Imperial staff have shared their perspective on working with a disability as part of Calibre, Imperial’s specially designed leadership programme.
Staff described how the programme had given them the confidence to ask for adjustments as well as stepping forward to be mentors and champions in order to help other staff.
Calibre has been running for seven years and remains the only programme in the higher education sector to directly focus on disability in the workplace. It is designed to address the barriers that hinder career development and support staff in building their confidence.
Professor Stephen Curry, the College’s Assistant Provost for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, presented certificates at the event. Thanking the participants for their contributions, Professor Curry said: “I feel humbled by the experiences we’ve heard today. It’s so important for us to hear different perspectives – for me, sharing experiences will be at the heart of our efforts to make Imperial a better place to work and study.”
Ibi Wallbank is Departmental Manager at Silwood Park for the Department of Life Sciences and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009. She said: “Before Calibre I hadn’t heard of the social model of disability – which says that disability is caused by barriers in society, not by individual people’s impairments. For nearly a decade I had focussed on what I can no longer do and blamed myself. The College has the right policies in place to promote equality and support disabled staff members. However, it’s up to individual managers to implement them and this doesn’t always happen consistently. Calibre has given me much more confidence to speak out and ask for the reasonable adjustments I need at work.”
Making the mirror
Becky Cameron is a Postgraduate Education Administrator in the Department of Surgery and Cancer. She said: “I have an invisible disability in the form of mental ill-health. I applied to the College mentoring scheme with a request for a mentor who also experienced mental ill-health, but no one came forward. It’s really damaging to not see yourself represented, to not see yourself reflected, or any examples of how you can succeed. So I decided to apply for the Calibre programme so that I could become that mentor for others.”
Demonstrating the benefits
Peter Brown is a Site Manager in ICT, and was diagnosed with dyslexia five years ago. He said: “Everyone at Imperial has been so brilliant and supportive since my diagnosis. Calibre helped me to develop strategies to cope with challenges, and to demonstrate the benefits of the changes I requested at work – removing barriers can be a benefit for everyone. I’m proud to be one of the College’s Dyslexia Champions, helping to build a dyslexia-friendly culture at Imperial.”
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