From education to employment

UCU launch campaign encouraging disabled staff to declare their disability

A campaign urging disabled college staff to speak out about their disability has been launched. Fear of discrimination impairing career prospects has lead to many disabled staff feeling reluctant to declare their disability. However, self-declaration is necessary if colleges are to gain accurate records of the number of disabled staff they employ. The information is also vital if equality is to be guaranteed for disabled staff.

On Thursday UCU (University and College Union) and UNISON launched the campaign urging disabled staff to declare their disability and to become a positive role model for disabled colleagues and students. The aim is to assist in efforts to enhance career prospects for disabled people.

Several disabled college staff have already produced role model statements to help the campaign:

Stephanie Lee-Dwyer, City & Islington College comments, “I am a teacher, not in spite of having MS, nor because of it. I am a teacher because that is what I have always enjoyed doing.”

In a DfES funded project, UCU and UNISON have worked with many colleges over the last year bringing together examples of good practise and developing the role of unions and disabled staff to help further education establishments fulfil their equality responsibilities.

The Disability Equality Duty, introduced on 4 December 2006, legally obliges further education providers to promote equality for disabled staff. Colleges are obliged to publish a Disability Equality Scheme (DES) with the active involvement of disabled staff.

UCU and UNiSON have produced a guidance document to help unions and colleges to implement the duty and extend good practise. The document was published at a conference organised by the unions and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) on Thursday. Attendees included disabled staff, staff governors, HR managers and union reps who debated issues impacting upon the FE workforce.

Sian Davies, Disability Equality Organiser for UCU & UNISON, said at the conference: “Despite progress, the FE sector has not yet delivered for most disabled staff. The Disability Equality Duty project has brought together many ideas and examples of good practise for promoting disability equality. In some cases disabled staff have played a central role in developing college strategies. However, we need greater self-declaration and participation by disabled staff to speed up progress. More role models plus the guidance we have produced will be a great help and this conference will be a significant step forward in promoting the skills, knowledge and good practise which can make FE workplaces better suited to the needs and talents of disabled staff.”

Chris Mitchell

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