying to make or sometimes they are critical of what I’ve written I think, you know it can be really painful to hear that especially when you’ve written something very personal but just with anything because I think as a writer you always feel so sensitive and so much ownership and it’s kind of like your little baby that you’ve written and put out into the world that I think you can be really sensitive to anything negative but it’s important also to realise that when you’re writing your not really always writing for yourself, you’re really writing to get a message out there…

Perito:     Yeah totally.

Keshe:     …and the more people can hear that message then the more impactful it will be so it kind of serves a good purpose to make sure that you’re reaching as many people as you can with your message.  Yeah and so when I’ve been giving feedback I find it so helpful to try and really zero in on all of the positives as well, like I think it’s really easy to pick apart other people’s work but I think it’s just so important to raise everyone up and make sure everyone knows that everyone has good aspects to their work and there might be things that need tweaking but they’re keeping everything positive and being constructive is just so valuable.

Perito:     (22.54) That’s great advice.  So what was the most valuable thing about going through this writing process for you, sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience in the past but this is quite a recent return to writing, is there kind of something that’s really struck out and said, do you know what I feel better because I’m writing or I feel more creative or so and so forth?

Keshe:     Yeah from a personal point of view I mean I’ve always loved creative writing and I was saying to you before we started today that I had to take like a bit long break from any creative writing at all because I was very focussed on my academic career so that sort of took precedence for many years and so just being able to kind of stretch my brain in a different way is just so fantastic.  I think that having something as well, I mean obviously this year has been exceptionally stressful for virtually everyone in the world and for various areas and so just having something else to kind of focus on and nurture is just so nice, and it’s sort of like a personal journey because I’ve come back to it after such a long time away.

Perito:     (24.09) So has the prize made you think differently about how inclusion access and how accessible the world we live in actually is, was this something that was already plugged into you, with you before or do you look around the street and think, you know what that’s social exclusion, that’s someone’s feeling marginalised, someone can’t access, there’s a lack of inclusion here and there and everywhere?

Keshe:     Yeah, well I think that anytime you hear those words about inclusion and exclusion and accessibility it just puts the emphasis on it more and it just brings it to the forefront of your mind and one thing I particularly loved about the way that you guys framed your competition was that you made a point to say that it could, like the material could be submitted in a whole lot of different ways, like it didn’t necessarily have to be just pros on paper for people who might not find it easy to write because of various reasons or you know whether that’s like a physical reason or even just like you know a mental reason that there were other ways that they could submit work, I mean I just don’t see that very often, I think most of the time a lot of these things that you can participate in are very prescriptive and narrow in the way that you can participate and so I just thought it was so fantastic that you guys extended that and made it a point to say, you know we welcome everyone this isn’t gonna be like some de-ambitious, unreachable thing to take part in that only certain parts or some parts of society can take part in, it was like we welcome everyone, we want everyone to be included and we want to make it a positive thing, I think that’s really, that was likely to see that because obviously we read so much and a lot of it is so kind of rigid especially in the publishing world (laughter) yeah so that was real nice to see.

Perito:     (26.04) That is definitely, that is very right, yeah I found from previous writing and that’s why when we created this general experience it was all about trying to say to people and as a dyslexic myself grown up being called stupid at school it was very much a case of, if you can’t spell that well you can still be creative, everybody can be creative and everybody can express themselves in lots of different ways and I think we wanted to really draw out that by not creating barriers like for instance you have to be in South Australia and you have to be in this tiny part of South Australia and you have to pay 25 dollars and you have to be this and you have to be that.

Keshe:     Yes.

Perito:     (26.43) And I don’t think they’re setting out to be exclusive because they hate other people…

Keshe:     No, yes.

Perito:     …but it’s more the case they want to limit the opportunity to reward people in certain areas, certain things and I think we felt that wasn’t the right course of action it is building, I mean we can’t help everybody whole 100% of time but I’m glad that’s come across…

Keshe:     Yes.

Perito:     …and you felt like it was something that you wanted to get involved in that’s great.

Keshe:     Yeah for sure.

Perito:     (27.11) Finally then so any recommendations or tips for people entering next year?

Keshe:     I mean I don’t really feel like I’m experienced enough really to give out too many tips, I guess just like writing something (laughter) that’s probably the first step, I think so.

Perito:     That’s great advice.

Keshe:     After like it’s so easy to keep all of these stories kind of locked up in your brain and again like you alerted to in the last question there’s so many times where, like sometimes the barriers are external like we discussed but often they’re internal as well, often it’s kind of like, I’m not good enough for this, or like I can’t spell well so why bother entering or, there’s so many sort of like personal demons if you will but like you have to fight to sort of participate in something like this and also like I said when it’s something very personal and this topic and all of the sort of things that you sort of talk about they are very personal to people because you know a lot of these things and exclusivity or accessibility they can be sometimes painful things to write about from a lived experience so I think kind of just getting it down, and whether or not you even send that off or let anyone else see I think just getting it out there and knowing that your story is valuable and needed is probably the first step to overcome, that’s the only thing I can think of.

Perito:     (28.52) I think that’s a lovely piece of advice, I hadn’t thought about the number of stories that maybe have been written but never sent.

Keshe:     Yeah.

Perito:     (29.00) Well I’m really glad you sent in yours Every/Other was certainly a worthy winner amongst many this year.

Keshe:     Thank you.

Perito:     (29.08) So it’s been brilliant to find out more about you and your winning story but now it’s time to sign and tell listeners about the upcoming anthology that is available from Amazon around the world and the audio book which will feature Keshe’s work alongside a variety of other entries for the 2020 competition and will hopefully be available on Audible and other audio book sites as well.  Now thanks again to our special guest 2020 prize winner writer Keshe Chow, thanks Keshe.

Keshe:     Thank you.

Perito:     You’ve been tuning into the Perito Prize 2020 Podcast Special Edition, thanks for listening everyone, everywhere.

Perito Prize Winners

Perito Prize 2020 – Runner Up: ‘Mary Poppins Was Wrong About Pie Crust’ By Lucy Grace

Mary Poppins Was Wrong About Pie Crust

By Lucy Grace


Dear Judith,

Today at work Jerry from accounts said my piecrust was perfect and the colour of caramel like Sarah’s hair. He didn’t say it to me, they never speak to me, but I heard them in the kitchenette.  It wasn’t even his pie. I only make it on Sundays, with enough to last for Monday lunch. They didn’t ask if they could eat it, they just stole it. They never said. They said other things.

“What’s that awful smell in the fridge?”

“I’m guessing it’s Martin’s lunch again. It lingers.”

“Well, uh, there’s nothing in here that looks like food.”

“Usually in a green box. Martin has a thing for eggs and onions – I dread to think what his kitchen smells like.”

I don’t know what they’re talking about. My kitchen smells like a kitchen, what else would it smell like? I doubt they have kitchens, they’re too young. They’ll stay as thin as those too short trousers they wear if they keep eating things from packets for lunch every day, skinny in the wallet as well as the body. And someone really should tell them that tumble drying can shrink clothes in peculiar ways, sometimes just lengthways. And that if they bought socks all the same colour like my brown ones, they will always be able to make a pair. I never suffer from cold ankles.

It takes me three minutes to walk to the office kitchenette to collect my lunch, two and a half minutes to walk back (I am quicker on the downhill stairs) and three-quarters of a minute to set up my desk with the blue cloth, cutlery, flask and cup. I eat my lunch at 12.35pm. At weekends I eat at 12.30pm because my table is in my kitchen and it takes nine seconds to open my fridge and I can be ready with my cloth and cutlery before the clock chimes. But of course I don’t have a clock that chimes. That would be too much. I hope I’m writing this right, Judith.


I haven’t eaten with another person for twenty-two years. Not an actual person. There’s Radio Four in my kitchen, and the odd-bods who work in my office, but they mostly eat in the upstairs kitchenette and I eat at my desk so that doesn’t count.  When I was nineteen, I went to a pub with a misused carpet with the girl from the bus stop who made promises. She ordered pie. I tried to stop her, but she said I was a bully and she could eat what she wanted and I wasn’t the boss of her and did I think she was too fat? She said so many words so quickly, they fell out of her mouth like teeth and I couldn’t catch them all. And by the time I’d made sentences out of them, she had gone. The pub smelled funny and the tables were too close together so I left. She wasn’t too fat. She ordered cottage pie and that isn’t even a pie.


Grandad always made me wait for the chimes before eating pie – he said the neatness of the hour made the pastry taste better. His table is still in the same place and it’s the same table anyway. Everything is the same in the house, apart from the sharp knife with the butcher string handle, because the string began to unravel and dragged in the washing up bowl so I bought a new one. The girl in the shop made quite a fuss because of all the blood on the blade and the floor and she wouldn’t listen to me explaining that the only way to test a blade is to run your thumb across it, not along it, but in all the noise and shop lights I must have muddled my ‘across’ with my ‘along’ and there was the blood. It was only because of the way I banged my head when I fell that the ambulance had to come but the ride was white and quiet and it made a change from the bus. They said I could lie down. I was just glad it happened on a Saturday. The scar is a white threadworm on my left thumb.


The secret in piecrust is cold hands, Judith. I have cold hands and chilblains, but they’re on my feet, the chilblains.

“Don’t overwork it, lad, leave it alone,” Grandad would say.

Grandad was good at leaving things alone. Some days I didn’t speak to anyone. I showed the driver my free bus pass and the dinner lady my free school-dinner pass and the shopkeeper Grandad’s free milk coupons and they didn’t need to speak to me at all. It is better to have passes and vouchers to show people because then they don’t see you. At work I have a pass which hangs around my neck in a plastic wallet. It opens doors too. That’s even better, as people don’t even have to look at my face, they can look at my middle and they’re done with me.

Grandad showed me how to make pie.

“Measure your flour carefully, lad. Too much flour in your piecrust an’ you’ll go from tender to tough.”  Then he would say,

“This is the only time in life it’s good to be flaky,” and laugh wetly until it turned into a cough, and have to go outside for a cigarette for his lungs. I didn’t like the smell, but I liked to watch him smoke the neat little roll-ups from the flat tin. I would stand behind the brown kitchen curtain and watch him leaning back into the weak sun, his floured fingers on the fence.


Mary Poppins said in a film on the television that a piecrust promise is easily made, easily broken.

Judith – I don’t think Mary Poppins has ever made piecrust, it is not as easy she thinks. Her promises must be rubbish.


This morning the woman in the paper-shop said I had cold hands. She touched my fingers when I paid; I don’t know why because the paper cost exactly twenty pence and she didn’t need to touch me. Twenty pence is a single coin. I have that ready before I go into the shop. When the price of that paper goes up I will swap to a different one which still costs a single coin and has too many parts to it, but I don’t have to read them all.

She said,

“Cold hands, warm heart,” and smiled right at me. I had my gloves on so she didn’t know if my hands were cold and my heart is inside me anyway. Her hair is shiny like conkers. I look at her hands every day, they are pale and soft like raw pastry. I wonder if there would be a mark if I pressed them, gently.


She wasn’t in the paper-shop today. It was a fat man instead and he didn’t say anything about my hands or my heart.


Perfect piecrust has secrets, not promises. Grandad told me that. He said,

“You want little bits of cold fat in the crust – they’ll melt when it bakes. That’s the secret of flaky crust. Never tell other folk our secrets, lad.”

Does it count if I write them down?


Judith – she is back! It has been the fat man in the paper shop for twenty-six days and I thought she had gone forever but this morning she said,

“Cold hands, warm heart,” and I was so happy I walked to the bus stop forty-five seconds more quickly than usual.


My cupboard:

  • Two white cups, one for tea and one for coffee.
  • Saucers, none (unnecessary).
  • One drinking glass, medium, chipped.
  • One plate, green.
  • One bowl, for everything else.
  • One white enamelled pie dish with a blue rim, medium-sized.


Today isn’t a pie day, but I have thought about it a lot and know it’s risky but I am nearly forty-one and after writing up a pros and cons list like you suggested I’ve worked out the probable hazards and Grandad isn’t here anyway so I’m going to make the pies a day early and take them to her tomorrow. Antiques Roadshow won’t be on but I will hum the music instead.


This morning it was difficult to open the door to the paper-shop because I was carrying two pies in a bag. The bell jangled when I went in so she knew I was coming. When I gave her my single coin, I put her pie-cup down on top of the stack of papers and it looked tiny in my man’s hand and maybe not the right size. She didn’t say all the four words. Instead she smiled with the whole of her mouth and said, “Warm heart,” and I felt yellow like softened butter.  I smiled back, just a bit, without teeth, but I didn’t say anything because I didn’t have anything to say.


Jerry from accounts stole another pie. I had put it on the second shelf of the fridge, at the back, with a pink post-it note where I’d written DO NOT EAT and underneath that I’d written POISONED because they are too vain to risk getting sickness and diarrhoea in front of Sarah’s hair. I wrote it with my left hand as a disguise.

At 12.30pm I left my desk and at 12.33pm I reached the kitchenette, which was too soon for someone to eat a whole pie, but there on the worktop was my dish, scraped out with crust remnants on the edge. I was rageful. They are short-trousered idiots, I don’t know how they managed to get a job at all. Perhaps they cannot read. I went back to the stairs, but everything was ruined so I went to the toilets instead even though they smell purple and the long lights give me a headache. In the first cubicle I had a seven-minute sit down on the lid and the door opened and some people came in and I heard Jerry from accounts say, “Perfect pastry, just like Sarah’s hair,” and I hated him.


This morning I got to the paper-shop at 08.02 and she was there.

“I’m Jo,” she said.

Her words are as small as the pies. It is perfect. On the walk home I thought about cold fat, melting between the cracks.



This is the last page I will write. It’s a bit annoying thinking about what has happened in the day just to write it all down. Judith said, neuro-typical or not, it is Important to Process Events in order to Feel Things Properly. She has a fixation on Feeling Things, she’s always wanting to talk about Feeling Things. She said to pretend I was writing to her, to make it easier, but I have ended up writing to me. I still speak to her on Wednesdays anyway. The social services cardigan lady said it would either be medication every day or Judith’s leather chair every Wednesday, to Ensure the Stability of my Mental Health. Some people use so many words. One in seven is clearly better than seven in seven, so I chose the chair.



Tomorrow is New Year. I know I said I wasn’t going to write again, but I bought a green notebook. I have good news:

Jerry from accounts left work.

I took in a medium-sized pie in a foil dish to celebrate, with a note saying HELP YOURSELF. People wondered where the pie was from even though I held the pen in my right-hand. I didn’t eat any because other people might have licked the knife.

I still make pie on Sundays, but now I make two, and use both cups. I’ve bought another glass. Later, maybe tomorrow, I’ll tell Jo about Grandad and his pies, not anything worth mentioning really, but just so she knows, about piecrust and secrets and things.

Perito Prize Winners

Perito Prize 2020 – Third Place: ‘The Little Black Stool’ By Fatema Matin


By Fatema Matin


When people think of accessibility, they may think of sophisticated software or state-of-the-art technology. They may think of equipment that changes lives in previously unimaginable ways and therefore equipment that is expensive. However, accessibility tools don’t always need to be complex. Sometimes, they can be as simple as a little black stool.

The little black stool that lived in our kitchen was like a member of the family. Well, it was to me at least. It was about fifteen centimetres high and I grew up using it every day. The top of the stool was designed with a pattern of circular holes and it had four reliable, stubby legs. It was made of cheap plastic, so it wasn’t worth much in terms of money but when we moved house twenty years ago there was no question of forgetting the stool and leaving it behind. The stool came with us. Whenever I needed to wash my hands or wash the dishes or help with the cooking the stool was there. Whenever I needed to reach up to put something away or to get something down, the stool was there ever loyal, ever helpful. I loved that stool. It meant a lot to me because I have Turner’s Syndrome and kyphoscoliosis which make me shorter than average. When you are shorter than normal, a stool like that is the best tool you can have.

But one day, my big brother stepped on it (the blob!) and it snapped into pieces. The stool died an unnecessary death after a long term of faithful service and my heart was broken into as many pieces as the stool. Slightly ridiculous, I know. We had another stool in the kitchen, but it just wasn’t the same. It was completely the wrong height! When I stood on it I was raised two feet above the ground! It’s kind of hard to explain but when you stand that high above the ground, you physically can’t bend your knees to reach the sink or the counter without the threat of unbalancing and slipping off. I also didn’t need to be two foot in the air every time I wanted to reach the lowest shelf of the cupboard- my family were mindful enough at least, to put most of what I used on a daily basis there. The only other option was to kneel on the stool for prolonged periods of time to be at the right height. but that was uncomfortable! My knees began to hurt so I stopped.

My brother didn’t see fit to replace the stool and no one else missed it like I did- no one else needed it quite like I did- so I wasn’t allowed to complain about it. Instead of replacing it myself- after all, I wasn’t the one who broke it- I do the stubborn thing and force myself to manage without it. My elbows may be by my shoulders, or I may be kneeling on the stool in front of the cooker flames just so that I can see into the cooking pot, but I still do everything that I need to do.

I guess that I’ve always been a bit stubborn. I remember, when I took a GCSE in Textiles, I reached the medals of the sewing machines reasonably well and got on with my practical work just fine. This made me so happy because I felt almost the same as all of my peers in the class. However, the technology department saw fit to arrange for the construction of a wooden pallet which slotted under the desk onto the floor. There was no need for me to feel quite as targeted by this as I did because the wooden block was meant to make the equipment more accessible to me by raising the pedal. It was meant to be a positive thing. Unfortunately, at the time, I couldn’t see it that way. I couldn’t help but feel singled out and I cried tears of shame. Needless to say, I refused to use it. I never touched it. Not even once. I told you I was stubborn.

It’s a pity because something I would have appreciated would have been making the jigsaw in the Resistant Materials Room more accessible. I learned for the first time how to utilise the incredibly sharp rotating blade which moved at incredibly fast speeds. There I would be, kneeling on a stool so that I could see what I was doing and be able to move the object forward towards the blade at the correct angle. The jigsaw was fastened to the counter and if you didn’t hold the material you were using tightly enough, the object you were holding would escape from you and rattle alarmingly around the teeth of the saw. My fear was one that one day I would get startled and topple off the stool backwards, injuring myself in the process. I felt confined and less mobile kneeling on the stool and I didn’t even want to think about falling forward onto the jigsaw! It just occurs to me now to wonder why I never spoke up. Why didn’t I say something about my struggle that a low stool would have alleviated? Things would have been a lot easier. I think that I’m just so used to getting on with the resources that are already available in all parts of my life rather than go out of my way to get what I need. Get a suitcase down from the top of my wardrobe? No problem. Put a board game back on top of my mother’s wardrobe? No sweat. It’ll be difficult but I get things done. Just don’t ask me how.

Anyway, that was thirteen years ago. The stool-less situation continued until my older sister Aysha glanced at me one day recently and asked me what I had been doing.
“I was washing the dishes,” I replied.
“Yes, but why is your chest wet Fatema?” she wondered curiously.
“That’s what happens when you’re shorter,” I sighed miserably.
My older sister is married and she has lived in her own house for about five years now. The next time I went to stay over at her house after we had this conversation, I noticed something new in the kitchen- a low stool, about fifteen centimetres high. I used it every day. No longer did I have to drag a heavy, solid wooden chair from the living room to the kitchen every time that I wanted to reach ingredients for myself and cook or bake. Everything that I needed to do in her kitchen, I could do more comfortably.

Then, each time I returned home, I would return to a kitchen where even getting a glass for water was sometimes slightly less than straightforward. You see, the tall stool is sometimes moved from the kitchen- I’ve yet to know why the person who removes it doesn’t put it back- so that when I need it, it isn’t there. I would get so frustrated that rather than hunting it down and fetching it back myself, I would place a foot on the washing machine door thereby raising myself to reach a glass from the cupboard. Okay, I’ll be honest, at other times I would just be frustrated at being so small.  At those times, dragging the tall stool across the kitchen annoyed me. To get myself a glass, I would disregard it and place my foot on the washing machine door anyway.
My older brother got irritated when he caught sight me doing this because he thought that I would break the washing machine door over time (I won’t). He told me never to do it again but he never once considered my need for that little black stool. I doubt he even remembers that it existed which makes me furious because I think about it every day. I don’t feel comfortable enough to request that my family leave a glass on the draining board at all times for me to access.
“Sure,” I thought bitterly, “I’ll stop stepping on the washing machine when I stop being so short or when I stop being frustrated about it.”

I hate being so short. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to learn how to drive. When I catch the bus, I’m the same as every other passenger travelling alongside me, but the thought of getting into a car especially adapted for me makes me feel embarrassed about myself and different from other drivers in an awfully obvious way that makes me squirm. People think that you get used to being short just because you’re born that way but it’s been more than quarter of a century and I haven’t gotten used to it yet so I’m pretty sure that I never will. I know that I should be more grateful. After all, people need all sorts of accessibility equipment to move, talk, hear, see and even simply to breathe. However, maybe I could take some steps towards being patient. I’m going to stop stepping on the washing machine from now on. I could find a driving instructor to accommodate me…and maybe, just maybe, I’ll even let go of my stubbornness and buy a little stool.

Perito Prize Winners

A Thank You From Changing Places – The Perito Prize Charity 2019



Dear Perito Prize Winners & Competition Entrants,

We are delighted to to receive the donation of £100 from the sale of the Perito Prize Anthology 2019 to Muscular Dystrophy UK. We know we can beat muscle-wasting conditions more quickly by working together so thank you for all your support. Please extend our thanks to everyone who supported and contributed so kindly towards this.

Muscular Dystrophy UK know that every day counts for people with progressive conditions. That’s why we fund pioneering research to improve the lives of people today and transform those of future generations. And why we’re driving change so that muscular dystrophy becomes better recognised, people get the best care and support and potential therapeutic drugs reach people faster.

With your support we can be here for everyone affected today, tomorrow and every next day. Together we will bring forward the day when we beat muscular dystrophy.

If you have any questions about previous or future donations, please call our fundraising hotline on 0300 012 0172 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

Thank you again for your generous support.

Kind regards


Our World. Without Boundaries Podcast Ep5 In The ‘Inclusive Designer Series’ With Dr Caroline Casey of the Valuable 500

In this episode of the Inclusive Designer Series we hear from Dr Caroline Casey of the Valuable 500 who talks about founding the Valuable 500, hidden disabilities and why it is essential that business adds disability into its inclusion and diversity agenda.


Perito:     Welcome to the Perito Podcast Our World Without Boundaries. A podcast all about creating inclusive environments and about helping us all become expert at identifying exclusion and create an inclusive and accessible world for everyone, everywhere.  Perito believes that we are all designers in some capacity even if we are not the Principal Designers like Town Planners or Architects.  This podcast is out there to help everybody become a community expert in recognising exclusion and someone who can then contribute to a design process and make or advise on creating better inclusive design decisions.  The podcast will help listeners learn from the day to day experiences and challenges of our interviewees and the topics we cover so that you will have a greater understanding of what can exclude people from participating and what can be done to create our world without boundaries.  Now in this episode we’re really pleased to be joined by Caroline Casey who will be chatting about some high profile and important issues as well as telling us about the valuable 500.  (1.00) Hi Caroline how are you doing?


CC:            (1.05) Hi how are you doing?


Perito:     (1.09) I’m pretty good this end thank you very much. Obviously, we’re not in the studio so to speak we’re on the sofa and so we’re over the Ringr app. so you over in Ireland at the moment aren’t you Caroline?


CC:            I am I’m sitting on a sofa in a house full of four people trying to do their day job over some form of digital form, so yeah it feels very strange, very full house, full environment but it’s beautiful and sunny outside, I want to go out and play.


Perito:     (laughter) (1.30) It would be good to kick off with a bit of a warm up and why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are, where you are in Ireland as well that sounds lovely and your background as well?


CC:            You know first off that’s a very open question for an Irish over talker (laughter), I live in Dublin and it’s a funny thing when somebody asks me a question like this to give a description of who I am, I could give you all the titles of the things that I’ve done but I believe anyone of us are defined by a role or any one specific part of myself but I think this is what my professional (laughter) descriptor is, I’m an activist, I’m a campaigner, I’m a social entrepreneur, a businesswoman I have been in the space of disability business inclusion for nearly 20 years, I’m an ex-Management Consultant, an ex-Archaeologist, an ex-Masseuse so that’s (laughter)…


Perito:     (laughter) That’s quite a few things that’s good.


CC:            …all my stuff and who am I, well I am 48 years old, I am in the middle of Menopause I am married to a wonderful man, another entrepreneur called Gar, I love, I’m very, very passionate about design it’s one of my absolute joys in life, photography, art, dance, animals, adventure, branding, marketing I mean absolutely all of those things, love being fit I’ve just come in from doing a hip class online which is hilarious and the thing that probably, I think if you were to ask me anything I’m a dangerous dreamer.  I’m a person who really doesn’t just daydream stuff I really try to make it happen, I’m hopelessly stubborn, I’m very sensitive, I’m very emotional, I’ve had a long journey of, I guess to where I am today, and I think the thing that surprises people most if they see me or meet me is that I am actually registered blind or severely visually impaired, I have a condition called Ocular Albinism and I do not look registered blind but I only have about 2 foot vision and what’s very unusual about that and why you wouldn’t know when you meet me is when I was diagnosed at 6 months, I’m the eldest of three children my parents I think struggled with it and made a very unusual decision in 1973 that they would bring me up as a sighted child because the world was not designed for people…


Perito:     Okay interesting.


CC:            …who was basically impaired, and they were worried about me so that is me, hope that kind of gives you some sort of sense of who I am.


Perito:     You said something to do with elephant somewhere in are you kind of an elephant trainer or something along those lines is that correct?


CC:            Yeah I mean this story of, so I think yes I am elephant handler and I’m a cow girl (laughter), I’m a wannabe biker chick, yeah I’m many things, Caroline who I am as Caroline is all my heart but all the things that I do they’re quite crazy and if you put them altogether and you read them out of the list I go god, what am I, but the dream to be an elephant handler came from when I watched the Jungle Book when I was 6½ years old and of course I was sitting in the front row of a cinema and I didn’t know that I couldn’t see the Jungle Book very well but my favourite scene of the Jungle Book was Mowgli and when Mowgli met the elephant and I’d always been fascinated by elephants and so as a child I had this desire to go to India and hang out with Baloo and Bagheera and become Mowgli and I always wanted to do that and when I was 17 years old when most people were making decisions to go to be, I don’t know, to go to become a Doctor or a Lawyer I wanted to become Mowgli from the Jungle Book and I wanted to be a cow girl and I wanted to be a biker chick and on my 17th birthday I discovered that my dreams were not necessarily appropriate or whatever because I found out that I was registered blind because my father gave me a driving lesson for my 17th birthday, so yeah, so that’s kind of, that was it and I did become this Mowgli from the Jungle Book eventually when I was 28 years old.


Perito:     (5.34) But what I like about everything you’ve said there is to say you’re a dangerous dreamer but actually you have these ambitions, these dreams and you go ahead and make them happen, so you don’t, I can appreciate if there’s something similar, but you have this thought and then it’s like “no that’s impossible let’s go and do it” and it obviously doesn’t cross your mind that there’s restriction here, you just make it happen and I guess that kind of aligns very closely with what we’re going to talk about more today as well.  So you mentioned you being in the inclusion diversity space for 20 years now and there’s obviously a lot that drives you on, what are the principles that get you excited about changing the world for the better? sounds like you’ve got a lot of experience from the past that might lead into this.


CC:            Well you know it’s interesting whenever I’m asked about who I am and I hear the jumble that it comes out like I mean my life has unfolded, I was never planned, nothing I’ve ever done is planned really, it goes with my instinct and I think my heart and actually all of the work that I’ve done has come out of a very tough place like a lot of my big moments or big achievements have come from very dark and painful places and from, yeah I think from huge talent and from barriers and when we talk about designing and what inclusive design is I guess for me the principle of the work I do and how I got into disability business inclusion is all in a tag talk that people can listen to and I don’t need to go back over that but is I really believe in creating a world where anybody can belong, not fit in and not try to be exacted to belong in their own unique and beautiful way and if that sounds cliché well so be it.


Perito:     No, I don’t think it does.


CC:            I believe we’re all equally unique and valuable and I think the only thing that we have in common as human beings is that we’re different, I think innovation is born from difference, I fundamentally, and this is where I become quite emotional, there is nothing that makes me more sad then when I see a child or an adult in the corner of a room being left out, I remember as a kid being in school and watching a child that was bullied, I was bullied in school actually but watching a child be bullied was horrible but worse than that was watching somebody being ignored or invisible and I think that’s a really passionate part of why I do the work I do.  The reason the work that I have done for 28 years it comes from a place of heart, a place of equality, a place of justice, a place for the right for every human, not necessarily to be liked because we can’t all be liked but be respected and be given dignity and to have the barriers removed for them to be who they need to be.  There is nothing that breaks my heart more than somebody not been seen and heard as themselves, we all don’t have to agree but we need to make safe in our world for every one of our opinions, every one of our manifestations of who we are as a person to be allowed to reach fruition and I’m sorry but I do not believe one person is more valuable than another.  There are rules in life like presidents of countries and CEO’s of companies but they are not as human beings more important than anybody else and they’re the people who are in positions of influence and power who can actually ensure that all of our voices are heard and all of our lives can be meaningful, and so that kind of segue ways into what I do because the group of people to which I belong, I’m a person who has a disability I belong to 1.3 billion people tribe in the world who have lived experience of disability and there’s an inequality crisis for this group of people, it is not a minority, disability will touch every single one of our lives and yes there is a crisis of exclusion right across the world no matter where you live in, where you are marginalised, ignored, invisible, you are not served, you are 50% less likely to have a job, 50% more likely to experience poverty if you are a child with a disability, 90% of kids with a disability don’t get to see the inside of a classroom and the reason I do what I do is I believe that that scale of a problem cannot be resolved by Government alone or charities or conventions it needs the most powerful force on this planet which is business and if business includes society includes I believe in that more core principle of inclusive business creates inclusive societies and I believe inclusive leaders create inclusive business end of.

Perito:     (10.06) There’s a lady called Cat Holmes who you may be familiar with and she if I get this right…


CC:            Yes, oh I have a big crush on her.


Perito:     …yeah she’s very good, well she came up in a book about the comment of we’re all just, I’ll paraphrase this, “we’re all just temporarily abled” and I think that’s the great way…


CC:            We are.


Perito:     …to look on this and the fact that yes we’re 7.4 billion unique humans but we’re all temporarily able and I think that’s the mindset change that we just need to be looking that is to say that this impacts on everybody, that leads us onto what you’ve kind of done to bring this to fruition.  (10.37) Dis-valuable 500 also known as the V500 why don’t you give us a bit of an intro on this cos I expect a lot of people will maybe have vaguely heard of this or perhaps not be familiar?


CC:            Well I believe, as I do, that inclusive business creates inclusive societies I want to be really clear, we don’t need, the world of disability does not need for business to do this cos it’s a worthier good thing to do, I believe that the disability community is hugely valuable to business and actually is a really overlooked opportunity for growth and innovation and grand differentiation and talent, it’s a mark with a disposable income of £8 trillion and this market is growing because of Cat Holmes is a great example, we are all temporarily able, every one of us will be at some point and if we look up with 1.3 billion people in the world with a disability and we’re just say there are two people that love us okay, a mum and a dad or that’s 54% of our consumer base.  So based on these principles I was frustrated over the 20 years and we have had huge success, I have to be honest, massive success around the work that we’ve been doing which has been really looking at the opportunity that can be gained between business and the disability communities but I was very frustrated that disability was always been left on the side lines and increasingly I was watching the diversity and inclusion agenda become ridiculous (laughter) I mean just ridiculous, when we were literally cookie cutting up humanity into these categories of gender and race and LGBTQ and I was like what is this craziness, now disability has never really been in anywhere central to business, it really hasn’t but over the last 10 years it has got ridiculous and what was happening with this comm policing agendas, disability was always been left and I hate to tell you but disability doesn’t discriminate it’s everywhere, do you know what I mean, it’s just everywhere and I couldn’t get over the scale of this issue and disability was being left off it.  So we did some research and the research was done by EY first of all and these are the three stats that terrify me, 54% of our governing bodies are the Boards of Business, the Leadership Boards had never had a conversation about disability, yet 90% of our companies were claiming they were passionate about diversity and inclusion, 4% were considering disability, 7% of our CEO’s are leaders had a lived experience of disability yet 4 out of 5 of them were hiding it.  Now there you go, there’s the problem, so the Valuable 500 why did we do it, well let’s be honest, the Valuable 500 exists simply to level the playing fields, it’s to make sure that disability is equally included within the inclusion and sustainability agendas of business.  The second thing its to do is to make sure leaders speak about it, we wanted to get the attention and intention of leaders so we can operationalise disability throughout the business like everything else and lastly, honestly James is to end the inclusion delusion or the ridiculousness of what is going on, now I’m probably very controversial when I say this I actually think the Diversity and Inclusion Agenda should be canned and Inclusion and Belonging should evolve into the sustainability agenda of business and so what the Valuable 500 is was this iconic search for an inclusion revolution that was launched in Davos in 2019 asking for 500 of the world’s most powerful CEO’s and their brands to commit to having a leadership conversation about disability, making a leadership action and communicating that externally with their customers and their employees and by doing that we would build a 500 strong community of leadership that we would work with to use our power and influence to change the system over a period of time to equally include disability, that’s our job.


Perito:     (14.35) I read an interesting article in the FT, it was only a short thing on Beethoven it was a book review actually for a new book that someone released and in it the lady was reported as saying “Beethoven wasn’t as deaf as people thought he was and he could hear from, in his left year from, if you shouted in his left ear quite closely” but what was interesting was that he ended up actually self-isolating for much of his later life primarily because, according to his notes, he got fed up with people looking at him thinking Beethoven you must have amazing hearing because you’re so good at music, what I found interesting about this is that the lady didn’t necessarily isolate that bit this was a social exclusion because of his disability that he felt this way and he isolated himself but it goes to show this affects everybody from high and low with amazing genius skills across the board and I think that adds value to what you’re doing here with the Valuable 500.


CC:            Yeah I think, do you know what I really want to do with the Valuable 500 before Covid and by the way Covid is now actually the greatest opportunity for all of us to reboot or reset the system and I’ve talked about an inclusion revolution that’s what the Valuable 500 was it was a radical revolution around inclusion to say listen we need to be talking about universally inclusive corporate cultures where everybody is included and everybody’s needs, the barriers are removed for everybody to engage with business equally, I mean that’s what this is about, it’s having design led thinking into business and that’s good for business and this is my point is when you value a constituent, when you value human beings you don’t exclude them, disability is a deeply uncomfortable thing that makes all of us feel uncomfortable, I mean I rejected my disability for 11 years, I was in the closet for 11 years from the age of 17 through to the time I was with Excentia as a Management Consultant for 2½ years they didn’t even know I was visually impaired, I hid it because I knew or I felt at the time that actually owning my disability would lessen my chances in life, and let’s be honest I was probably right because if you hear now that you have 4 out of 5 of our 7% of CEO’s are hiding their disability well they’re hiding it for a reason, because disability seems like damage or weak not as a source of innovation or opportunity which I believe it is and let’s just look at some small things like now one is, isn’t it extraordinary that the remote control was designed for blind people okay, to watch television, we don’t watch television, it was designed for blind people we all use the remote control, text messaging was designed for deaf people and I think that’s incredible, look how much we use it.  Let’s even look at Covid right today I think it’s fascinating people with disability have been asking for remote working for a long time and have been using digital and online communication and now the whole world is doing it and for many, many years employers were saying “no we can’t employ disabled people because we don’t do remote working” but look at it now, we’re all doing it, it may not be easy but we’re doing it and I think what the Valuable 500 was trying to do was say we want to look at the most powerful leaders in the world to reset this system and now just before Covid we had 261 of the world’s biggest brands and CEO’s.


Perito:     (17.58) Now these really are big companies aren’t they Caroline these are the Googles and the Microsofts.


CC:            These are huge James, these are the big companies we are talking big companies, the sales force, the PWC’s, the Accenture’s, the KPMG’s, the Barclays, the ITV’s, the BBC’s, champ I mean I can on an on, go onto the website and look at it and it’s the CEO’s signature who signed this, now think about it because we will have to emerge out of Covid, our system is going to have to reboot it, right it has to change so I think oddly here we have these now to 261 CEO’s, we will help them redesign this business system to equally include disability knowing to your points, you said we’ve had exclusion on mainstream how can we use that empathy and compassion and understanding and build it into our systems so we get the most out of our planet and our people, we are our greatest asset how do we do that, so I think right now what I had hoped for was a reboot of a system and that is coming maybe differently then we imagined but the need for it has been amplified by Covid.


Perito:     (19.14) When I was drawing up the questions this is where my thought process started to go because you’ve got 154 days to reach this target, 500 signatures, you’re almost there because you’ve got 261, so then I started thinking about what the staff or the Board at Corporate needed to do to get on board with this but I also thought about what I could to help you get to this point, do you feel that you are going to reach that or do you feel that Covid’s got in the way and is this the time to kind of almost go into supernova with this and gather everybody around to push through to the 500 or what’s your plan with that?


CC:            You know how I feel at the moment, No. 1 is getting companies who are in a crisis to join anything like a campaign or a movement right now is, I wouldn’t have said it’s the order of the day if I was running a business so we originally wanted to close the Valuable 500 in September at the UN General Assembly week in New York, we’re now going to extend that through to the end of January, Davos being the place that we launch the Valuable 500.  So I want to say that for starters because you know one of the things when you try to make big change happen you have to be aware of what’s going on around it, you may not like it but you have to and you have to adjust and be flexible so that’s my one, we’ll move that very quickly.  However, the second thing is it’s given us huge time to really plan and dig out and know what the next phase is going to be so once we’ve built this community of 500 what are we going to do with it.  However, that being said we are getting companies joining the Valuable 500 probably more than we expected during Covid however they don’t want to go public about it and I get that, so what they want to do, and this is very exciting for us, they realise wow we need to get this exclusion situation sorted, we know as a business we’re not going to be able to leave disability out anymore because now it’s here in our faces so what they’re doing is joining quietly because they want to be part of this very precious and very unique global community of 500 brands and CEO’s that together in safety in numbers they can learn and share from each other and reset their businesses as a community.  So what I think is happening what I didn’t plan is, they’re interested, they’re talking to us, some are joining now, some will join towards I say the last quarter of this year but what they’re doing is they want to get ahead into a peer led community where they can learn from each other and actually move forward.  So do I think Covid is getting in the way? Yes, maybe from the impatient side of me in building the 500 community.


Perito:     (laughter) Yeah I can relate to that.


CC:            Do I think we’re going to be success, yeah, do I think we’re going to be successful, well you know, everybody who knows me knows I’m the most impatient person on the planet so I think I’m a little scared honestly, I think actually we probably are going to have much bigger responsibility in the world then I ever even thought so.  When I started the Valuable 500 and the story of how this came about is the most extraordinary story but when I think about it I know everybody knew that we needed this, I mean the disability world, the business world, everybody said “we need to get business leadership engaged but there’s no way you’ll do it Caroline, you can’t do it, you’re too ahead of your time, can you just not continue to do what you’ve done really well and do that” and I was like “no because we need accelerated change” and everybody thought I was crazy and let’s be honest I am crazy but we did it and I have Paul Pearlman as my Chairperson, I mean everybody thought he was crazy about sustainability and I have Virgin Media and Geoff Dodds and we have Omnicom and One Young World, I’ve got some great partners, 85 partners around the world, we built this on nothing with nothing, I had to re-mortgage my home, like we built this and then we made history and then we got it but I didn’t think that we were going to have the responsibility that I think is going to fall on the shoulders of the Valuable 500, I think it’s going to be a global game changer and I don’t know how I feel about that yet, I’m so inviting of people telling or giving their advice on what they’ve learnt on building a global movement and what they think we should do, I’m scared you can hear it in my voice, I’m incredibly excited in some ways I’m overwhelmed but I know that somehow we’re are in the right place and the right time and I don’t have answers to all of the problems but I do believe and I think, the reason I’m so appreciative talking to you is I think we are at this moment in time it’s very painful and people with disabilities are really being overlooked and it’s very scary but in this time we have to take the good out of it and we have to find out what we can do to ensure this never happens again and I think we have the right tools, the right leaders and the right moment and I think my biggest call out now is for the greatest thinkers and the greatest designers to do design led thinking with us in what we can do to remove the barriers and to remove the excuses and to make it easy for people to make sure.


Perito:     (24.16)  Cos I think from my side having seen how the Coronavirus issues have panned out that it has caused that, and you mentioned about the working from home, the electronic communication, there’s no reason why there wouldn’t be a whole population who can operate effectively from home now because the framework is in place to do that so the barriers that may have been in people’s minds or shall we say the excuses or the justifications, the unconscious bias that led to those decisions have now been overruled, they’ve been proven to be incorrect and overcome.  I agree I think you guys are in a place to really punch through and see where it can go.  (24.49) With that in mind how can listeners help the Valuable 500 achieve its goal, what can the people who aren’t CEO’s and signature C suite and Board level in companies do to help you?


CC:            Well ever persons engages with business don’t we, it doesn’t, you don’t have to be Richard Branson to be able to make this change happen of course the Valuable 500 is finding 500 of the most influential leading brands and their CEO’s but who do those brands and CEO’s listen to, they listen to the consumers, they listen to the next generation talent that they want to employ or retain and they care about their brands so I think what I ask everybody to do, no matter where you are, if you’re working in an organisation see if your company is a Valuable 500 company, if not then ask the question, as a consumer you can do the same.  I mean the big thing is to get people saying, “yeah we want our company to be part of that”, catalytic group that will recess our business system that will equally include anyone and I want to be really clear that disability, I’m not asking for disability to be petted more than anybody else, not at all, I actually, I just, I want that all of those completing agendas to be evened out to a continue of inclusion, so that’s how everybody can help just get it out, ask your employer or ask the customer you do, you know the company you do business with or the brand that you do business with, “have you heard of the Valuable 500?  Are you going to join and if not why not?” and I think that’s what you can do for me.


Perito:     (26.15) Good book, I don’t know if you read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, there’s one of the main characters is called Hank Rearden and in the book he talks about essentially the free economy because a lot of they’re called looters these companies that started to take from places then and overtime in the book, without spoiling for everybody, it’s a little like at the moment actually the seismic shift that people are waiting for happens towards the end of the book and essentially the world collapses and they can rebuild it, what’s interesting about the Hank Rearden that he’s got the mentality of, “if you don’t want to buy from me then I will suffer as a result of that and the free market, the free decision making that people have got you can decide collectively and I will be judged based on that” and that is why Hank Rearden is such a great guy in the novel because he has that approach and general message out there to everybody’s use your collective buying power get together and say “look actually we’re purchasing, we have to make the right decisions alongside you” is that fundamentally it?


CC:            Yeah, I think we’re all allies for each other aren’t we?  Isn’t that the one thing that we’ve learnt in this is that we are all interconnected and actually what we do affects other people so all I’m asking for is, you know isn’t there that old analogies like “treat people the way you wanted to be treated like yourself” because it will be you, you are future proofing your world and the business system, if you don’t yet experience disability to Cat Holmes you will at some point.  Your future proofing your world that you work in and that you buy from for yourself and I think that’s really important so just for allies for each other, not everybody’s passion is going to be disability inclusion not at all but I think all of us have the passion for human inclusion and I think that’s how we can do it, it’s just a question, can you ask the question, that’s a really good way because if you were a person who acquires a disability your world will change and because at the moment the world is not designed with significant difference to belong and what I will say right now as a visually impaired person, severely visually impaired person I am really, really, really feeling isolated because of the constant level of Zoom or different platforms that exist they are not fully accessible and I’m on a screen nearly 12 hours a day right now and I think, I feel like a digital introverse and I now understand I’m so sorry for anybody I never had the compassion or the empathy for but it must be like if you’re an introvert in a crowded room, I feel like that online now and I can’t see, so I think we’re all learning aren’t we, (laughter) just all leaning that we all don’t have the same experience but I need to hear, I think the business systems and the world that we to need design needs to try and make room for as many of our different lived experiences.  So I’m an ally for anybody who experiences a sense of isolation, you don’t have to have a disability for that, you don’t, but I will always ally for somebody who has a sense of isolation or a sense of being left out and that’s what I ask for the Valuable 500 too.


Perito:     (29.19) Did you feel that sort of experience when you went to Davos recently because there must have been a whole array of different people of lots of different agendas when you went to talk about the progress of the V500, how did it go and were you kind of just do your thing and then leave or were you kind of mingling and talking to lots of different people?


CC:            You know I live in this really strange world and the thing is unfortunately I had a really, really big cry about my eyesight over the weekend so this is very raw for me at the moment.  I have spoken about my vision quite maybe as much as I’m feeling how hard I’m struggling because of how the world is designed.

Perito:     Well Caroline, don’t feel like you have to if you don’t want to. We can cover other things.


CC:            No I mean don’t be silly it’s very important probably now, I mean gosh it’s important to talk about it I don’t feel it’s a bad thing to be honest about when you are feeling more vulnerable, I feel very vulnerable at the moment and I think that’s okay.  I’m 5’ 8”, I’m very pale, I’ve got blonde hair and I use a cane so I definitely use the cane but I use the cane in certain circumstances, a white cane for my sight but in Davos if my cane is not in my hands and I’m using a sighted guide or a colleague to be with which I do in Davos I have a colleague around me, you will have no idea that I can’t see, and then you will watch my personality because I learnt as a young child when I didn’t know I was visually impaired that I realised, because I could hear very well and I heard that when people were loud that seemed to make something, that sound was very important to me so I use my voice a lot or I reach out and touch you and I’m a big hugger, like I love hugging right, so I’ve learnt how to compensate for lack of sight by being more vocal or more verbal and very huggy.  So I went to this Davos situation and there’s so many people around I cannot see one person and their badge but I look like I can see.


Perito:     (laughter) Yeah.


CC:            And everybody is like going so I’m a complete disconnect, like I don’t make sense to myself or to anybody else but what I can definitely tell you I love people, I love hugging, I hope I hug the right person but I’m exhausted trying to see and trying to cope when I can’t and that’s the next phase of my sort of journey around vision and permit that I have to do because I don’t know how to let go of this sort of caricature of myself that I’ve built up but I definitely need to change the way I work and Davos was a really big trigger for this year cos I really struggled and this Covid situation it’s a really big trigger for me again and I know now I have to give in and I have to say I need help, I have to because it happens every few years and here we are again.


Perito:     (32.08)  But that’s part of growing isn’t it the experience adds up and then you can learn, improve, learn, improve and keep on going but you must have found in some degree with Davos that you didn’t have the same, so if I turned up there I would be mega nervous the whole time and then hopefully I wouldn’t say the wrong thing or something but this situation it sounds like you were almost freer to engage because you weren’t restricted by what I would bring, my own barriers that I would put up.  Was that the case or was it just…


CC:            Oh no not at all.  No oh my gosh no I over compensate, listen when I’m frightened and I’m nervous and I feel vulnerable and scared I over compensate, I try to deflect, I try to distract because it’s hard, you don’t want people to see that your nervous or your scared and from a very young age I’ve learnt how to be the world’s greatest deflector and that’s exhausting, it’s really tiring and I know I went to Davos probably just as nervous you have at a lot of weight sitting on my shoulders, can I also say I’m only one of a team of 7 people who I want to make sure that I do them proud for all the work that they’ve done and our partners and people who’ve believed in me, no I think the more nervous I get the more I nearly reach outside myself and for anybody who has done therapy or anything like that knows that that’s not very good and as I grow older I am learning how to be a little bit honest and I will say my life the way I live my life and the pace I live my life because I’m over compensating can’t really continue and I’m adjusting at the moment but I loved Davos I will say for one reason this year, can I just tell you I felt very proud coming back a year later after launching this, this iconic campaign that people behind closed doors were like who on earth does she think she is, so I went back with a very proud and happy heart, yeah so I think that probably was my.


Perito:     (34.10) With the successes that you’ve got?


CC:            Oh just so proud of the people I work with and for not giving up and every time that you come up against a barrier we’d find a way to remove it and then I think the sense of achievement I’ve very very rarely said in my life that I’m proud of myself and I think a lot of people might look at what I’ve done and go what do you mean, that you’re not proud of the things you’ve done, I think I was more proud and I am more proud of not giving up on the Valuable 500 of flexing constantly and always having to try and think on my feet and pivot and move with our team to try to make it happen it’s yeah, I was probably more proud and excited in Davos this year and that certainly compensated for the nerves that were real, they were real, they were real.  I’m still worried offending somebody like I can’t see your face James so if you walked past me.

                   I’ll give you laugh, I really, really want to meet Tim Cook of Apple like I really do cos Apple is the greatest justification for why I do what I do, I mean Apple is the company that first triggered a trillion, it’s the first brand in the world and based right in its DNA is universal design and inclusive thinking like I mean this is the company I want to meet, I am not joking you, I bumped shoulders with the person and I was like oh no I’ve just bumped into somebody and as I went on 2’ on my colleague turned around and said “that was Tim Cook why didn’t you say hello?”, and I’m going “because I can’t see if that’s Tim Cook”.


Perito:     (laughter) Yes, you’re not helping me here throw me a bone.


CC:            Yeah so there’s two things wrong with that I couldn’t see him and secondly my colleague is supposed to be my eyesight, he’s supposed to tell me that’s Tim Cook so I can go and talk to Tim Cook and the thing is I could have had that conversation because that’s whether you like Davos or not Davos is that kind of place, I met Sharon Sandberg for example, this is the kind of, their the meetings that you have, if there’s one place in the world you’re going to bump into somebody it’s there and the thing is I need people to tell me that I’ve just bumped into that person so I can go and talk to them, but I didn’t look like the girl who couldn’t see Tim Cook but I couldn’t see Time Cook.

Perito:     (36.19) But that’s a perfect example of a hidden disability and peoples, the biases that people, the ability bias that Cat Holmes talks about a lot and transferring…

CC:            Yeah.


Perito:     (36.28)…just because people see things you can’t allow that to mand?? out to the CEO’s out there are making these decisions, that’s a great example you just can’t assume and a great example.


CC:            No you can’t and 80% listen let’s, can we just call this to be true, first to all about that 1.3 billion people who have a lived experience of disability 80% of that is invisible and 80% of that is acquired between the ages of 18 and 64 so there’s so much statistics and data that we don’t know and understand around disability because we haven’t invested the resources that are required to know about this and because it’s disability has been seen, this constant the survival of the fitness, disability has been seen as not that and this narrative around inspiration or charity or weakness and damage, there’s so many confused ideas that are conjured up in our mind about disability and I think the biggest thing that we’re all relating to now is invisible disability that if you were to look at me or my sister who has exactly the same condition you’d go “what, what are you talking about those two girls are visually impaired and registered blind”, you wouldn’t believe us and so it’s take us a long time as young girls growing into young women and middle aged women now because we were so scared to ask for help because we would think that you would feel we were trying to get attention and so this limbo land of invisible disability is exhausting, exhausting and I get very upset.


Perito:     (37.58) Well just like Beethoven he was very exhausted by it he just went and lived in his own house and isolated himself.


CC:            Yes so can I tell you, you told that story in the beginning and I could feel my heart start to beating and going I understand that because some days walking outside our house when I look like I can see and the very simple thing of walking into a shop and not being able to see and having to say I can’t see and go through it all again, it’s like I have to come out of the closet every day several times a day and that becomes exhausting and so, so yes I understand Beethoven becoming incredibly tired that’s the tire and then on the other side of the hand is biker chick adventure personality who wants to do it all and fix it all for everybody else and make the world happier, I am a people pleaser, or disease to please in my nature so there’s a lot going on in that which makes me just very human but I can definitely tell you one thing I am not inspiring and I certainly haven’t inspiring because I have a visual impairment or a disability I’m just a stubborn old goat who wants to make sure that we remove barriers so that we can all belong in our unique and individual ways and it’s really possible and Covid has shown us that and often I believe if you get a handful, a handful of influential compassionate committed leaders, just need a handful man, just a handful, you can change it but if you don’t have those leaders you can’t.

Perito:     (39.18)  We need a handful who will suddenly start making good profits and then the profits will change for more changes and then everyone else will be going “why are they doing so well” and then all the good ideas pop up because there’s innovation diversity across the design board, you’re not just buying from the same pot and then all of a sudden they’re making even more money and so on and so forth and that’s how it really should have always been but it’s good and I don’t think you’re a stubborn old girl I would describe you as a social reformer, this is the words I would use, that what your trying to do.


CC:            (laughter) I don’t what I am but one of the things that I would say to you is, you know when we talk about disability inclusion we don’t talk about it simply as employment we talk about the consumer piece more than anything and I just want to refer to Netflix for a second, do you know that Netflix was one of the first online content platforms that was accessible and when they did, when it created, first of all it was accessible so in its captioning and the way it streamed its work but secondly it started to have disability programming and can I just tell you it didn’t do that cos it was being worthy right, it did that for a competitive edge because it copped on there’s 54% of a consumer base that would be interested in it, so I think that’s really interesting to me that they did that and then you look at because then everybody needs to know they needed competitive edge so you’re right, so when brands start realising that real full human inclusion in the way its designed its business, its services and the way employees gives it a competitive edge then it will follow, that’s when we’re going to see a mass change, is that those first earlier doctors, those really brave pioneers in this space which Apple was around the inclusive design piece that’s the trigger and then let’s watch the momentum of the disease to get to a critical mass.


Perito:     (41.01) Well I was thinking about this cos I lot around the built environment as well and I was thinking about construction and construction like your designing a house is made up of lots of different products and those products have to be carefully designed, materials, the science behind it but construction of your house is not seen as a product and it’s seen as a unit or a result or just a Specification and end goal but if people in construction saw things as a product they would be better able to look at it and see how they can make money by designing for the most customers.


CC:            Yeah.


Perito:     (41.35) And I think it’s just that adjustment isn’t just the tweaking in mindset just to say what you’ve been thinking of all these years is wrong.


CC:            It’s tweaking, it’s so true listen it is something your listeners should do go and look at the Ikea ad that actually won the Canne Dor which is the Oscar of advertising, if anybody wants to go and watch something brilliant, well actually there’s two thing is want your listeners to watch, watch that there’s an Ikea ad which is talking about how they were democratising furniture and making tweaks to their furniture design that would include the disability market space, now they weren’t making new things just tweaking their furniture so democratising it’s so they could have more consumers I mean brilliant.  Look at what Lego did when they brought out the little Lego figurine in a wheelchair, look at democratising it, look at what the Barbie dolls, this is not rocket science it’s tweaking it and the other thing I would love your listeners to look at just, it’s a 2 minute film it’s #diverseish it’s on You Tube go and have a look at it and because we’re having conversations with people like, you are starting to have these broader conversations nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong we don’t have all the answers with this but it’s about expanding our mindset, it’s about enlarging our market spaces, it’s about not feeling threatened, it’s about making people feel comfortable to not know the answers, not shaming people, not shouting at people but trying to open a safe place for our businesses, our communities, our societies to kind of, how do we do this like how do we do it and that’s why I love the Ikea and the Lego and Barbie examples because it’s just building on expanding opening our minds to think about how can we include more people because business makes more money, more people are included, there’s a cost to exclusion within our societies, there’s a cost to inclusion in our exchequers and it’s just not morally right but it’s insane to leave a business on your doorstep why would you do that.


Perito:     (43.40) Well particularly under duress of the client that we’re in at the moment where every penny is a prisoner yeah that’s very interesting.


CC:            Yeah and I really wonder, I really wonder if I’m right or if I’m just being ridiculous that I do not believe diversity in an inclusion agendas are the future, I believe if we’re looking at making our business world inclusive inclusion, full human inclusion needs to be part of the sustainability index which is reported at the highest level of Boards and no lived experience can be left out, you’re not going to get it all right but you need to keep asking again and again and again, it is no longer acceptable.  If we come out of all of this excluding people, I really wonder what on earth have we learned, no human being is more important than the other.


Perito:     (44.34) Well following on from that I’ll skip ahead to a question further down then so I feel at the moment that the Coronavirus has given momentum for these changes to occur particularly in the workplace and our homes and we’ve kind of covered that off, what does that vision look like for you and to see what will come out of this current Covid-19 crisis?  We’ve touched on a couple of points.


CC:            Well I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, well the most important thing I need to tell you after this crisis I have got to hug somebody, I am hugging trees, so like I do hug my tree, so I think what we’ve learnt is, first of all human beings are communal and we’re social, we’re doing our very very best and we’re showing that systems adapt, we’re showing that systems change, so knowing that systems change then we need to fix our broken systems that exclude and there is no excuses, none, there are no excuses for that anymore, we know our systems can adapt, we know when we want to, they need to change.  The second thing is that we really need to understand, I believe, that we are as a race we co-exist as human beings, human beings we are not numbers, we’re not widgets we’re human and I hope that we have all leant a sense of collective exclusion so we have the empathy and compassion and I hope that we use that really well, and I think thirdly, more importantly, I wonder what will our leaders, what will we expect of our leaders, like lot will our CEO’s, I’m going to just talk about business leaders, what skills are those leaders going to have to have.  They’re certainly going to be very different skills then before and I’m just really interested in what leadership looks like post Covid because it’s going to have to be, I believe, a far more balance between the head and the heart, it definitely is going to have to have the human and the economic at either side we are going to have to rebalance that in play.  I’m really interested in what, how do we help our leaders, I’m really interested as I say about that inclusion means inclusion for all and everyone and I just wonder that it’s going to take time because I do want to be mindful that every year how many people die of Diabetes or Cancer or diseases in the global south that never stopped our global economy.


Perito:     Yes, very interesting point.


CC:            I’m very scared about that, I don’t know how anybody else feels but this crisis is around us okay, this is horrible, I’ve nearly lost a brother because of it, a 41 year old incredibly healthy young man he nearly died right and I have friends who are losing people but I also before Covid how many millions of people are dying without me knowing, without us knowing, that didn’t stop our economy, what does that mean for the world that I’ve been colluding in around inclusion.


Perito:     (47.24)  There’s another comment about it in the FT for Saturday at the weekend where some American General, this is back in a couple of years ago, I’ll have to refer to back to the author later but he was apparently speaking to a General and he said if we could prove that the Zika virus carrying mosquitos were actually Isis controlled mini-drones we could get as much funding as we wanted and that harps back nicely to what you were saying in terms of Malaria, in terms of all these other things how does that play it, why is this one particularly different?


CC:            Yes well why and I think what has blown my mind a bit through this time I can’t help thinking was I colluding that our world was trying to be equal because I’ve realised now actually did I do enough, was a lost in own inclusion bubble around disability inclusion when actually there were people dying under my nose, in my world, in the millions, in the millions and the millions and millions and they continue to do whether it’s through conflict or disease or poverty.  Why didn’t we just globally stop that so they’re questions are going on in my head at the moment which have I no answers for that make me feel not very proud of myself as well.  I’ve been going down this angle and people might say well you can only do your bit and your whatever and yes I know that but I just have lots of questions I think, lots of questions but I don’t have answers.


Perito:     (48.50) I think my conclusion drawn on it was that the mistake I’ve possibly made with this is to only to start looking at inclusive environments from a social distancing because of this particular issue but you need something to ignite that spark and what you’ve got with the Valuable 500 is a tool to go out there and effectively weaponise the inclusion diversity gender and to get it into these companies that need help to make the transitions so although you are right in the fact that it’s probably incorrect that we’ve only just started to have these discussions based on something that’s a Pandemic now but actually it almost doesn’t matter because the end result here is that the change has to happen and you mentioned about changed management at the beginning, change only really happens when people want it to and at the moment with the Covid-19 my belief is that this is an excellent opportunity because people are looking for change and the Valuable 500 can happen.


CC:            Well I hope so but I also think we need to be mindful and when you want change to happen and being a changed management consultant which essentially one of the things is you also need to take people, me included, where we are and acknowledging where people are and accepting where people are, human beings by our very nature are tribal and topologically we are tribal, we know we like the same so inclusion is going to be, I mean real inclusion is going to be, let’s not deny it, it’s going to be hard because it requires us to be less selfish and me absolutely included in that right and I think it’s hard and I think until we own it it’s really really hard and I think we have to be gentle with ourselves in knowing that and then also not gentle with ourselves, do you know what I mean, because I think we fear that if I give you I take away from myself, currently our world is based on a scarcely model and inclusion, real human inclusion cannot flourish with a scarcely mindset, we must be allies for each other and that is a lovely sentence to say but it’s really hard to do so every small whim we need to jump up and down and high 5 ourselves on cos we’ve gotta just build on success cos it’s hard.


Perito:     (51.01) Absolutely agree and the ?? focus is a great way of looking at it.  So thinking from an inclusive design point of view then so Ann as a partially person what do you feel has been the greatest challenges that we haven’t talked about so far just setting up your company that’s Binc and running the Valuable 500 as well?


CC:            My greatest challenge without a shadow of a doubt is myself, I think I can honestly tell you is we all are better when we are being ourselves, and that Oscar Wilde quote that my husband and my father constantly quoted at me, be yourself cos everybody else is taken, your greatest challenge in anything that you do is where you on this self-acceptance journey, the more you know and are aware of yourself and accept who you are that is to me, that’s the dew dew that’s the sweet spot for sure so I would say to you that as a leader and a founder of several organisations I definitely I think I get better (laughter) like why I get better as I get holder I hope so I think that’s the No. 1 thing.  The second thing is we were very much all of our work is being very pioneering, very green site, very ahead of its time and I think getting funding for our work has been very very difficult hence re-mortgaging the house and thirdly I think the other challenge but also the kind of cool part of it, you know when you’re doing something that nobody else has really done you kind of and if you really believe in it because I really, really, really believe in our works as with all of teamwork fantastic really believe in it, there’s something very very exciting about pushing through when nobody else really sees it, do you know what I mean.


Perito:     I do yes.


CC:            There is something, I’m the entrepreneur there, at times it’s desperately lonely, god almighty it’s so much nicer when everybody agrees with you (laughter) they think you’re great but actually I really, listen I know in my heart this is part of a solution so in a way I’ve nothing to lose really do I, I’ve nothing to lose because you’re only building on something that’s so unique and new and I’ve stopped taking everything as I’ve grown older so personally I take my work very very seriously, I just don’t take myself as maybe seriously as I would, like I would have thought every failure that I ever had before was cos I was shit or something do you know what I mean, I’ve now been able to detach my work from myself so my work and my, which I’m very passionate about as you can hear, it’s what I do it’s not who I am and that’s a very healthy place to be in now.


Perito:     (53.44) Well it is a special achievement the Valuable 500, Binc and everything that you have done in the past has been driven by your stubbornness, your blend of ambition and aim and your kind of your go get it attitude so it’s interesting as you say you’re getting older, your being able to kind of almost diversify your own skill set out there as well.


CC:            Yeah and I think if you were to say what’s in my secret bag of tricks I could definitely tell you I have lived a very difficult life, I’ve actually had quite a lot of trauma which I don’t speak about and I don’t make that my story it’s irrelevant but it is where I’ve learnt my greatest, my greatest secret weapon is the life I’ve gone through which has actually got nothing to do with my eyesight, they always it’s to do with my eyesight it’s not, so I have kind of flexed that grit muscle, I’m highly creative that it does help greatly and I do believe in magic, (laughter) I do believe in the phosphorus which is like this, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it but if you swim in certain seas around the world and my favourite is off the coast of Crete, you can swim at night in the sea and you shake the water and it lights up and that’s phosphor essence and I love that and that to me is the hope in the world.  So that’s my kind of ingredient for success.


Perito:     (55.06) So the tools that you’ve used and the barriers that you’ve come across how could they have been designed better to help meet your needs and I’m thinking more from maybe Caroline as probably a younger person perhaps now rather then where you are now and what were the worse ones and why were they bad?


CC:            Glass doors bad, can you put marks on glass doors, things that have become brilliant is when I go into certain shopping into supermarkets now I can have people who are sighted to help you shop, I have to say Google Maps as being the best thing of all time.


Perito:     (laughter) It’s handy.


CC:            Having a camera on my phone so I can take pictures of it so I can see things when I never could see things, it would be really nice when you into a takeaway or you know like when you’re trying to, you know the way that menus are often behind people and they don’t have a hold menu like seriously would you just not have a menu so that I can actually read I don’t understand, let’s be honest.


Perito:     Do you not want to sell this.


CC:            Yeah like really do you not want my customer space.  I also know learnt through doing the Valuable 500 that when I use to do videos, I’m really bad at social media by the way which is dreadful for a campaigner, why was I not captioning my videos, how horrendously exclusionary was I so I found this thing called Clipomatic. It’s brilliant. so I was actually doing captioning videos like why would I exclude somebody from a conservation so as far as I’m concerned every single piece of communication online needs to be captioned for people who have hearing impairments but more importantly if you’re in an environment where you can’t have your sound on anybody could read it and also for people who don’t have the same language like simple things like that’s amazing.  The other thing that I think that has really really helped is training when teams of people are trained, for example in airports, on aeroplanes or in gyms, another great one, if you go in and you say “listen I’m visually impaired” and the team have been trained to know what a visually impaired person is brilliant, they’re not scared of you and so they help you and we just get on with the business of training, do you know what I mean and the last thing most importantly is seeing visually impaired or people with disabilities in the media talking about who they are, what they are and anything but disability it’s amazing how much that can change things and so that means you need to have the accessible online technology, yeah.


Perito:     (57.26) Good list yeah thank you very much for that that’s great, so drawing to a close then so I’ve kind of left the last question a bit open so basically any final things you’d like to add on, any topic at all, any kind of observations, you can sing a song if you like or you can whatever you like, anything that springs to mind?


CC:            A few things I would suggest to anybody who is interested in inclusive design Cat Holmes, yeah I love her, you’ve got to listen, you’ve got to, follow that lady she’s amazing.  I would also suggest anybody around the issue of vulnerability you’ve heard me speaking about vulnerability a bit today and I think we talk about inclusion, inclusion has to start with yourself alright, regardless whether you’re a designer, an architect, a business person, it doesn’t matter you have to be inclusive with yourself so I would say understanding who you are and what you are and vulnerability, Brené Brown I know she’s talked about a lot but please just, she’s incredible and I think that’s a place where I’ve got an awful lot of resource recently and a song (laughter) the song that just comes to mind when I think about, I wish I could sing to you, I love singing but I can’t but I wish I could is sometimes when you’re doing something and you’ve, when you’re trying to make something happen and you can’t, you can kind of feel a little lost and there’s this beautiful song that I’ve been listening to recently called “I say” and it breaks my heart.


Perito:     (50.00) Who is it by?


CC:            I’ll have to find out whose it by now for you.


Perito:     I’ll add it to the directory.


CC:            (59.10) I think it’s a lady called Lauren. That’s a typical Caroline Casey thing. This song makes me feel that I can fly and so I often think finding a song just to bring you back or reading a book or taking a walk outside, when you’re trying to make change happen it is hard and that’s okay because if it was so easy somebody would have done it before and so when you feel a bit lost and you feel like you’re going to give up go find your thing, find your song, find your run, find your ice cream, find your film, find your friend, hug a tree and for anybody right now whose feeling a little disconnected even though we’re supposed to feel all connected (laughter) I really do suggest you might hug a tree or lie on the grass if you can because it makes it all feel a little bit better and the last part I guess I want to say is for anybody whose losing or has lost somebody through this Pandemic I just want to say I’m really sorry having lost a father very recently and missing him deeply at the moment, take your time, be where you are and I’m very sorry that that’s and I have real compassion for what anybody’s going through right now.


Perito:     Thank you Caroline that’s great so I’ll draw the podcast to a close, so thank you for joining us today Caroline.


CC:            Thank you so much.


Perito:     It’s been really good to hear about everything you’ve done with the Valuable 500 but also for the attention and the effort you put into the podcast as well, I’m definitely impressed by the progress you’ve made with it in such a short space of time and the fact that you can go to all these big events and really push it out there and you’re actually making change happen so it’s really impressive and I know everyone will want to see what they can do to help out, so if listeners want to find out more or perhaps they work for a business that could be a signatory then head over to Caroline’s website that’s I’ll add the details to the transcript and the podcast introduction information too along with the name of the artist for that song, so don’t worry if you missed that out as well.  You’ve been tuning into the Perito Podcast Our World without Boundaries thanks for listening everyone everywhere.


Our World. Without Boundaries Podcast Ep4 In The ‘Inclusive Designer Series’ With Gavin Neate of Neatebox

In this episode of the Inclusive Designer Series we hear from Gavin Neate of Neatebox who talks about his experiences with as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, founder of Neatebox and why it is essential that we always think critically when it comes to problem solving in order to develop the best new products and innovation.

Perito: Welcome to the Perito Podcast Our World Without Boundaries. A Podcast all about creating inclusive environments and about helping us all become expert at identifying exclusion and creating an inclusive and accessible world for everyone, everywhere.  Perito believes that we are all designers in some capacity even if we aren’t the Principal Designers like Town Planners or Architects.  This podcast is out there to help everyone become a community expert and recognise exclusion and someone who can then contribute to a design process and make or advise on creating better inclusive design decisions.

The podcast will help listeners learn from the day to day experiences and challenges of our interviewees and the topics we cover so that we all have a greater understanding of what can exclude people from participating and what can be done to create our world without boundaries.

Now in this episode we’re really pleased to be joined by Gavin Neate who will be talking to us today about a variety of subjects including mobility, technology and his company Neatebox.

(0.55) Welcome Gavin how are you?


GN: Truly awesome to be here I couldn’t be happier to be involved in the Perito Podcast, you guys are obviously covering an area which will become apparent as to how close that is to my heart and how important I feel the work that you’re doing is.


Perito: (1.14) Oh thanks for saying so I just had myself on mute there (laughter) which is a good start, let’s find out a little bit more about who you are, so tell us a little bit about who you and your background?


GN: Yeah so my name’s Gavin Neate I joined Military Police when I was 17½, I spent 10 years in the Royal Airforce as a Military Police Dog Handler, in 1996 I left the forces and joined Guide Dogs for the Blind where I trained for 3 years to become a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. A Guide Dog Mobility Instructor is the person who trains the person how to use the dog, so yeah everybody goes “oh wow you must love puppies then” I’m like “no not really” my real passion was for, and I liken it to Lewis Hamilton being pit crew, my real passion was preparing the dog, handing the dog over to the person, helping the person get the most from the dog and then watching them go off down the road and it was amazing job, I absolutely loved it, I did it for 18 years and I had never intended to leave, I had never intended to be a businessman, I didn’t want to have a business, it was not anything that I had aspired to doing but I’m just really, really lucky that I had the opportunity to do it so yeah that’s where I am as a businessman.


Perito: (2.26) One of the earlier podcasts I did was with a lady called Jill Allen-King and she’s been blind since the age of 24 I think it was, one of the early questions is she pointed that how her, she’s had 7 or 8 guide dogs over her lifetime and in the recent few they’re a lot more treat based training she was saying.  So essentially the dog gets a treat almost every 5 seconds.  It gets to the end of a pavement and we’ll have a treat and then it goes up here and have a treat whereas she felt some of the earlier guide dogs including maybe 5 of the 8, maybe 6 of the 8 had been much more, I don’t want to say professionally trained because I honestly don’t understand it enough but perhaps they had been trained in a different way which meant that more time had been spent, (3.10) do you recognise that or is it something perhaps that might just have been applicable to Jill’s dogs?


GN:  It’s a really interesting question this is very much the way that dog training is going just now which is food reward.  It’s all very much positive reinforcement but it does require the dog to have or the handler to have a pocket full of treats and the dog to constantly get rewarded whenever it achieves one of the small goals.  Now I was a dog trainer in total 28 years and I very seldom use treats as a reward, I used praise as a reward. So you get to a park and the dog gets a free run so there’s the reward in getting to the park or whatever it might be so I didn’t use it, that said it’s a little bit like that moment in Life of Brian where somebody says “follow the gourd” and somebody says “follow the sandal”, the truth is you can achieve different goals both routes, neither route is wrong it’s just that one route might be more difficult than the other to achieve now I think when it came to dog training the food reward is kind of push back against the idea that we used any kind of dominance theory or pack leadership theory and it kind of pushed back against that, a lot of people might say that it pushed too far and now you end up with dogs that are just focussed on treats all the time and if we liken that just for a second to children you could say to yourself well is it better having a child who knows where the boundaries are and knows that if they go over those boundaries then they might be in trouble or are you better off having the child that is constantly looking for a reward from you for achieving something that you wanted it to achieve and I always think to myself I kind of like the boundary thing. I always liked the way that my dogs worked for me because they wanted to work, or they wanted the praise not as it would be if I was a Mobility Instructor now, it would be my dogs are working for me because they want the treat.  So I totally understand it, I’m reluctant to ever say one is wrong and one is right because when you do that you start getting yourself into a position where you’ve become partisan and I think we already know without pointing any fingers in any directions just how becoming partisan is probably not a good idea, society is far too separate because of I’m right and you’re wrong type politics.


Perito: (5.25) Following on from that, one of the things Jill was pointing out is extra costs because the extra costs of having to feed these animals, I’m 6’ 5” and I always look at these big dogs and think I’m kind of like that version or this version of me cos they’re big dogs and strong and they must be going through an awful lot of treats and Jill’s there obviously struggling with the financial costs of having a disability anyway and then this treat based dog mobility thing comes in so while I agree with you about not going too far down this there are, straightaway, interesting nuances.


GN: I think it’s all about being positive, I don’t think I was ever that negative with my dogs I just created boundaries and bringing it back to children for a second you could say, “here’s a chocolate bar for you because you’ve been great today and you’ve cleaned your room “ or you can say, “come on let’s go to the park and play football” and I guess over a period of time humans, children, because I believe they are would actually be going “do you know what I wish I could go out and play football” that’s the bit I’ll remember, that’s the bit that I remember of the relationship I had with my parent it wasn’t the amount of times they gave me a chocolate bar.


Perito: (6.35) Yeah that’s a good observation.  So next question then is do you prefer The People’s Front Of Judea or the Judean People’s Front?


GN: (6.41) To be honest both of them what can I say.


Perito: (6.43) (laughter) So you’ve covered off a little bit a life and career before starting your company Neatebox so are there maybe a couple of comments or thoughts about that perhaps you haven’t covered in the last couple of ??segments??6.55 that you wanted to go over again?


GN: Oh yeah, definitely so if you look at the situation, I was a Guide Dog Mobility Officer from 1996 onwards. In 2003 I started getting involved in technology because people were turning up with GPS on their shoulders and their phone was starting to talk to them in different ways, the 2006 iPhone bought out voice control which meant phones were talking to you which was just, to all intents and purposes just a glass screen as we’ve got now but the phone was actually interacting through voice so that the blind person could interact with it and because I got really excited about technology and mobility and guide dogs. I started realising that this smart technology was going to be very much a part of people’s lives and then I started thinking about ways that the smart technology could address some of the issues that my clients were having on a day to day basis and the very first one, which I’ll talk about in a second, was a pedestrian crossing system operated by smartphones.


Perito: (7.50) We’ll come to the product side of things later because that will be interesting to chat through. What are the top things you learnt as a Mobility Instructor that you carried through to the design and development work with the Neatebox products.


GN: So interestingly when you are a Mobility Instructor, your job, initially, is to be on the person’s shoulder and to explain to them how they should interact with their dog but ultimately you need to be not there at all, you don’t go from being on their shoulder to not there what you do is, is you increase the distance between you and your client over a period of time as they become more comfortable and confident with giving the instructions to the dogs and reading the dog’s behaviours you are further away but that means that you get to see them from a distance, you get to see the world that they live in and the world that they have to interact with in order to be independently mobile and because you’re increasing the distance from them you’re actually seeing them interact and people interact with them and indeed their environment without those people seeing you, so you’re getting to see a snapshot of somebody’s life from a professional point of view and seeing how they’re going to be the day that you’re not there as much as the day that you are there and that’s where you start seeing the real challenges they have and will have on day one plus whatever because that’s the world they live in.


Perito: (9.03) That’s really interesting so you’re essentially being able to work as the inclusive designer, the fly on the wall inclusive designer. Watching how your training, essentially your products in action and then you can learn. You’ve got your analytical mind clearly so that then you can start applying those and looking at how to increase things.  That is, I guess in a mini way, what the podcast is about – sitting on the shoulder of other people’s experience and going through it.


GN: Yeah of course, people said to me later James “so tell me about your market research?” and I said, “I haven’t got any market research” and they would say, “well how did you come up with your idea?” and then you realise that you had 18 years of observational market research, I didn’t write it down on a spreadsheet, I didn’t have any information written down in any way whatsoever but I had 18 years of observing people and seeing first-hand the challenges that they were coming across.  If somebody was coming at it from an academic point of view say and somebody said, “right we’ve got a project for you go and find out about whatever” they would then have to try and put 18 years of research into, I don’t know 3 interviews or whatever they might do, 100 interviews or even 1000 interviews they’re not going to get 18 years of observational research and as you say there, analytically I was putting all of that into my brain and going that could be better, I wonder if, what if I was able to do that, because that would address this.  Initially it was, that’s a problem, that’s a problem, that’s a problem and I think the big problem we have right now in social media and indeed in society in general is that we’re all brilliant at pointing out problems but perhaps not excellent at finding solutions to those problems.


Perito: (10.40) Alongside the extra cost thing one of my major pet peeves is clearer pavements, the way people park on pavements obstruct it with rubbish and just generally growing bushes out as obstructions and barriers of pavements. With your Mobility Instructor work you must have come across this on almost every street. It engenders a sense of injustice in me so that must have been relatively difficult, and do you think we’ll ever achieve that even with all the clearer pavement schemes that we’ve got going on?


GN:  It’s a really a great point and I would follow along behind somebody and the obvious one was an overhanging branch which is very much the mistake or problem or fault of the owner of the garden where the tree is overhanging onto the road, and yes there is very much a person who is responsible for that and they are to blame but then I would look at other things in our environment and I would potentially get angry but then I took it to the next step I went why are they doing that? If we can understand why somebody does something, we can actually look at how we can help them not do that thing.  So why do people put sandwich boards out on the street?  Well they put sandwich boards out so that people know that they have a shop right there.  What is it that means that people are walking by without thinking there’s a shop there?  Well it’s because their window display is maybe not capturing people’s imagination, there’s not something there about it that makes people look at it.  So you look at that and you go right, what if they had an amazing window display would they even need a sandwich board?  Now we’re thinking those buggers they’ve got sandwich boards out but actually what I’ve done there is I’ve said why is the sandwich board there? If we transpose that into absolutely everything we come across we can find out that by solving the problem of the person whose actually put the problem in front of us we can have a society that doesn’t just fix/find where the problems are but actually comes together in the solution and that is a massive part of what I’ve done with my company, is understanding every single person’s problem and then making sure my solution directly addresses the problem that they have as well and that means that, and it’s like, I can even, we can through this a win, win, win, win, win, win situation and I number those for very good reason we’ve got an example we’ll be talking about where every single one of those 6 individuals wins.


Perito: (13.13) So it sounds like your thought process is based on the Five Whys used within the Lean Six Sigma system. It’s quite an interesting thing it’s the idea of you constantly ask why, it’s based around the example of the Washington Monument and the long and the short of it is that you start off with the Washington Monument it was getting damaged and the reason is it’s been getting damaged by cleaning chemicals and then the guy whose been sent in the mid 90’s to do the investigation starts trailing it back and he goes back past the birds, cos there’s lots of birds around and the birds dropping excrement on the Washington Monument and then he goes through to why are the birds there?, spiders, lots of spiders, so the spiders, and then he goes well why are the spiders there? and it turns out the reason the spiders there because there’s lots of insects there and they’re eating the insects.  Once he asks that final why he thinks well okay so actually why are the insects there? and then he suddenly realises the reason is because at dusk and dawn they have a lighting system which attracts the insects to the lighting which is then causing the ramifications of everything else.


GN:  (14.19 ) Yeah


Perito: So it’s a very good way of looking at it and structure your business around there makes good sense.


GN: Yeah I thought you were going to say the cleaning detergent attracted insects which would have.


Perito: Well it may well do by now I’m sure it’s probably come full circle again.


GN: (laughter) Yeah a really great example and I’m not the best reader in the entire world but we just go through generations of people rediscovering stuff and we have to constantly rediscover stuff because we can’t, we’re useless at taking, if we always took into consideration something that had happened before us and read books and did all those things, my word we’d be seriously in trouble for evolving as little as we have since the dawn of time because we just haven’t taken a lot, I mean wars, does it make much sense, not really.


Perito: (15.11) No, it certainly does not no.  But what does make sense is you setting up a company.  Why did you choose Neatebox as the name and what does the company name mean to you?


GN: (laughter) So Neatebox itself. I was working Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2011 when I came up with, well 2009 I came up with the idea of the first invention that I actually, well it was more of wanting to solve a problem and I went well, it’s a pedestrian crossing system where the phone presses the button at the pedestrian crossing and I thought well I don’t really know anything about business, I had no understanding of business, I knew about dogs, everything about dogs but I knew nothing about business but I’d heard that Business Gateway which is the Scottish Enterprise up here in Scotland, Scottish Government funded support to be able to get supported from Business Gateway you needed to have a business, so somebody said well you’re going to have to incorporate a business just to be able to get some grant funding and I was putting all my own money into this in my own spare time and stuff like that and somebody said, “well look if you get grant funding from Business Gateway then potentially you could 40% or 30% of your money back” and I thought well okay I’ll incorporate a business and they said to me “well what’s the business going to be called?” and I went “well call it the Customer Service Platform Business” and then somebody said “well no that’s not really going to really work” and I went “well it’s a pedestrian crossing box, my name’s Gavin Neate, Neatebox done” it doesn’t mean too much to me and in fact early days said, “you can’t have your own name in the company, investors don’t like that for some reason” who knew but the name just kind of stuck so it was a working title to start with but now the company’s called Neatebox it’s the name of the products that really is the key here, Button is the name of the pedestrian crossing box.


Perito: (16.49) Well that leads us very nicely onto the next question. So you’ve got these two products, I am familiar with these to a degree now but I know a lot of people won’t be so maybe if you could take each in turn give us the overview of what they do in association with the comments you’ve made before but I’m particularly interested in going back over those creative drivers so we understand why the buttons come around there but what’s going on in your mind that’s saying these are the problems that I’m addressing and you’re asking these analytical questions, the five whys and challenging people.


GN:  So you’re walking along the street, your guide dog client is 15 foot ahead of you, they come to a kerb edge, they get to the kerb edge their dog sits, they reach out with their right hand to press the button at the pedestrian crossing and they can’t find it, in fact as they reach out they may hit a little old lady or gent or they may crack their wrist against the pole or a barrier or whatever, bit of fencing and you suddenly think well wait a second why is the pole so far away from where they are when they arrive at the kerb edge, why does it have to be on the far periphery of the crossing and you think to yourself well I kind of know why it has to be there because it can’t really be in the middle otherwise they’d walk into it.  So you think well if it is that far out would it not be better if they had a long stick to press the button with and then you think, well I’d say a long stick’s kind of stupid in that respect but you think well they’ve got a mobile phone which is in their pocket and that is totally accessible because we’ve already seen that and mentioned that, well why could the phone not press the button for them, well that would make perfect sense and then if the phone pressed the button for them could it increase the crossing time or could it turn on an audible system where the audible signal be turned off, an audible signal might get turned off after half past 10 at night because it’s in a built-up area and a person at 2 o’clock doesn’t want to be woken up just because a drunk person presses a pedestrian crossing box, beep, beep, beep at 2 o’clock in the morning would be quite annoying so there you go following somebody’s whose having a problem you think to yourself, I wonder if, and before you know it you’re going right a bit of software, bit of hardware, software communicates with hardware, mobile phone communicates with crossing, problem solved.  Sadly what actually happens at that point is that’s the beginning of your problems because having a brilliant idea is only part of having the solution is selling the solution, having a company, talking to lawyers and business people and trying to get out there with something and when it comes to disruption, oh my god, it’s like no turkey votes for Christmas and the hotel industry did not vote to have Airbnb, the taxi industry did not vote to have Uber so when you are coming into something like a transport industry and you’re saying “guy’s what you’ve been up to now isn’t actually working, here’s a solution” they’re kind of like “well, yeah it’s we’ve got, we don’t, sorry what’s this you’re talking about, no you couldn’t possibly a phone pressing the button for you surely that’s going to be really dangerous “or even before they ask that question “yeah but how does a blind person use a phone?” so they don’t even know that this is possible let alone required.


Perito: (19.45) So how does the Welcome App fit into this and where did that come from in the deep recess of your training and analysis?


GN: So you walk into a shop with your client, your 10 foot to 15 foot behind, they go up to the customer service desk, the person behind customer service desk interacts with them and the level of service they get is based on so many factors, the training of the person behind the counter, the confidence of the person behind the counter, the understanding, the empathy, the physical positioning of the person behind the counter, the confidence of the person whose going into the shop and you see that and you think oh this is just, there’s inconsistency here, okay so we park that for a second now let’s go back to pedestrian crossing, I’m walking towards a pedestrian crossing and my phone has pressed the button and this was my thought process, my phone has pressed the button at the pedestrian crossing, oh wow if my phone could press the button at a pedestrian crossing well my phone could press the button a door and disability access doors are an absolute nightmare if you can’t find that button you’re supposed to press and if you’re in a wheelchair it’s really difficult to press that button, in fact it’s really difficult to press the button at the pedestrian crossing if you’re in a wheelchair, oh my god this is a pan-disability solution.

Right okay, if I’ve pressed the button at the door then the door knows I’ve arrived, if the door knows I’ve arrived the building knows I’ve arrived, if the building knows I’ve arrived the people inside the building could know I’ve arrived, if the people in the building know I’ve arrived I could actually train them before I walk through the door, purely that is the process my brain went through over a period of 6 months, it just went wait a second I could actually solve the other problem which is how do we deliver staff training to a level where the person in the shop knows whose is going to  come through the door and actually treats them in a way that is not just specific to their needs but also empathetic to their condition and disability and understanding of that but led by the disabled person, so empowering the disabled person to be the master of their own destiny rather than the one who is given or done stuff to and if we look at charity as an actual definition it’s the provision of service or financial support for those in need and the key word there is need, when we look at disabled people as being in need the balance of power is off kilter they are lesser because they need something, if you take away the need, if you have a ramp instead of stairs the wheelchair user can get in their not disabled by the building, if you have a low counter the wheelchair can actually have exactly the same experience as the persons whose standing at a taller counter, but that universal design has been sadly lacking and of course it’s sadly lacking, people didn’t allow for lifts in castles, when people designed buildings in the 1920s and 30s they didn’t design in the kind of accessibility that we have and of course we’ve got Listed building so we can’t just instantly change everything around but what we can do is we can change human interactions because you can have the most accessible building in the entire world and the least accessible person or you could have the lease accessible building in the entire world and a member of staff that understands your needs and that’s where we came up with Welcome, Welcome changes human interactions based on proximity and I’ll just mention very quickly we didn’t open the door with the button although we’re going to we actually just put in a beacon, an eye beacon which just triggered the phone to say I’ve arrived but then we put a geofence around the building so that when the person was 300m from the building they got a message in advance and the best way to describe that is in these old things where you would open up the door and it would ring a bell, in a hardware store, probably in a Two Ronnies’ sketch and the person in the back room would come through and say “hello sir how can I help you” whereas what we’ve done is added that bell 300m away from the building and put it so that you already know who I am and what more needs are before I walk through the door.


Perito: It’s like a physical manifestation of the social model of disability isn’t it, you’re effectively saying we could create a position where no one is disabled unless society thinks that’s the case and puts the barriers in place so you’re enabling that to actually happen so we can eliminate that disability, in short.


GN:  Yeah but so much more than that if we go back to that what I was talking about the win, win, win, win, win situation well Scope had a campaign a couple of years ago called “end the awkward” which was the recognition that between 18 and 35 year olds I think its 75% of them would rather not actually make a first approach to a disabled person because they felt awkward so in that moment they are disabled right at that moment they are disabled by their lack of confidence or lack of knowledge or lack of positivity in actually going to meet that disabled person, so if I can actually make them feel more comfortable so 5 minutes before I walk through the door or somebody walks through the door they go “right Gavin’s coming through the door, Gavin has a guide dog do not talk to the guide dog”, “Gavin’s coming through the door Gavin is blind make sure you introduce yourself to Gavin”, “Gavin is coming through the door, Gavin is blind make sure you offer your arm rather than taking Gavin’s arm” and if I do all of that the first time I might be quite nervous cos I’m in conscious incompetence or conscious competence at that point, I might be really nervous but the second and third time I am buzzing because I know what I did was right because I’m following the route that the person wanted me to follow and then the relationship we have is absolutely brilliant.  Now if we look at that that’s a win, win then we add the business, the business has more people coming through the door happier with the service and more loyal to that business, you then have other members of staff who see that interaction and they win because they can then take away that information yourself, you get the company winning, so my company wins because although we don’t, this is a software as a service model, we get to pay my staff and indeed my shareholders so we have a sustainable business model and society wins because that member of staff goes home that night and helps other people cross the road or collect their shopping or whatever it might be so society wins so we’ve got this win, win, win, win, win, win situation which oh my goodness me it’s like socialist capitalism where we’re changing society with something where everything is positive and nothing is negative.


Perito: (25.31) I was thinking after we first spoke about the Welcome App one of the things that stuck me straightaway was this idea of change management which I’m from a change management background and nudging is an approach that’s used, a constant suggestion and what I quite liked with the Welcome App in particular is the idea that even limited take up has a viral capability to spread this kind of nudging change management constantly within a fixed environment so my immediate thought then once I rolled on from that was in 10 years’ time if tools like yours and other people develop things that are similar maybe in different fields there is 100% possibly I feel to possibly eliminate inclusion, diversity and certainly accessibility as a field in itself because they will simply become no longer needed because the constant change management, the constant behavioural latitudinal change has happened do you agree with a that or do you think I’m being a bit optimistic?


GN: Well I think what you’re talking there is a human evolution beyond our current ability so a pair of people have a child, they want that child to learn French, they have to teach it French so you’re not just born knowing French because your parents want you to learn, they have to teach French it has to learn it, it might learn English purely from communicating with its parents but then they have to make an effort to learn that so the 19 year in old in their first job whose never come into contact with any kind of disability throughout their entire life needs to learn how to do stuff, but we’re in a situation now where that learning can be constant and should be constant, it’s not something that we just take for granted that because a company or a business or a customer service team did an input on Autism last year that every single member of their staff is already going to be trained up on Autism it’s a constant learning and training and that comes from an actual, an empathy for people and belief that other people’s you need to understand other people’s point of view in order to actually understand how you can help them or deliver service or how they can help you but it also has to come from an understanding that you need to put tools in place that make sure that that learning is possible, now I’ve mentioned it to people before right now we’re in a situation where if the seal on the washing goes you go on Amazon, you buy a new seal, the seal comes through, you go on You Tube, you watch a video on changing the seal, you change the seal, for £27.00 you’ve fixed your washing machine.  Whereas in the past what we did was we phoned up a plumber, the plumber came round, tutted a few times, looked at your seal, went “yep your seal’s gone”, ordered a seal, 3 weeks later came back again charging you more for coming out again then fixed it, had a cup of tea, you took the afternoon work and you ended up having spent £150.00 on your new seal.  If we go back to the former well because of the information, because of the ability to have information in the moment we need it is now so possible we no longer need to call out that plumber, it also means that that plumber can specialise in things that are much more complex that other people can’t learn and that’s really important, that’s really important stuff.


Perito: (28.30) Lovely thanks Gavin that’s great. Tell us about what you’re up to at the moment? How has Coronavirus impacted on your current work because at the beginning of the conversation you mentioned you were quite busy?


GN: Yeah we are crazy busy right now. I’m fairly certain that some of the visionaries on your Podcast will be going “oh wait a second that could be used for this and this and this and this, so we have, I’ll go slowly and those who haven’t got it will definitely get it. We’ve got a button press at a pedestrian crossing and indeed a button press at a door where as you approach a door, the door opens without you needing to actually touch the door, that one’s fairly obvious.  You can walk through a disability access door as an able person using a Smartphone that just opens the door for you or indeed I say Smartphone it could be a wearable like a watch or something like that and the door just opens because it recognises you walk through the door.  We’ve also got a system whereby which a customer service team in let’s say a supermarket or a hospital will know whose just about to arrive and what their needs are and may have even been able to ask them questions before they arrived so with a hospital I’m turning up to the hospital because I feel I might have Covid-19 and I’m say I’m going using the Welcome App and in the Welcome App I’m asked questions, are you, has this happened, has this happened, has this happened?, do you have these symptoms? and I go “yes, yes, yes” and they say right “okay brilliant please come to this entrance, or please go to that entrance or please do this or please do that” or indeed if you’re going to a supermarket and you are living with a mental health challenge or your visually impaired or your somebody who is using a walking stick or a walking frame and you need a seat and you’re having to queue outside for 25 minutes well how about knowing that person’s needs before they turn up so that you can identify them, not necessarily to get them to the front of the queue but definitely to actually have empathy for the fact that while they’re in the queue they might be suffering so that they when get to the front of the queue if they then have a bit of a breakdown you’re not then going straight back with what the heck are you doing and it being some kind of fight, and that must be so difficult because the person whose managing that queue at a supermarket right now is somebody who probably hasn’t been trained highly in customer service, it might be but there’s a very good chance they haven’t they’re just managing the queue so Welcome is a customer service system which helps people when they go to hospitals well in fact it’s installed with Edinburgh Airport, Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish Parliament and House of Frazer and Doubletree Hilton and Deloitte and Diageo and hopefully more and more Councils across the country so that’s already installed and was being used before Covid-19 but now it can be used to directly help and support customer service teams and people who are going to supermarkets to buy food and also hopefully in the future medical centres when they open up again and somebody needs to go how brilliant to triage somebody before they actually get to the door.


Perito: (31.17)  Where is, and I think we’ve kind of touched on this, you can see the message about visionaries and looking ahead but I’m interested to see where you think Neatebox and what it could look like in maybe the next 5-10 years, where are we headed?


GN: Where does Neatebox go, I’ve always been, I’ve got this vision of fixing problems every day you get closer to the day rather than that vision but if I look ahead 10 years and I think to myself where’s Neatebox, if you take Neatebox out of that picture and you think where is the kind of technology that you are delivering with Neatebox and just bear in mind that nobody’s ever done this stuff before, this is new stuff so we could quite easily be that company but where will this technology be, quite obviously we’re going to be able to deliver something in the future that is based on proximity, we’re already doing it, when you order a taxi and the taxi’s five minutes from the house, you’ll get a message saying your taxi’s 5 minutes away, so the future for Neatebox is absolutely massive however there is so much to that you need to scale, you need to get investment, you need to get interest, you need to build and just because you’ve got a great idea doesn’t mean that you’re gonna be the person that delivers that, I want to make sure that I am because my integrity and my heart tell me that I’m in it for the right reasons so that when this company is successful in the future and I’m involved with it and hopefully my legacy will be giving it to other people who have integrity as well then they are going to deliver a service that is based on quality of the service not on the amount of money that you get in, we can make money out of this and that’s obviously the intention in fact we’re hopefully going to be doing a crowd fund in the future and anybody listening to this, hopefully, hopefully if we manage to do that then everybody that’s out there and that wants to be involved, can be involved and I would just say watch press for details, follow me or, well that’s my email address but follow me on Twitter @Neatebox or @GavinNeate and yeah keep in touch because who knows we can make a big community.


Perito: (33.10) Well you give me all those details that you want added on I’ll put it onto the transcript that people can access as well as the introductory information that will go onto Spotify or Podcast and all the other sort of sites so that will be available for people to track down.


GN: Cool I’m use to trying to squeezing things in so you can put them in when you can.  So one of the big things for me, I mentioned social capitalism before but was the empowerment of the disabled person and the redressing of the balance or at least balancing it, getting equilibrium within that balance and within all of our systems their all free, we haven’t talked about cost and business models but the business with Welcome pays a monthly subscription and the disabled person gets the App for free, they just download it for free.  The pedestrian crossing, the pedestrian gets the App for free, the Council pay for it to go inside the pedestrian crossing box but within the Apps the disabled person can ask where they want it next, so they can request where they want the Welcome venue and we’ve got an entire country and increasingly a world where people or saying to us, I just had somebody this morning, “when’s it coming to Texas” somebody was saying to me this morning, somebody else last week “when’s it coming to Seattle”, “when’s it coming to Canada” “when’s it coming” and somebody would say to us “when’s it coming to Bristol” and I say “you tell me, got to the App and request it and we’ll come to Bristol”.  Don’t sit there waiting for things to happen to you be the master of your own destiny, if you’ve got skills, if you’ve got an idea go out there and actually make it happen, it’s tough don’t get me wrong this is not an easy choice but you have to ask yourself are you going to look back one day and say “should I have done that” or heaven forbid somebody does it and you go “I had that idea why didn’t I do it”.  I’m a practitioner at heart, I’m a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor who wanted to change something but couldn’t sit down and let it just not be changed, I had to get involved and I had no business acumen, I had very few qualifications when I left school, it is so important for us as practitioners and experts to go “I can do something about this” and not just leave it to academics or to the person whose got cojones that goes “I’m going to be a businessman, I don’t care what I do, I just want to make money” so be the person you want to be.


Perito: (35.14) What advice have you got on what can be done by designers to overcome the biggest problems you have seen caused by disabilities in society?  Now I understand we’ve covered a load of those so maybe just kind of the first things that crop up or the ones that really bug you the most or the observations that you’ve made and you’ve seen repeatedly that people who listen to the Podcast who will then take away so I’m thinking people who will listen might be designing houses, might be designing new keyboards, might be designing new aircraft and they will be looking to have their kind of through processes plugged into and kind of help to change?


GN:  So let’s imagine NASA in the 1950’s. Let’s look around that room in their control centre and let’s see who’s sitting around in that control centre and I’m guessing if you’re like me you’re looking around a room at 30/40/50 something white guys and yes, they didn’t a brilliant job but that’s not the modern world we live in and if we were asking ourselves if we wanted to make a modern solution would that be enough, and no it wouldn’t because we’d be wanting to be more diverse.  Now you can go out there and you can go and ask people but I would say, and I kind I wholeheartedly follow Caroline Casey’s example here which is you make sure that when you look around you at the company that you are in you feel that you don’t necessarily have to go elsewhere to ask people what their opinion is because your opinions are within your company so there’s diversity of thought within the make-up of your company, so make sure that when you’re designing something for somebody that’s disabled you look around yourself and go do you know what we’ve got a job coming up why haven’t we ever actually gone out there and tried to find people who were disabled to actually work in that role because their going give us so much more than just the ability to be a designer or developer or whatever, their actually going to say, “yeah I know how did you get here this morning?”  “Well I took the wheelchair obviously and I had to use a taxi and it was difficult because I had this and that” and you “wow you bring an entirely new perspective to our company, your diversity of thought which is the most important thing here, diversity of thought is what actually builds our company” and I say diversity of thought because if you look back at the NASA guys they were made up of lots of different people with different experiences and that’s why they were successful.  It’s not just about yeah we’ve got 50% black guys and 50% black women now or whatever it might be therefore we’ve just all the boxes, no it has to be diversity of thought and that’s the next level, yes tick your boxes to say that you actually made sure that you’re an equal opportunities employer and a diversity employer but make sure when you employ those people that the diversity of thought also has a chance to shine through.


Perito: (37.46) Thinking from a less designer, more from an everybody point of view. What can anyone, no matter how they are, do to help others in their community and beyond?  My first thought is clearer pavements because I really hate the fact that they put stuff on pavements and above being 6’ 5” I constantly hit my heads on these little, the awnings that come out and there’s a lot of problems like that but what do you, even if they’re the tiniest things like that people can change, what would you say to everybody?

GN: So if you want to help society yes we can go and fix the things that we see are broken but my biggest bit of advice is when you meet somebody whose angry, rather than meeting them with anger take a step back for a minute and think “why are they angry? why have they taken that point of view?” and this goes across the whole of society because if you just take it for a moment, yes they might be wrong, yes they might be a complete idiot, however it might be because they have a whole host of different things that their dealing with or have dealt with or they’ve been angry about because somebody else has made them angry, so if you take that moment to just go “why” it might, might give you that opportunity to say “now I know what their problem is, now I can actually come up with a solution that’s going to diffuse their anger and their actually going to see me as an actual champion for their cause as well as mine” and I think that’s just the greatest thing we can do especially in a world where when you go on social media it’s just anger, anger, anger, anger, look for the solutions, look for the people who are coming up with those solutions but also make sure that you do your best, not to join in with the vitriol of an anger protest but actually to try and find a reason why there is anger and then try and find a reason why in the future that anger cannot be as great as it was the first time.


Perito: (39.35)  Did you pick up on the anger in my voice when gave out that, was it that obvious?


GN:  I totally understand it, I live there my whole time, why the hell have they put that pedestrian crossing box there and then you go well they did it because if they did it there then a wheelchair user wouldn’t have been able to get by or it would have created an accident when a car came around the corner cos they would have lost sight of some of their vision of who was standing at the pole as it might have been a small child.  So you then start realising that the reason it’s been designed in a certain way might be a reason that you don’t understand at the time you get angry but yeah, no if you hit your head off things then I would get angry (laughter), get them to raise it, but understand why they put it that level because it was higher for whatever I don’t know, always think about the other persons point of view I think first before you make a rash decision and then just create anger.


Perito: (40.19) Yep and make that assumption as well isn’t it, that’s the other point you’re trying to make here too, don’t just assume that something’s the way it is because that’s it and that’s where the unconscious bias can come into which is interesting.  So any final things you’d like to add on literally any topic at all, bit of an opportunity to say what you think?


GN: (laughter) That’s a good one, yeah okay I’ve got one.


Perito: Go for it.


GN: I guess if I was going add anything onto this is that as much as I had the energy to get where I am now I couldn’t have done it without the most amazing people who either just dipped in and dipped out or have been there from the start who gave me support and belief and actually believed in what I was doing and supporting me financially or through Scottish Enterprise or whatever it might be, every single partner that’s every joined us, every single person who said “I’m not sure I understand exactly what Gavin’s saying but my god he’s really passionate and he has integrity around it, do you know what I’m going go with it, so I think every person like me needs to have other people and I think it was Steve Jobs, was it, yeah Steve Jobs had Mike Wozniak and I think this is the Simon Sinek book you need every why which is my sort of role, you need to have a how person and I’ve got that person and Alan Hutching whose my Operations Director he is a very much a Woody in our relationship, I’m very much a Buzz Lightyear type character but unless you have that other person who is able to compliment you and actually be better than you at so many other things then you don’t get anywhere, so don’t think you have to do it all yourself also when other people help you bear in mind they have helped you and thank them for it as well.


Perito: Nicely done. Thanks for joining us to today Gavin.


GN: Pleasure.


Perito: It’s been good to hear about your work with Neatebox and the progress you’ve made with the various products in such a short space of time as well. Something I can see that can make a positive impact and I’m pretty sure people will be sitting here listening and thinking the same. Now if listeners do want to find out more then I put on the details to Gavin’s website and contact details as well that Gavin provides and that’ll go on the transcript and the Podcast introduction information too so don’t worry if you miss anything.

You’ve been tuning into the Perito Podcast Our World without Boundaries thanks for listening everyone, everywhere.


Live/Work – Is This The Future Of Our Inclusive And Adaptable Habitats?

Who would have thought that within the trendy badlands of Islington, Hoxton and Shoreditch, the realm of the never ridden Triumph motorcycle, push bikes with no brakes, hopped ales and bespoke fashion lies a solution to the biggest question of 2020 – how to work and survive in the modern office environment post Covid-19.

The modern skyscrapers just down the road in Canary Wharf are being forced to change. The HSBCs and (their little neighbours) Barclays of this world are now waking up to find that their strategy of large office buildings, gaudy corporate foyers and empty business continuity offices dotted around the country could now be nothing more than a Victorian folly – something evocative of a past age but never designed to be able to serve its purpose in the current one.

Yet even as far back as the late nineties the more forward thinking amongst us were placing their trust in a type building which was able to serve dual purposes, true mixed use. Much like the butcher or shop owner who used to live above their high street business or the farmer or stable hands, in the Middle Ages who would live in the rafters of their barns with their animals safely stowed beneath them.

But where this style of domestic life might once have been seen as old fashioned, even as long ago as early January 2020, needs must and it should be embraced once again because the density of population coupled with the  urgent need to veer away from vast shared office floors and the daily morning elevator overcrowding (and its accompanying combative culture) which force right thinking individuals to the stair wells.

Welcome to the world of Live/Work. A choice embraced by small numbers of people across the globe. But is it truly a solution?


Unconscious Bias

I am writing this article from a bedroom built into the loft space of my house. I’ve been working from within its plasterboard walls for some time now and the space has everything I need and a ton of fun things I don’t need like my classroom sized whiteboard. It is easy to start thinking, with unconscious biases fully intact, that everyone is in the same boat…or rather room… well maybe some people are in boats but a lot aren’t.

The ability bias kicks in and means it is too easy to forget the thousands of workers, younger and older, still crammed around a dining table or self-isolating in tiny studio flats with a fold down bed acting sofa, table and workspace. It could be that some of these people love being at home despite its restrictions – but that takes a certain type of person.

Whereas the majority are desperate to get back to the office. They may have shaped their lives around never being at home or perhaps like Janan Ganesh, columnist of the FT, pride themselves on their ability to never own cutlery, so easy was it to access restaurants and food 24/7.


Add to the recipe a spoonful of the people struggling to maintain the balance between childcare and work it’s clear there are definitely people out there who would want, or are forced by their circumstances, to work away from home and these workers have to work somewhere. The lesson here is not to presume that everyone is cosied up in their lovely thatched cottage in the Cotswolds. We are all unique and therefore have unique circumstances. Designers and decision makers need to consider everyone in their plans.


Live, Work, Repeat…

So, the vision of staying at home doesn’t fit everyone’s idea of paradise but the urgent need to reduce the number of people heading to the office is critical and will remain for a long time.

After all, if one of us, any where in the world, has Covid-19 then we all do – until we have a vaccine or until the next emerging zoonotic disease arrives and dwarfs Coronaviruses. Which ever comes first.

A lot of housing built today is of substandard quality and design. The argument that they comply to Building Regs is utter rubbish and cannot cut it in the modern world. Cost is still king when it comes to building decision making and thoughtful decision is costed out after planning stages or the by the client during design. Humans directly suffer from these decisions.

But it need not be like that.

Designers have a critical role to play in our life and we will have to work hard on getting design right, until good design simply becomes design. At the moment, design is bad design and good design is still a thing… As buildings are renovated and ‘new builds’ completed we need to reconsider how people use the building – to treat it more like a product and a service not just a number and a unit specification.

Let’s go back to Canary Wharf and the tall HSBC Headquarters building. Now imagine that most of HSBC staff are either redundant, working from home or on site somewhere else and this monolith is standing mostly empty. Its cramped floors and low ceilings remain a constant thorn in the side of the desk planners who need to decide how many people can work in the building – with some staff still rebelling against having to take their mountain of shoes stuffed under their desk home. Thereby losing the permanent desk arrangement in the process. Canary Wharf has lots of facilities, in fact people live in residential towers about as tall as the HSBC building across the canal in South Quay.

But they can only live there, and they have to cross the canals to get to work.

Now imagine that they can also work in their accommodation too, in a purpose built, well designed space with protection from the distractions of family life and as the business or work expands so can the space.

Now imagine a high street made up of terraces of Live/Work spaces. Soundproofed and well-designed but with the artisan or the brewer, the potter’s wheel, the furniture maker’s tools or the agile meeting room for the remote team all located on the ground level floor. Either open to the street, glazed off for light or perhaps closed off to the world. All done adaptably by the click of a button or the add-on bought at purchase.

Welcome to the ancient world of Live/Work.




Shell Suit

This isn’t going to work for everyone though. Even I can’t see myself moving back into a flat, surrounded by people but all within my own space. But it will suit lots of people and by making the spaces inclusive, accessible and easily adaptable we can make these empty voids roar with our industry and then close the door on it all at the end of the day.

Harking back again to the innovation around the Islington area, there is an interesting example situated in the Canal Building. Essential a big open space with lots of partitions which was originally designed to be flexible in its use of space. The building was designed to flex around the occupant.

Need a bigger workspace for your desk? Open it up a bit.

Have a kid? Make a bedroom larger.

Have twins? Cut out the squabbles with two tiny box rooms! Expandable on good behaviour and GCSE results… Ok a bit harsh but you get the picture. There are a lot of obvious pluses to having an adaptable space.

So, if we are looking to build from scratch then it makes sense for people to be able to adapt their spaces to suit their needs. This means that the concept of ‘shell and core’ should be explored a lot more than it is. Dwellings still need to have water and be habitable otherwise they won’t pass building regs no matter how hard developers try but once that is installed it creates the core and then putting the roof, walls and floors up produces the shell. In an instant we have created a flexible space for people to start getting creative with. Space to bring their unique living and working requirements into along with that box of random phone and computer cables you never throw away and the kitchen draw of random stuff that you might yet, just, maybe, possibly, need so never put out for recycling.


Inclusive & Adaptable

A positive result of the Covid-19 crisis is that it has rapidly proved that working remotely does actually work for a lot or roles. All the disabled workers who have been refused this over the years have had their point well and truly proven. Live/Workspaces can accelerate workplace equality by providing quality and efficient work spaces for everyone to design in the way they need. Low desk? Easy. Fully accessible toilet facilities? Done!

By changing the way we think about our work and housing requirements we can actually start to solve a huge amount of exclusion, access, usability and mobility issues for most of the population.

Perhaps we can practise on Live/Work spaces and then transfer the learning and evidence into homes across the world by providing the proof that making homes adaptable and fit for life is possible and cheap at the same time.






Brave New Office World

We can’t avoid the fact that we are living in a new world. Yes, this Covid thing did happen to us and the quicker we accept that the quicker we can make sustainable decisions we need to make.

One of those decisions should reflect that there are a lot of people who might be able to live and work in the same space but don’t have the capability and if we are to encourage flexible working within our inclusive environments, then building Live/Work spaces represents an amazing use of space and materials which could be the game changer we need to reduce the density of workers within our offices and thereby restrict transmission and save lives.




  • Not every one is happy working from home. Try to design, plan and incorporate as many people as possible and manage your unconscious bias as well as possible.
  • Live/Work Spaces should be on the table for every new dwelling, refurb or refitting of commercial space into mixed use.
  • We need to make sustainable decisions now; we have the information to put a range of options on the table. Urgent situations are often used as a smokescreen for further inaction.
  • Live/Work spaces could be formed by selling new builds as ‘shell & core’ which means people can make them how they need them. No more poor design making all the decisions on how people live and work!
  • Inclusive and adaptable – live and work spaces need to be a fit for everyone. We can mitigate a vast amount of social exclusion with this concept.

The Case For Globally Networked Inclusive Environments

Kevin Burger’s interesting article for Nautilus by (found here) features a review of the work of a scientist called Dennis Carroll. Carroll has been operating at the forefront of the defence against the dark arts of zoonotic disease for most of his career and his scariest observation is that zoonotic diseases, or viruses like Coronavirus which came from bats is just a small part of the threat posed by viruses already prevalent in the animal kingdom. As humans push against the boundaries of the natural environment, we only increase the risk of new threats emerging. In short, Covid-19 is just one of many viruses which will challenge us on an increasingly regular basis.

The way we live our lives and the way we work have now irrevocably changed.

Two new features of this new, after Covid-19, world are socially distancing and self-isolation. Both extensions of social exclusion and which, based on Dennis Carroll’s work, are highly probable to be the new normal. Even when we have succeeded with destroying or disrupting COVID-19 and the virus itself, the problem of emerging threats which will force our communities back into the socially excluding activities is very real. Imagine for a moment a world where every two to three years we are all forced to ‘hibernate’ in order to stay alive and prevent the spread of disease. Some might suggest that this has been done for centuries, what’s the big deal? Well, big is the right word because the population has boomed, urban environments will accommodate 90% of the population within the next 5 years and things are not being designed properly already let alone for people who are going to be forced to stay inside.

Accessibility, visitability, usability and inclusive design are all core concepts that Perito work with every day in everything it does as a company. Creating inclusive environments is something that is very important, even if people don’t necessarily have it that high on the priority list. However, change is something people choose to do or are forced to do. Covid-19 has made the decision for us and what is needed is an expanded definition of what an inclusive environment can do to help answer one important question: –

‘How do we all successfully engage, participate and contribute even though we live in a dense, complex, often poorly designed world that no longer places the human being at the centre of everything it does but now expects us to safely and comfortably live, work and play six feet apart when we are well but isolate effectively when we are not?’

Perito feels that inclusive environments are the answer.

Inclusive Environments are places in which all, unique and diverse, humankind can access participate and contribute equally because they put the human being back at the centre of everything they do. We might traditionally see our environments across the following categories:

– The Geographic Environment

– The Man-Made Environment (Inner & Outer Environments)

There are lots of academic interpretations, but here are more explicit examples that suit the purposes of inclusive environments than those high-level categories:

– The Built Environment: our towns, cities and industry.

– The Natural Environment: Our countryside, marine and recreational spaces.

– The Social-Cultural Environment: The environments in which we live and work.

– The Space Environment: The human environment in space i.e. spacecraft and planetary exploration.

Whilst social-distancing is now a feature concept of all those environments there is a new addition to the list and that is ‘Isolation Environments’.

These are specific inclusive environments which have been designed to support human beings undergoing periods of isolation. They make provision for core needs like water, food and care, communication and commercial activity. They innovate and design for all requires via universal and inclusive design, but they are fundamentally about equality. A core concept of an inclusive environment is to create an environment where anyone can participate on equal terms — social isolation cannot achieve that and thus the individual, community or country will suffer as a direct result. If we are going to be isolated for much of our lives then we need to consider permanent environments, inclusive environments, which are designed to support this new way of live.

What has been demonstrated by the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic is that the world and its leadership were not prepared. Worst of all it has opened clear gaps in both the European Union and the United States. Whilst the liberal democracy has been proven now to be more robust than previously thought it is not through our government’s clairvoyance, openness and deft international relations.

A spirit of global cooperation and solidarity is now more important than ever. Just as the alien invasion in 1995’s Independence Day brought the world together, this virus and other emerging threats can do the same now. The paradigm shift has happened, and the virus makes clear that no person or community is safe and that there is nowhere to hide. If you are lucky enough to own a Scottish Highlands plot with a natural spring that is all well and good but the chances are high that one morning you’ll wake up, open your log cabin door to be faced with a hoard of wealthy pensioners in luxury motorhomes parked on your veg patch.

We can’t hide and don’t let anyone tell you we can. It’s not possible anymore. That’s why the best option is to plug ourselves directly into this global solidarity and make that contribution. This doesn’t have to be about technology or the internet it can take many forms, but it has to be global and about being openness, sharing information and exposing our culture and community to the rest of the world. To achieve this, we simply need to ensure that our new inclusive environments are designed with this goal in mind. We need to ensure that when our new Isolation Environments protect us and our community but also allow us to project ourselves new and open-source ways, so that we can have inbuilt capabilities to share our experiences and allow others to learn just as we learn from the rest of the world. Covid-19 has shown that sharing our experiences will save lives, places our heads in the sand won’t do much but offer a small delay.

In addition, we must always be quick to adapt. The concept at play here is Adaptive Inclusivity which operates much like a business might. It keeps us learning and it accepts that we don’t know everything so we must remain agile enough to respond to changing situations. By making sure inclusive environments are linked by global solidarity and global cooperation we can ensure that our environments, Isolation or otherwise, stay in the best shape to meet the user and the community’s need.

The task is simple then. As we construct, design and innovate our agile inclusive built, natural, social and space environments we need to ensure that they maintain a sustainable link to the rest of our World. Whether that is shared learning, mechanisms for communication, twinning organisations for inclusive environments across the globe or even a simple webpage or Instagram demonstrating the humans and the community that access, participate and contribute.



– The way we view inclusive environments must change. They are not local or regional monoliths. They play one part in a global nexus of inclusive environments which are part of a single global entity.

– Inclusive Environments must find ways to connect to the rest of the world are a new core aim.

– Social distancing and self-isolation are forms of social exclusion.

– Isolation Environments are now a new normal. Innovation, design, architecture and social and cultural activity should make the change to as early as possible.

– Agility through the concept of Adaptive Inclusion is critical. Global Cooperation can ensure that our inclusive environments remain fit for purpose.


A Definition of Inclusive Environments

An Inclusive Environment is an environment in which all, unique and diverse, humankind can access, participate and contribute equally by placing the unified and holistic human being at the centre of everything it does. Inclusive Environments should always involve the creation and sustainability of wellbeing as the primary ultimate aim.

They are environments which not only support and directly contribute to both local and national communities but also openly, demonstrably and sustainably support global solidarity and global co-operation.