Disability, IP Ability, Neurodiversity, Webinars

Free webinar from our IP Ability community
in conjunction with CIPA

Tuesday 21 June 2022
12.30 – 1.30 pm


In conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), our IP Ability community invited people to join an informative and thought-provoking panel discussion on “workplace adjustments”.

The Equality Act 2010 sets out a duty for employers to make reasonable adjustments for those placed at a substantial disadvantage because of a disability when compared to non-disabled people or people who don’t share that disability. Employers and employees alike need a good understanding of the Act and its potential impact, and the panel helped explore this developing area. The audience heard too of first-hand experiences of workplace adjustments, and details of implemented systems that have been used internally as a network between staff with similar life experiences.

Whether as an employer, employee or ally, it was a great way to find out how you can better support yourself as well as those you work with.


Our speakers


Photo of Debra Smith
Debra Smith, Mayfin IP

Debra’s technical background is in mechanical engineering (Imperial College, University of London). After completion of her degree in 1989 she worked in engineering for about 4 years, initially in R&D for the company that sponsored Debra through her degree – based in Leicester. She then worked for a consultancy carrying out a contractual role, based in Peterborough.

At this stage, she decided to make a career change and ended up entering the IP profession (quite by accident) working for the UK MoD where she started her training in intellectual property, obtained a “Certificate in Intellectual Property Law” from Queen Mary and Westfield College and qualified as a UK patent attorney in 1998. After working at the MoD for 6 years, Debra changed jobs to work in-house for the next 14+ years and qualified as a European patent attorney in 1999.

Debra now has been working for her own company (Mayfin IP Ltd) for the last 8+ years and realises that it was only through the help provided by her previous employer that she could ever have set up her own business.


Photo of Ben Buchanan
Ben Buchanan, IPO

Ben Buchanan is a Deputy Director at the UK Intellectual Property Office and leads three teams who examine and grant patents in a variety of areas including oil and gas, electric motors and visual processing technology. He is also the IPO’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion, responsible for leading the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group which works with staff networks and the HR business to deliver policy and practice changes.

As a line manager he has supported a number of occupational health referrals and the introduction of workplace adjustments, both formal and informal. For the most part these relate to talking, time and technology: communication preferences, working patterns, goals and objectives, and assistive software to enable people with non-neurotypical preferences to fulfil their potential. He is an advocate of the business and personal benefits of enabling people, individually and collectively, to make the most of their different talents and strengths.

Ben is currently the chair of the IP Inclusive Advisory Board and believes that the difference that matters is the difference that you can make.


Photo of Nik Dowell
Nikki Dowell, IPO

Nik Dowell was born and raised in London before moving to South Wales to work at what was then the Patent Office in 1998. He is married with three children and enjoys walking and supporting Cardiff City & Devils. In his time at the IPO he has worked as a senior patent examiner in the computing area and more recently as a patent examining group head. He has managed a number of colleagues with dyslexia, autism and other long-term conditions that have required reasonable adjustments. He set up and chairs “iThink”, the IPO’s staff neurodiversity network, principally for colleagues with autism and dyslexia to provide them with peer support forums, increase knowledge and understanding and empower them to seek changes within the IPO to make it a more autism/dyslexia-friendly place to work.


Photo of Megan Rannard
Megan Rannard, Marks and Clerk LLP

Megan is an Associate and Chartered Trade Mark Attorney at Marks & Clerk – she joined the IP profession in 2017 having completed a law degree at the University of Kent.

Megan is committed to raising awareness, and promoting inclusion and equality for disabled professionals in particular based on her personal experiences with an invisible disability. She is actively involved in IP Inclusive, being a member of the IP Inclusive Advisory Board and the committee for IP Ability (the IP Inclusive community for disabled people, carers and their allies).


Photo of Karen Genuardi
Karen Genuardi, AA Thornton IP LLP

Karen is Head of People at AA Thornton – Intellectual Property Law Firm, where she has enjoyed developing the People function over the past 9 years and taking an active role in the Diversity & Inclusion agenda. Karen is also a Mental Health First Aider.

Having worked in a variety of HR roles across a range of sectors for over 25 years, in organisations such as Ernst & Young, Ambitious about Autism and in arts organisations, she has experience of discussing, advising on and facilitating the implementation of workplace adjustments. This has involved engaging with Occupational Health professionals, individuals and line managers, where her approach has been to build workplace cultures where people feel comfortable talking about the adjustments they need as part and parcel of an inclusive workplace. Karen is clear that the organisations that do this well are best placed to recruit and retain the best talent.

Karen is a member of the IP Ability Committee and is keen to help in any way she can to support people across the profession to fulfil their full potential.


Follow-up resources

In case you missed the live event or would like to listen again, you can access a recording of the webinar here and the slide set here.


More information

This event was open to all IP Inclusive supporters, whether or not CIPA members. Follow-up queries can be addressed to [email protected] or to [email protected].

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