The NADSN Spring Conference was hosted in a nicely renovated and accessible Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation http://edinburghcentre.org/. I thought it would be interesting to attend not only from a personal angle but really useful in my role as a line manager.
In the world of web development, we are all very familiar with the concept of web accessibility. Still striving towards it rather than 100% compliant we are at least very aware of the possible issues and barriers and the good practice guides to overcome these. Web accessibility in the context of student or outreach materials has had a lot of publicity over the past 10 years or so (for a good reason of course).
Currently, UoE is also investing a lot of money to get rid of the physical barriers, adapting the old buildings particularly as part of improving the student experience.
There is a bit of a contrast though in a way the HE addresses issues of disabled staff. Stephanie Millar, Senior Policy Advisor, Equality Challenge Unit in her very informative keynote quoted that only 3.3% of the University Staff disclose a disability. This can be compared with around 18% of the interviewed general public.
The reasons for this huge discrepancy may be many. Fewer disabled staff being employed in HE but also much fewer wishing to disclose their condition for the still very much alive fear of stigma.
Generally speaking, everyone wants to be seen as a fully productive and able member of staff rather than a “problem”.
The non-disclosure is one of the reasons why it may be easy for the institutions to ignore the issues. Departmental culture plays a very significant role in the treatment and policies around the disability of staff. This created many inequalities how for example special adjustments or disability leave is treated. It is through networks such as the NADSN that the slow change in attitudes is beginning to emerge.
Thank you to the brave speakers who are coming with the personal stories as well as the knowledge of the field.