National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN) – Spring Conference

The NADSN Spring Conference was hosted in a nicely renovated and accessible Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation 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.



EdGEL…what EdGEL?

Jokes. Well, half jokes.

Last week, the CAHSS web team attended a hands-on co-creation workshop on how to improve the EdGEL website, with a long game of increasing awareness and implementation of the GEL and standardising our digital output using best practice and GEL standards.

So, EdGEL.

For the uninitiated, EdGEL is Edinburgh University’s Global Experience Language: a set of digital design and development standards, built to ensure that anyone who uses any of our digital services has a consistent experience. An unbelievable amount of work has gone into creating the GEL but it has not been widely adopted. This workshop was part of a plan to redress the balance.

Discover EdGEL as it currently stands
Some of the University of Edinburgh’s finest minds in digital led the workshop, otherwise busy with content editors, designers, developers, project managers and project sponsors (forgive me if I have excluded anyone from the list!). Everyone at the workshop was keen to make a success of the GEL (this is actually the most crucial element of adoption in my view – the desire to implement).

Our tasks in the workshop were to define
• What is the EdGEL website for?
• What content should it have?
• Design a front page of the website as a screen design (including navigation and content)

And to try to answer some key questions
• How can the website facilitate adoption?
• How can the website support adoption?
• What content should the website have?
• Should the website become a destination experience?

After lively and intelligent debate, across a spectrum of skillsets, we presented our ideas informally for consideration.

It is this type of engagement, that will keep EdGEL alive and it is our responsibility to use it to inform our design and development, whilst EdGEL’s new site is being developed. We look forward to a new-look, updated site, which supports our aims of creating usable, accessible digital output that reflects our needs as digital support staff.

In the meantime, asset creation, guideline consideration and examples of the flexibility of EdGEL principles in situ are being curated: watch this space!