Nine participants have graduated from Imperial’s talent development programme Calibre, aimed at staff living with a disability.
The Calibre Disabled Leaders Programme has been designed to address the unique challenges faced by disabled staff in higher education, helping them to gain leadership skills so that they can thrive in a variety of positions.
Sara and Naomi, two participants who graduated from the Calibre programme, reflect on what they have learned from being on the course this year.
“Your disability doesn’t have to define you”
Sara West, Communications Officer in the Department of Chemical Engineering, applied for Calibre after being diagnosed with a long term condition.
“I was unsure what my diagnosis meant for my career. I didn’t know anyone in a similar position and had a lot of questions, but I also wanted to support other people with long term conditions or disabilities,” Sara said.
“Having completed the Calibre programme, I’ve learned that your disability doesn’t have to define you. As an employee, it can give you a very unique set of skills which I feel employers should value.”
“I would highly recommend Calibre to staff who are living with a disability – whether you identify with the term ‘disabled’ or not." Sara West Communications Officer, Department of Chemical Engineering
Sara feels that Calibre has helped to boost confidence in her abilities. “The programme has helped me to realise that we can all better support people living with a disability by understanding that no matter what their condition is, they face barriers created not by the individual, but by our society and environment.
"Collectively, there is a lot more we could do to remove those barriers, which ultimately benefits everyone - not just those with a disability. I hope I can empower others using the skills that I have learned."
Sara added: “I would highly recommend Calibre to staff who are living with a disability – whether you identify with the term ‘disabled’ or not. I hope that in the near future, this type of training will be offered to everyone in the workplace to help foster an inclusive and supportive environment for all.”
Changing perceptions of disability
Naomi Gardner, Research Facilitator from the Research Office, feels that her communication skills have improved through her experience on the Calibre programme. Naomi said:
“The Calibre programme helped me see things differently, such as not thinking of myself as a victim. In one of the workshops, actors were invited to play out scenarios on the use of language when having a meeting. I found this really helpful as it helped me think about my own communication style at work.”
She added: “It helped to be on a course with a group of staff who felt the same as me. Although we all had different types of disabilities, we had a similar outlook on life. It was a good opportunity for me to hear other people’s experiences and even think about changing how I talk about and view disability.”
"I’m proud that at Imperial, we have a programme like Calibre that helps disabled staff feel less alone.” Professor Stephen Curry Assistant Provost for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Professor Stephen Curry, Assistant Provost for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, presented participants with their certificates alongside John Neilson, College Secretary.
Professor Curry said: “This is the second time I have attended the Calibre graduation ceremony and I have been blown away by the presentations from staff on both occasions. They are very honest about their experiences, which not only gives an insight into their situation, but reveals the systemic barriers that in some cases, have held them back.
“Many of the participants have described their journey on the Calibre programme using terms like ‘profound experience’ and ‘empowering.’ It is good to see our staff feeling empowered, not only to face their barriers and overcome them, but also to help us as an organisation to dismantle them. I’m proud that at Imperial, we have a programme like Calibre that helps disabled staff feel less alone.”
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