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Disability day of action

Day of action for disability equality in education

1 November 2018

Theme for 2021:
discriminatory language

Language and how it is used is important to all oppressed groups, and the theme for this year's day of action will be exploring 'discriminatory language'. The social model of disability challenges us to address society's inequalities, barriers and stereotypes that creates discrimination and oppresses disabled people. Using preferred language is an act of solidarity; for example, in the UK, the preferred term is disabled people, not people with disabilities.

Branches will be asked to review the language used in policies and procedures that can be ableist and discriminatory in their application, as well as exploring how branches can challenge ableist attitudes that excludes disabled people.

We have produced resources that look at:

  • creating an inclusive environment
  • negotiating and bargaining
  • advocacy and allyship; and
  • intersectionality.

Each of these resources delve into what branches can do around issues such as the social model of disability, reasonable adjustments and working with allies to create a better landscape for disabled workers.


Read our disability day of action briefing here:

2021 day of action briefing [156kb]
2021 day of action briefing Word version [40kb]
2021 day of action briefing - large print pdf [203kb]
2021 day of action briefing - large print Word version [37kb]

Fund the Future webinars

As part of the Fund the Future campaign we hosted two webinars.

Organising disabled workers

Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted on disabled workers from being denied reasonable adjustments to being the first to be made redundant. In line with our theme for this year 'organising for disabled workers' we held this important and timely discussion.

Watch back:

Everyday ableism

Ableism is discrimination in favour of non-disabled people. It is based on an assumption that the physical, cognitive and sensory differences with which disabled people live with are deficits, and it is rooted in the medical model of disability that assumes that disabled people need to be 'fixed'. It is manifest in physical, environmental and attitudinal barriers that exclude and stigmatise an entire group of people as 'less than'.

This webinar explored what ableism is, recognising it, and how to challenge it. 

Watch back:

Social model of disability

UCU follows the social model of disability which looks at the ways in which society is organised and the social and institutional barriers which restrict disabled people's opportunities.

The social model sees the person first and argues that the barriers they face, in combination with their impairments, are what disables them.

Barriers, including attitudes and perceptions around disabilities can make it impossible or very difficult for disabled people to access jobs, buildings or services. Removing these barriers is the best way to include millions of disabled people in our society.

Watch our film on the social model of disability and discuss how branches can adopt the social model:

Health and safety

Work with health and safety reps to conduct Covid-19 risk assessments of your institution to address issues of inaccessibility. Read our latest information sheet on disability and health and safety [296kb] and UCU's health and safety guidance in relation to Covid-19.

Branch negotiations

Disability Pay Gap Day was held on Sunday 1 November. The pay gap has increased by 4.5% on last year's finding and is now 20%. This means disabled workers are now paid £2.10 less an hour than their non-disabled peers. This is based on a 35 hour work week, is equivalent to being paid £3,800 less a year. 

Branches are encouraged to review disability monitoring policies and practices and to negotiate for mandatory disability pay gap reporting and to sign the petition calling for mandatory disability pay reporting.

Branch meetings

Branches can host meetings/talks to:

  • address and challenge negative stereotypes including ableism in the workplace
  • establish whether branches can address the issue of reasonable adjustments collectively rather than on an individual basis
  • include disabled members when reviewing policies/procedures that will impact on them
  • establish a disabled worker network and/or electing a disability officer to support the work of the equality rep
  • work with campus and student unions to work on joint initiatives.

Use our resources to find out how to map your workplace to ensure that your branch is fully representative of its membership.

Disability equality resources

Use our disability equality resources to campaign and understand the issues facing disabled people:

Display our range of posters and wallchart

Celebrate disability

Highlight, celebrate, discuss and help shape the agenda for disability equality during and at the following events:

  • Disability History Month, 18 November - 18 December 2020
    UK Disability History Month (DHM) will take place from the evening of 18 November with an online launch. The month creates a platform to focus on the history of disabled people's struggle for equality and human rights. The theme for 2020 is 'Access: How far have we come? How far have we to go?' For further information on activities being planned for DHM, visit
  • International Day of People with Disability,  3 December 2021
    The UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities is held annually on December 3 and is focussed on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. 
  • UCU's annual equality conference - Thursday 2 December to Saturday 4 December 2021
    Registrations are open for UCU's annual equality conference. This is an opportunity for you to discuss and agree strategies to progress equality issues at work.

Social media

Use your social media accounts to help spread the day of action by tweeting and/or retweeting support of the day of action using #Includeus. See below for selfie ideas and to upload your pictures!

The social media element of the campaign aims to get as many members as possible to show support in a simple, quick and effective way. Download and take a photograph with our range of selfie posters (see below) or make your own and tweet your support to @UCUequality using the hashtag #IncludeUs

  • complete and tweet the following statement 'I am supporting UCU's Day of Action for Disabled People because...'
  • help to get the hashtag #IncludeUs trending on twitter!
  • encourage colleagues to write on our 'see the person' downloadable poster the attitudes, barriers or challenges they face daily as a disabled person; or, as a non-disabled person, that they see disabled people face. 

Selfie poster: See the Person [367kb]
Selfie poster: See the Person [56kb]

Selfie poster: Supporting the campaign [474kb]
Selfie poster: Supporting the campaign [40kb]

Selfie poster: Campaign poster [76kb]
Selfie poster: Campaign poster [47kb]

Branches can let us know what activity they will be doing as part of this campaign by sending an email to with details, pictures, etc.


Last updated: 2 August 2023