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Taking action in higher education

Disabled college staff urged to declare their disability and be 'positive role models'

17 May 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

College unions UCU and UNISON will launch a campaign, on Thursday 17 May, urging disabled staff to declare their disability, become positive role models for disabled colleagues and students and assist efforts to enhance the career prospects of disabled people.

Many disabled staff are reluctant to declare their disability for fear of discrimination which could impair their career prospects. Self declaration is necessary if colleges are to accurately record the number of disabled staff they employ. The information is also vital if equality is to be guaranteed for disabled staff.

Several disabled college staff have already produced 'role model statements' to help the campaign: '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.' (Stephanie Lee-Dwyer, City & Islington College.)

UCU and UNISON have worked with many colleges over the last year in a DfES funded project bringing together examples of good practise and developing the role of unions and disabled staff in helping colleges to 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 guidance will be published at a conference organised by the unions and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) on Thursday 17 May at UCU's headquarters in Kings Cross, London.

Attendees will include disabled staff, staff governors, HR managers and union reps. Delegates will hear from sector leaders and debate issues impacting upon the FE workforce.

Speakers will include Lynne Sedgemore CBE, chief executive of the CEL, Marie Pye, of the Disability Rights Commission, Sian Davies, Disability Equality Organiser at UCU/UNISON, Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU and Christina McAnea, UNISON's national secretary for educational staff.

Sian Davies, Disability Equality Organiser for UCU & UNISON, who will speak at the conference, will say: '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.'