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This time of year can be a time of reflection for many of us. We tend to look at how far we’ve come in our disabilities or conditions, and to celebrate that we’re still able to enjoy life and share it with our loved ones.

As it’s almost Christmas, I’ve linked some song lyrics (some rather loosely!) with the importance of being aware in the workplace of situations like discrimination, diversity and disabilities. It’s a light-hearted view in keeping with the season, so I hope you both get something from them and enjoy them.

Wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Enjoy these seven seasonal songs with lyrics loosely linked to the importance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace:

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Sexual Discrimination 
Providing tidings of comfort and joy, let nothing you dismay, it’s important to be inclusive of all people of all genders and sexual orientations. Gentlemen, ladies, gender-fluid and everything in between.

2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Inclusion and Diversity
Let your hearts be light and a little merry at Christmas, make the Yule-tide gay. Being inclusive and diverse makes for a happier place where our troubles will be miles away. Let’s embrace all nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, sexualities and religions.

3. Frosty the Snowman – Disabilities
Disabilities, both physical and invisible, affect many. Most disabled people need to work for their mental wellbeing; with the right adjustments in place, they can perform as well as anyone else. As the lyrics say: ‘And the children say he could laugh and play just the same as you and me.’

4. Snow is Falling – Dyspraxia
As the snow may fall, so do people with dyspraxia. While you’re dancing all night long, having fun, be understanding of those who may be clumsy from their condition and who may struggle with their speech, perception and thoughts.

5. Good King Wenceslas – Mental Wellbeing 

Look out, especially when the snow lays deep and crisp and even, for those in need, both in your company and outside of it. Your organisation’s reputation is enhanced when you’re known to help the homeless and others, giving hot meals on the feast of Stephen … and every day.

6. Do They Know It’s Christmas – AIDS/HIV and other conditions
“It’s Christmas time, and there’s no need to be afraid. At Christmas time, we let in light and banish shade.” Although this was written for those suffering from drought and famine, it could so easily be applied to people with lifelong conditions like HIV and AIDS.

7. The Last Song byElton John – AIDS/HIV
This Christmas spare a thought for all those loved ones lost to AIDS and HIV over the years. Thankfully, with ongoing breakthroughs in treatment, those diagnosed early and going onto treatment early can live a long and healthy life. World AIDS Day is held every year on 1 December – although there’s only one day a year for creating AIDS and HIV awareness, many people have to live it every single day.

These songs are a light-hearted way of reminding you to be aware of people’s differences and challenges. Do get in touch, though, if you need some help to create awareness and put systems in place within your organisation through my training workshops. Start 2020 with a mission to improve your inclusivity!

Luminate Visits Canada

During my Canadian travels this autumn, I met with Deni, Chris and Lori of ACNS (AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia). We had fascinating conversations, contrasting experiences of living with HIV in Canada and the UK. Finally, we swapped books – I gave them two copies of ‘Ripples from the Edge of Life’ and I was given ‘Look Beyond: the Faces & Stories of People with HIV/AIDS’ by Michelle Valberg, a beautiful compilation of photographs. ACNS reported my visit in their Winter 2019 Newsletter. Thank you, ACNS, for your warm welcome!

That trip, I had great joy breakfasting with Joe Average, the artist and HIV/AIDS activist. Diagnosed HIV+ at 27, he challenged himself to commit the rest of his life to art. Frequently donating work to charitable causes, such as Vancouver’s annual Art for Life auction, his work is used for projects like ‘A Loving Spoonful’ (a charity providing meals to the terminally ill). Joe also judged submissions to Vancouver’s AIDS memorial and anti-homophobia posters.

Joe’s many awards and honours include civic merit awards, the Caring Canadian Award (1998) and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Silver Medal for Outstanding Community Achievement (2002). Vancouver mayor, Philip Owen, issued a civic proclamation designating 3 November 2002 as ‘Joe Average Day’ in the city.

As one of 50 prominent Canadians, Joe was invited to meet with Prince Charles and Princess Diana during their Vancouver visit for Expo ’86. A few days before, Joe was asked what he intended to wear to the event. Caught off guard, he said, “Oh, probably something Hugo Boss.” In the line-up, as he was introduced to Princess Diana, she responded, “Oh, the Hugo Boss man,” and a great friendship was born.

Joe was commissioned to design the artwork commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Canada. I felt privileged when given a coin as Joe explained the artistic and political intricacies behind the making of it. It truly was an honour to share a meal with such an inspirational but humble man.

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