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Guiding disabled students through the recruitment and selection process

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Keen to facilitate the sharing of good practice in the support offered to disabled students and graduates, in April the AGCAS Disability Task Group delivered a training day as part of the AGCAS NW Regional Training Programme. The day included advice on topics such as finding work placements, researching an employer’s attitude towards disability, disclosure, positive self-marketing, signposting to disability related resources, as well as the opportunity for useful discussion between participants and the presenters.

During the afternoon a panel of external speakers provided an insight into reasonable adjustments during the selection process and within the workplace, illustrated through a number of case studies. The panel included Theresa Lewin, the HR Manager for Liverpool Hope University, Catherine Leggett an Employment Consultant with the National Autistic Society and Peter Brooke, a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant with Remploy. There was a lively Q and A session after their individual inputs, in which they fielded a diverse range of questions. The day ended with signposting to a range of resources geared to supporting work with disabled students, including a number developed by the Task Group and a brief insight into a recent survey conducted by staff at the University of Sheffield into students use of the Careers Service and ways in which its support could be best tailored to their needs.

If you were unable to attend this event and would like a copy of the slides from the day, do feel free to email me h.whorrall@sheffield.ac.uk

Hilary Whorrall, Disability Task Group.

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Carrying out a disability audit of your careers service

When I agreed to write this blog article, I hadn’t actually been involved in a disability audit of a careers service. I thought this presented a great opportunity to get involved, and decided the best way to learn was to actually carry one out!

Sounds like a lot of work… why bother?

The Equality Act (2010) places an anticipatory duty to arrange reasonable adjustments to provide inclusive access to services for disabled people. Carrying out an audit will enable a careers service to take stock of what adjustments already exist, and where it could make further reasonable adjustments in anticipation of use by a disabled student or graduate. This proactive rather than reactive approach makes a service more inclusive and efficient, and could encourage more disabled students into the service.

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Preparation

I started preparing for my audit by doing a bit of research. Firstly, I spoke to the careers team I work with, and also the University’s learning support team, to find out if anything similar had been done historically. It hadn’t. Lots had been done around supporting disabled students and graduates, but it had never really been drawn together and documented. Therefore it emerged that as well as highlighting what we needed to do to more of to support our disabled students and graduates, the audit presented a good opportunity to celebrate what we were already doing!

Next, I asked Disability Task Group colleagues if they had audited their careers service. I used a template disability audit document offered by a colleague from the University of Sheffield Careers Service, and tailored it for my organisation. After several years of using the template, my colleague now keeps an ongoing dialogue open with disability services at her institution, but I decided to go with the template for my first audit.

The broad headings recommended by the template were:

  • Access to the service: covering the statement of service, physical environment, publicity material, signage, adjustments e.g. hearing loop, work with other departments e.g. disability service, staff training, student feedback and monitoring
  • Information: covering alternative formats, disability relevant information in careers service materials, inclusive materials, disability friendly employer information, knowledge of appropriate support agencies
  • Student appointments: covering flexibility of appointment time, format and venue, knowledge of, and access to, interpreting services
  • Careers events: covering accessibility of premises, materials in accessible formats with information relevant to disabled people (attendees and exhibitors)

Carrying out the audit

Bringing together relevant people from your service, ideally the disability service and having student representation, will allow you to cover all areas being audited. I worked with a careers adviser, information officer, and employability manager to complete my audit, and asked a member of the student Disability Society to provide some feedback. The audit raised healthy and honest discussion, and as I had anticipated, provided the opportunity for people to say “Yes! We’re doing that!” and for it to be recorded. We also identified several actions we needed to complete – many of which would simply require the asking of a question. For example, we knew that a sign language interpreter could be organised, but none of us knew the process for doing so. Finding this out will allow us to provide a much more confident and efficient service should the request be made. Agreeing actions and timescales for completion is essential, as is setting a date to review progress. I aim to introduce the audit follow up to the team meeting agenda with a review of progress at the end of May.

Improving services for all students

Working with the adage ‘improving services for one group of students improves services for all students’, this was a worthwhile and holistic activity. It need not take a huge amount of time, and does not necessarily lead to a lot more work. What it does, is remind you what you are doing well as a service, and highlight how you can provide an even better service to your disabled students and graduates.

If you would like more advice on conducting a disability audit of your service, then get in touch with the AGCAS Disability Task Group.

Clare Worrall-Hill, AGCAS Disability Task Group, Careers Adviser, Liverpool Hope University

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