Ways of working with Disability Support Services in your own university

Sitting at my desk a few weeks ago, I was approached by one of my university’s Learning Support Team. As she knew of my interest in disability support, she asked if I would like to contribute to an event her team was planning to mark the International Day of People with Disability on December 3rd.

This was an opportunity to grasp with both hands, so I did, and will be offering careers focused information and advice on the day along with a screening of the AGCAS Get that Job resource. Opportunities like this need to be nurtured, but it can be hard if your departments are strategically, operationally or physically separated.

At my institution, Liverpool Hope University, Careers, Learning Support and Health and Wellbeing are all part of the same department, and share the same space, so collaboration like this can take place quite easily. But what can you do to encourage partnership for the benefit of your students if you have not worked with these teams before, or would like to work together more frequently or effectively? Here are some ‘top tips’ to help you on your way!

  • Create and nurture relationships. Keep your communication channels and referral routes open and clear. Sometimes just talking to each other can lead to opportunities to collaborate – like my example for the December event. There might be a person in the disability team who has an interest in careers, just as you might have an interest in disability as a careers adviser. If you find that person – nurture that relationship!
  • Develop knowledge of what the team does, how they work; and tell them what you do and how you work. Can you visit each other’s team meeting, or arrange some reciprocal training?
  • Dovetail with existing initiatives and keep each other up to date on what you are planning. Can you publicise each other’s events through your contact lists; could anything you are doing already with students act as a platform for the other team to promote and deliver their services? For example, the Careers Centre at Staffordshire University linked up with the team of Disabled Student Peer Mentors to ensure they knew what was offered by the Careers Centre and could signpost their mentees.
  • Celebrate ability together: look for opportunities to work together on events, or at least inputting into each other’s events. There are plenty of national and international celebration days that could be marked, such as University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day, 18th February, 2015, organised by the University Mental Health Adviser Network (UMHAN). Or could you work together to develop case studies for your own institutions of graduates who have gone onto achieve? Are there any other joint resources you could work on?
  • Use their expertise: can the team advise you on making your careers service more accessible? Look out for our future blog article on conducting a disability audit of your careers service.

Hopefully that has been some inspiration to you for getting started, or building on what you already do, and now it’s over to you!

If you have an example of how you have worked with disability services in your university, please leave a comment explaining what you did. I am sure there are lots of examples of good practice out there already – so let’s get sharing!

Clare Worrall-Hill, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Liverpool Hope University Careers and Employability Service.

Hands signifying collaboration
Collaboration works!

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