Inclusivity framework launched to support students and staff with disabilities
The University of Wolverhampton has launched a Disability Equality Action Plan (DEAP) to further improve inclusivity for those working and studying in higher education.
In the run-up to UK Disability History Month (16 November – 16 December), the University of Wolverhampton’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team has been working alongside colleagues with disabilities to learn about their lived experiences to make way for a more inclusive workplace.
Co-chair of the University’s Disability Staff Network Dr Melanie Best, states UK higher education cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population that is inclusive of all individuals.
Unlike Gender and Gender Identity (Athena SWAN) and Ethnicity and Nationality (REC) there is currently no Advance HE Charter Mark to guide universities who wish to enhance disability equality within their institution. Similarly, unlike LGBT+ Equality (Stonewall), there is no general benchmarking scheme to guide best practices on Disability Equality.
The advantages of such charter marks or benchmarking schemes are that they provide a structure to undertake a rigorous analysis of how particular protected characteristic impacts the University experience, identify examples of disadvantage experienced by a particular group, and then put in place measures to address those problems.
The University’s DEAP framework aims to ensure everyone feels valued during their time at the University of Wolverhampton.
Dr Melanie Best, operational lead for DEAP said: “Disabled individuals have immense skills and qualities that can see them achieve at the highest level and make significant contributions to teams and workplaces. And yet unfortunately within the HE sector, we know that they are under-represented and can experience multiple barriers to securing employment and progressing within their careers.
“The absence of a national charter meant that we needed to forge our own path at the University in creating a framework to address some of the equalities and this has been a learning experience.
“Our disabled staff have offered valuable insights into the challenges of being a disabled employee and this has enabled us to create a framework and action plan (DEAP) to guide our work on disability inclusivity. From reviewing our Disability Leave policy to exploring the centralisation of reasonable adjustments, we are committed to being at the forefront of disability equality in the HE sector.
“Disability History Month presents a great opportunity for us to share some of the work we have been focusing on and what we continue to prioritise as we move into 2023.”
Lindsay Loach, Administrative Assistant in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: “As a disabled member of staff living with severe asthma and a late diagnosis of neurodiversity, it hasn’t always been easy.
“Before covid, being a member of professional services, we were unable to have the flexibility of working from home on days that I found a struggle. But now, there’s a whole new way of working and thanks to the support of the Disability Staff Work further adjustments have been made to enable me to accomplish things I never thought possible - I feel like a fully functioning human being, taking part in working life.
“I don’t think many people realise the struggles we have living with disabilities; existing not living, giving up career dreams, having little financial stability, sometimes we are not living our best life enjoying ‘free time. ‘Having that flexibility to work from home really opens doors for us and that, it itself, is wonderful.
“I hope that DEAP will bring us equality and inclusivity so every disabled person will have the opportunity to feel equal to our none disabled peers. We are hardworking people, and we need these opportunities so we can flourish and show our strengths and skills, progress and live our best lives.”
In addition, throughout this year’s Disability History Month the University is hosting a series of free online events available for all students, staff and the public, designed to help everyone become disability confident.
Sessions will be led by a number of inspirational speakers including Hamied Haroon, Chair of NADSN (National Association of Disabled Staff Networks), as well as contributions from many organisations that support disabled people.
The main event takes place on December 1 via Zoom. To book your place visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/disabilityhistorymonth
For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.