Getting disability on the agenda

Read six or seven strategies at different Universities and you’ll find that the values and visions all start to blur into one.

Disability gets lost within broader terms like ‘equality’, ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’, ‘accessibility’, or ‘well-being’, sometimes without a specific organisation-wide approach to disability set out (let alone any actions).

Having the aim of making practices and procedures more inclusive is definitely well intentioned, but turning those kind of aims into actions is the step that is often missing. Just stating ‘We value…’ and ‘We celebrate and promote…’ is sometimes as far as things get.

In ‘Leading from the Front, Disability and the role of the Board’, KPMG, together with Purple, have suggested 5 actions that organisations can take to increase disability awareness:

• Tabling disability as an agenda item for a minimum of one board meeting each year
• Appointing a board level champion who is accountable for disability issues within an organisation
• Signing up to the Governments Disability Confident scheme to demonstrate commitment to becoming an inclusive employer and brand
• Become an advocate and promoting disability issues to suppliers, extended networks and external audiences
• Consider external partnerships with campaigns and bodies that specialise in disability issues to boost your understanding and accelerate change programmes

These 5 aims could be adopted by small and big companies alike, who might be relooking at their approach to disability, or considering it for the first time.

Although these are tailored to the board level of companies, it wouldn’t take much work to adapt these to fit a University setting. For example, at a Student Services or Careers and Employability Service level, promoting disability issues to external audiences could be anticipating that employers taking on disabled graduates or disabled placement students might have some questions or reservations about hiring.

Boosting our knowledge of employment-specific disability issues can be achieved by familiarising ourselves more with disability campaigns and bodies, as suggested in the final action point. Sometimes all it takes is reading a particular case study, best practice example, or useful guide. Stumbling across a charity or organisation that you didn’t know existed can also be a surefire way to feel more confident about tackling the common misconceptions around disability held by some employers.

It’s not about turning into a disability expert overnight. Start small with a few manageable actions that will actually make a noticeable difference where you work.

 

Edmund Lewis, AGCAS Disability Task Group, University of Westminster

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