Damian Joseph Bridgeman
Regional Chair for South Wales
Institute of Directors
Before I begin to tell you about my career, I would like to take you back in time.
Picture me, as a fifteen-year-old boy in a wheelchair, I had come through two surgeries to straighten curvature of the spine, caused by Scoliosis in the previous three years. I could never walk but had been able to stand with support. I could ride horses with a supportive saddle, and this was my only freedom and joy. These operations meant that I could no longer ride, because I could not get insured any longer. I had won several competitions and a great deal of prize money. There had been talk of trials with the British Paralympic Team if I could work on my balance. After the operations, this ambition was gone forever. So, there I was in the Careers class at my school hoping that I might get positive encouragement and a new goal to achieve. When I asked what the careers teacher thought was an achievable career path for me, I was told, “Damian, you have a reading age of seven, and the most severe Dyslexia I have ever seen” She paused, and said, “Damian, just be a good chap and remember the State will always provide for you, perhaps you should accept a life on benefits and find a decent day centre to attend” I told her I did not want this. She told me that I should be grateful to have the option to spend my days meeting friends and having fun. I told her that would not be happening.
Fast forward to the present day, and here I am qualified to manage day centre provision and regularly advise Government on service user engagement, I was one of the key architects of the Social Services and Wellbeing Act 2014, which effected three million people in Wales, this was done as part of my role as a Non-Executive Director for Social Care Wales. I have helped to develop and test software with Google, Apple, Microsoft and Texthelp in a global partnership to develop screen-readers and learning platforms that are now in use by ninety-six million people. I have also helped to write the National School of Healthcare’s Curriculum for Scientists in England. Several of the Alumni of that program are now at the forefront of finding a solution to the Covid19 pandemic.
I also have two businesses, Executive Coaching 365, which works with government, civil servants, technology businesses and corporates to help people achieve their greatness. I was made a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and management as recognition of my work, and I am recognised by The European Council of Coaching and Mentoring as a Master Coach. My other business is called Mediquip Solutions Limited and that business was formed in the Pandemic with my business partner, because we felt that we wanted to help with some of the large societal issues that were revealed and magnified by the Covid19 pandemic. There are some exciting innovations coming from that company, but I will discuss them in a separate article.
So, let me just say to anybody that has any form of Dyslexia, disability, or health condition, you can achieve if you are determined. On the first of February 2021, I was made Chair of the Institute of Directors for South Wales, one of my main reasons for taking this role is that I have always been of the mind that unless there are more visible disabled people in public life we will keep hearing stories like the one I started this article with, and I believe that it will ingrain a negative attitude to disability in the workplace and business in general, not only for disabled people and under-represented groups in society, but society itself will not recognise us as people capable and eager to take our place in society. Yes, I have a reading age of seven and rampant Dyslexia, but thanks to Access to work, assistive technology and the help of a good team of PAs, I cannot just function but excel in any role I choose. I am also proud to say that I am a taxpayer and that I contribute to society in the UK and globally. With the advent of Zoom, I have been enabled again. I can attend meetings all over the world and not have to worry about my specific needs and travel problems. The World has changed dramatically, and now we need to catch up to these changes in business and how it is done. People who were formerly marginalised are now waiting and able for business and society to see that they are every bit as capable of work and success as anybody else going for any offered employment.
The Institute of Directors has gone through a period of re-alignment and it is my vision as Chair for South Wales that, I want to listen to the business leaders of South Wales and look at some of the challenges that we face, not just during the pandemic, but beyond and I want to call on the business community of South Wales to stand with me and help me achieve a more inclusive environment. With the support of the Institute of Directors, I have never been more optimistic about being able to succeed. So, if you are a director, please reach out to me through LinkedIn or any social media channels. I am looking for visionary directors to be ambassadors for South Wales, who can add their energy to this quest and become an active part of this better world I dream of.