The former chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DRUK) has called for the Government to shine the same spotlight on disability equality as it has on gender equality in order to improve employment opportunities.

Liz Sayce OBE will head to Newcastle next month to speak at a conference aimed at challenging attitudes towards disability employment.

The Change Attitudes Now (CAN) Conference has been organised by The Percy Hedley Foundation’s Employability Project and will be held at the Crowne Plaza on December 1st.

The Government set a bold target to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, which currently stands at 33 per cent, and Sayce, who is among a host of speakers confirmed for the event, says it is now time to take action.

“The Government has committed to improving employment opportunities for disabled people so it’s time to put that into practice and give it the same profile as gender equality,” she said.

“I really think there needs to be cross-government strategy that not only looks at employment for disabled people but also looks at education, skills, training, social care and transport.

“If you look at gender equality, the Government has put pressure on companies to employ more women in top roles and publish their figures.

“There’s nothing like that in terms of disability. It needs to be given the same profile as gender equality from the Government and business leaders over the next 5 years.”

Percy Hedley’s employability service, Hedleys Employability, supports employers to be more disability confident and Sayce believes initiatives like this are key to closing the gap.

She said: “We know what works to get people into work and to keep people in work and that is to offer employers more support.

“Over the last few years the gap hasn’t changed so we need to see a strong impetus to change that and support employers. We need to monitor the number each year and evaluate what has worked and what hasn’t.

“We should be seeing year-on-year improvement and we should learn from what works best. We need to be ambitious and look to make a significant improvement on the gap.”

Tickets for the CAN Conference can be purchased via Eventbrite search ‘Hedleys Employability or visit