Disabled Students in Higher Education: Lessons from Establishing a Staff Disability Forum

Disabled Students in Higher Education: Lessons from Establishing a Staff Disability Forum

Ian Clarke (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-183-2.ch011

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Leeds Metropolitan University has a stated commitment to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment and to promote equality of opportunity and positive attitudes towards disabled people. The University is also committed to consult with both disabled students and staff. One practical means of doing this was to establish a ‘Disability Action Group’ (DAG). This was first convened in 2007 with the following agreed terms of reference: (i) To provide a safe and supportive environment in which to discuss issues relating to disability. (ii) To provide support and networking. (iii) To share best practice. (iv) To contribute to policy development across the University. (v) To contribute to staff development and awareness raising in relation to equality and diversity. (vi) To ensure the group has a credible presence for the disabled community through the membership and participation of disabled people.

The mode of operation was to meet four to six times a year and to report to the University’s ‘Disability Strategy Group’. This latter group provided a strategic steer for the University, with DAG undertaking projects or acting as a ‘sounding board’ on behalf of the Strategy Group. DAG is made open to all staff and students of the University who are willing to make a commitment to the group and the role and responsibilities of membership and encourages both disabled participants and others with a personal or research interest in disability to participate.

DAG has evolved since its inception in 2007, responding to changes in the University structure, to governance changes and to changes in equality and diversity legalisation, for example in the UK the 2010 Equality Act (ECU, 2010). This chapter will chart the progress of DAG, serving as a case study which it is believed will be of interest to other higher education institutions (HEI), and will offer a series of recommendations, based upon our experience, as to how to establish and maintain such a group. The following sections outline the key actions of the group.

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