Marking disability history

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To mark UK Disability History Month, the University is highlighting initiatives and support available to all staff, ways to get involved and some of the success stories from teams who are helping to make the University a more inclusive place.

Running until 16 December, Disability History Month provides an opportunity to better understand the challenges disabled people face in their quest for equality. Like UK Disability History Month, the University’s approach is centred on the social model of disability, which focuses on removing barriers to full participation in everyday life.

This reflects the University’s commitment to creating an inclusive and accessible environment where everyone feels supported and valued. Inclusivity enriches the whole University and helps to create spaces where everyone can thrive, contribute and be recognised for their unique perspectives and talents.

Sarah Cunningham-Burley, Professor of Medical and Family Sociology and University-wide lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, says: “This month serves as a powerful reminder of our commitment to promote disability equality and of the value an inclusive environment brings to everyone working and studying at the University of Edinburgh. We encourage all colleagues to take a look at the information and events coming up and engage with them so that we can all play our part in creating an enabling, inclusive University.”

Staff Disability Advice Service

In August, the University launched a Staff Disability Advice Service (SDAS) to provide confidential support and guidance to colleagues who are disabled, deaf and/or neurodivergent.

The service is part of the University’s commitment to creating equal opportunities across our workforce, promoting a culture where diversity is championed and disabled staff are supported to reach their full potential.

The service has provided support to more than 150 staff and their line managers, sharing information about potential reasonable adjustments in the workplace. The service can also help with applications to Access to Work, a government fund run by the Department for Work and Pensions to support disabled people in work.

A staff member who has used the service says: “I cannot imagine having returned to work successfully without the support and advice of Naomi and this service. It is the first time I have felt truly supported at work, with regard to my health. I now have some very minor adjustments in place which have transformed my ability to work full-time, and I’m genuinely looking forward to the current academic year and to making a renewed contribution.”

New Staff Disability Advice Service

Disabled Staff Network

The Disabled Staff Network is a hub for all disabled staff members, including neurodivergent colleagues. It’s a safe place for discussing disability-related issues, sharing support and shaping the University’s approach to inclusivity.

The network’s next meeting is the annual general meeting (AGM) on 6 December, 1pm – 2pm. It’s open to everyone and takes place on Teams.

Disabled Staff Network

Disabled Staff Network AGM 2023 

Photograph by Charlotte Stapley

Training and practical support

The University offers extensive training programmes to improve inclusivity for disabled staff. These include training courses for managers, such as Mental Health Awareness and Implementing Reasonable Adjustments. The Disabled Staff Network also provides its own suite of training, while the Information Services Group (ISG) provides dedicated assistive IT support for disabled staff, ensuring everyone has the necessary tools and resources to thrive in their roles. All staff can also access a host of inclusivity training including:

  • General disability awareness in conjunction with the Disability and Learning Support Service
  • Creating accessible materials
  • Writing Equality Impact Assessments
  • Testing websites and applications for accessibility
  • Writing legally required accessibility statements
  • Bespoke training on request.

Training provided by the Disabled Staff Network

EDI training for managers

Assistive technology support for disabled staff 

Find out more

UK Disability History Month

Social model of disability