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Disabled Members

There are number of ways in which disabled members can raise their concerns, keep informed on new developments and be involved in shaping UCU policy.

Click here for the latest edition of Disabled members' news


If you are experiencing discrimination, bullying or harassment at work see the main equality page for advice on getting support.


Resources and guidance for UCU equality officers and activists can be found in the equality resource centre in the UCU activists section of the website, with a dedicated page for disability equality resources.

At the bottom of this page you will find the most recent relevant UCU articles and publications or see the publications section for a full list.

UCU produced a film as a contribution to Disability History Month (22 November to 22 December). We have aimed to make this film accessible to all members and welcome any feedback. Please use this film to commemorate Disability History and as a trade union and teaching resource to raise awareness of the importance of the social model of disability.

Please send any comments to: hcarr@ucu.org.uk

Representation within UCU

The rules of the union have been drafted to ensure disabled members are represented in UCU's democratic structures. There are nine 'equality seats' on the national executive committee (NEC), elected directly by all members. One of these seats is for a representative of disabled members. The executive comprises a number of sub-committees including an equality committee.

A conference for disabled members is held every year. This conference elects a disabled members' committee (DMC). The DMC can send one motion and one amendment to the annual national congress, and to the sector conferences.

Disabled members' email list

As well as these formal structures the equality unit operates a disabled members' email list to keep you in touch with relevant events and information which any disabled UCU member can join - just contact the equality unit on eqadmin@ucu.org.uk and ask to be added to the list.

Latest news

Disabled education workers and students suffering under austerity measures, says TUC

Government reforms and austerity measures are endangering the education of young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), says a new report published on 30 March 2015 by the TUC.

The report, Disabled Workers and Students in Education, also says that reforms have reversed progress being made towards an educational system that welcomes and respects disabled staff.

The TUC report looks first at the experience of disabled teaching staff in the UK and then at the effects of various changes to the SEND system. Responses from trade union surveys illustrate the points raised by the report.

The study identifies a number of key reasons for the decline in progress in the area of SEND:

  • discrimination against disabled staff members (77 per cent of disabled NASUWT members' reported facing discrimination)
  • increasing workloads leading to rising stress levels among staff (surveys suggest that 60-hour weeks are common)
  • local authority funding cuts leading to reduced SEND services (local authority funding dropped by more than 40 per cent between 2010 and 2015)
  • regular changes to the curriculum (71 per cent of NUT members believe the curriculum does not meet the needs of pupils with SEND)
  • abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance in 2011 (pupils with SEND were more likely to be eligible for this post-16 education funding).

Read more on the 'Disabled Workers and Students in Education' report here.

'Fulfilling Potential' - consultation response

'Fulfilling Potential' is a consultation document from the Office for Disability Issues on improving the possibilities for disabled people in the UK. The Disabled Members' Standing Committee recently agreed a UCU response, stating that the cuts in financial and social support for disabled people make the aspirations of this report unachievable and insulting. You can read the document here (pdf).

Download the UCU response here:

 (.doc) file type icon Fulfilling Potential - UCU consultation response, Mar 14 (.doc) [78kb]

Hidden in plain sight - the inquiry final report

'Hidden in plain sight' is the final report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's Inquiry into disability-related harassment. The report uncovers that harassment is a commonplace experience for disabled people, but a culture of disbelief and systemic institutional failures are preventing it from being tackled effectively. As well as reporting on the extent of harassment the report also includes case studies and makes recommendations to public authorities to help them deal with the problems uncovered.

The EHRC have produced a briefing for schools and colleges which can be downloaded here (.doc).

It sets out the key issues for schools and colleges.

Key areas for improvement for schools and colleges:

  • promote positive attitudes to disabled people
  • better integration of pupils who are disabled or have special educational needs
  • increase reporting of harassment and bullying
  • recognise that bullying may be motivated by hostility or prejudice against disabled people
  • intervene effectively to prevent escalation of bullying
  • better support for disabled pupils
  • reduce harassment of disabled people by pupils outside school, particularly on public transport
  • improve joint working with other agencies.

UCU will be raising the report with the Higher Education Equality Challenge Unit and the Association of Colleges particularly how they will support staff in delivering the recommendations.

UCU responded to the inquiry and raised our concern that it would not look at disability related harassment of staff in the workplace.

Further information about the Inquiry can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website: www.equalityhumanrights.gov.uk

One in Four - a briefing on mental health at work

UCU has produced a briefing on mental health at work entitled One in Four, reflecting the one in four people who will experience some kind of mental health condition in the course of a year. It is intended to assist branches in supporting members who may need mental health support and seeks to offer practical advice and guidance for branch representatives, including health and safety representatives.

Individuals needing mental health support will face their own unique challenges and many may need little or no changes to their working environment. However, understanding their needs and being able to advise and support members is paramount to ensuring that the stigma, stereotypes and discrimination associated with mental health are addressed.

You can download the briefing here, or contact the Equality department for a hard copy at equality@ucu.org.uk:  (.pdf) file type icon One in Four - a UCU briefing on mental health at work, Jun 11 (.pdf) [103kb]

Debate on assisted dying

This TUC briefing paper on assisted suicide presents a legal opinion of the situation in the UK, and explores opposing views in the debate. It aims to provide basic information to our members on some of the issues and legalities surrounding the matter, and to inform and enlighten the debate. Neither the UCU, TUC or TUC Disability Committee have adopted any position on what is recognised as an emotive and controversial issue, noting the strongly held opinions and wider context that applies, particularly to disabled people:  (.doc) file type icon TUC briefing: The debate on assisted suicide (DMSC123), Apr 11 (.doc) [139kb]

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