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.
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