UCL News


Vice-Provost's View: How we aim to make UCL a place where Disabled staff and students can thrive

11 May 2017

Following my article a couple of months ago, I am delighted to have this opportunity to update you regarding the work that we have been doing across UCL to ensure that the university is a welcoming and inclusive place where Disabled People can thrive.

Rex Knight  

As you may recall, we have decided to apply for the Disability Standard as an institution. We are one of the first universities in the UK to seek this prestigious award, which recognises the measures taken by employers and service providers to remove barriers to Disabled People.

Modelling our activity upon the lessons learnt from UCL's successes under the Race Equality and Athena SWAN Charter Marks, I am leading a project team that is taking forward our work in this area. 

This self-assessment team (SAT) is organised in sub-groups, progressing our activity in each of the 10 areas of the standard. These teams comprise two Disabled UCL employees, or allies of Disabled People, working with a lead manager. 

The SAT has met several times and the sub-groups are doing a fantastic job in identifying the good things that we are already doing, as well as the areas where more needs to be done.

The Disability Standard, operated by the Business Disability Forum, of which UCL is a member, will enable us to evaluate how good we are at planning for, and anticipating the needs of, Disabled Staff, students and visitors, rather than just reacting to their needs when they get here. 

An independent benchmark

It offers a comprehensive, independent way of benchmarking our performance against our sector as well as across the wider workforce. We have begun to map out UCL's strengths - such as our central budget for Reasonable Adjustments - and identify areas for improvement against the 10 criteria.

We have started to look at how we can learn as an institution from other universities where similar processes are being undertaken. Manchester Metropolitan University recently achieved the Gold Standard and while this may be ambitious for us in our first submission, it should certainly be our ultimate objective. 

As with the other charter marks that we have received, the real prize is not just the external recognition, but the impetus given to change and development.

Our Equal Opportunity Policy is based on the belief that we benefit from diversity. All staff and students should, therefore, be able to contribute to UCL and fulfil their potential.

Enabling all to fulfil their potential

The SAT is helping us to examine how effectively UCL includes and reflects the diversity of Disabled People working and studying here, as well as thinking about how we can reach out to ensure that we become more representative of the diversity of the Disabled Community.

no barriers no borders

At UCL only 3% of our staff currently declare a long-term impairment or condition, which in itself is indicative, at best, of a lack of awareness of what being Disabled means and perhaps, at worst, a lack of confidence in how this data will be used.

We undertake an annual monitoring exercise, which will next be conducted in early summer 2017. I would encourage colleagues to use that opportunity to participate in this important exercise and declare as appropriate.

We do rather better with students, for whom the declaration rate is about 10%, but this is still probably an understatement.

Matching cutting-edge research with practice

As an institution, we conduct world-leading research in many areas of impairment. Just this week, the front page of our website has a news story from the IOE Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE).

UCL is also:

This brief list does not do justice to the range of research in this area at UCL, and I apologise if you are in a centre or group that is not included! We need to make sure that we are engaging with researchers in this area to ensure that cutting edge research at UCL is matched by cutting edge practice.

The team working on the Disability Standard and I plan to consult with our Disabled and non-Disabled Staff about how best to promote Disability Equality at UCL. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team will keep you up-to-date on progress. 

We also welcome ideas and engagement at departmental, faculty and school level concerning practical measures that we can start taking now to improve disability declaration rates and the inclusion of Disabled People throughout the university. 

From the grass roots up

For change to become culturally and organisationally embedded across the rich and varied tapestry that is UCL, we need to ensure that changes take place at the 'grass roots' within departments, faculties and schools where it will have a positive impact upon the experiences of Disabled staff and students.

Incidentally, as a result of my own awareness being raised as Disability Equality Champion at UCL, I've learnt to capitalise Disabled to reflect the Social Model of Disability, as I recognise that being a Disabled Person is about a social and environmental process of exclusion rather than being something intrinsic to an individual's impairment or condition.

For more information about the Disability Standard, please visit the BDF website. For practical advice about implementing disability equality, please email equalities@ucl.ac.uk.

Rex Knight
Vice-Provost (Operations)

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