Action in support of disabled staff and students
Imperial is proud to be a Disability Confident employer and promotes the social model of disability by aiming to remove all possible barriers to inclusion. Where it is not possible to remove barriers, we are able to offer a broad range of support to disabled staff and students.
The Equality Act 2010 definition of disability is “a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ adverse effect on the ability to do normal daily activities”. This definition includes people with physical and sensory impairments, developmental and cognitive difficulties, or enduring health conditions, both physical and mental.
The majority of disabilities tend to be invisible. This means that as a College many people are not aware of the extent or needs of either disabled staff or students. However, awareness of disability amongst staff supporting students is growing and Imperial is working to develop fully inclusive practices throughout the whole College that will reduce the need for individual reasonable adjustments.
Our provision for students, which is delivered through the Disability Advisory Service (DAS), is now well established and generally well organised. DAS provides advice and support to both students and the staff who support or teach them as well as funding individual adjustments from a central funding stream, the Reasonable Adjustment Fund. DAS advisors can purchase all necessary individual reasonable adjustments which allows the service to operate in a timely and responsive manner. DAS also works closely with other departments to promote inclusivity and reduce reliance on individual adjustments.
Support for staff is more typically devolved to departments, which can access expert advice through either Occupational Health (for cases that involve an active health problem) and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre (where there is no active health problem). This set-up aims to ensure that individual members of staff receive the most appropriate support. While the devolution of responsibility to departments allows locally-tailored responses to disabled staff, some recent cases have revealed gaps in the chain of responsibility, resulting in delays in addressing individual need through reasonable adjustments.
We recognise the need to improve the experiences of disabled staff and students and to raise awareness at Imperial of the impact of discriminatory attitudes.
We will establish a formal and effective mechanism for recording requests for support for disability by staff and students, and monitoring responses to ensure that they are timely and effective.
We will ensure that all staff with line management responsibilities are trained to deal sensitively and appropriately with disability cases, and that they understand how to access expert support at the College and financial support for reasonable adjustments through the Government’s Access to Work scheme. As part of this effort we will review and enhance disability awareness training.
We will increase the number of trained volunteer Mental Health First Aiders across all College campuses from the present level of around 1 in 100 people to 1 in 50 people.
We will identify existing College facilities that are used for College-wide events but not equipped to be fully accessible (e.g. wheel-chair ramps/lifts; hearing loops). We will devise and resource a plan to improve the accessibility of prioritised buildings/rooms.
We will mainstream disability in the College’s educational offerings by adopting as general practice strategies that may be of particular benefit to disabled students (e.g. use of microphones, lecture recording, advance provision of reading lists and course materials). This builds on the current Assistive Technology Service Enhancement Project.
We will increase the availability of training for academics on inclusive learning and teaching practice and the benefits of inclusion through universal design.
We will require the College Disability Action Committee to update the Disability Action Plan in the light of the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, and to publish both the plan and regular updates on progress towards specific goals on its website.
We will apply to be a Disability Confident Leader within two years.
We will support and promote the Calibre training and development programme and explore the feasibility of creating a similar programme for students.
We will promote participation in the Able@Imperial staff network.