A New Network at Queen Mary: Staff Disability Network
Queen Mary has recently (August 2020!) established a Staff Disability Network to support disabled staff and promote disability equality at Queen Mary. The Network will enable staff to share experiences, information and best practice, offer peer support, and influence positive change for disabled people at Queen Mary.
Although around 19% of working age adults are thought to be disabled in the UK, only 3.5% of Queen Mary staff have disclosed having a disability (as of 2016/2017). Disabled people can face a variety of challenges entering and progressing in the workplace, from the accessibility of buildings, technologies and ways of working to the stigma surrounding many mental and physical health conditions and impairments.
Queen Mary is committed to creating a working and learning environment which is inclusive of and accessible to disabled people. We want to ensure that disabled people are treated with dignity and respect and are given the support they need to thrive. We want to listen to and learn from the needs, concerns and experiences of disabled staff and take informed action to be more inclusive and supportive.
Who is the Network for?
The Network is currently open to any Queen Mary staff member who identifies as disabled or has a mental or physical health condition or impairment. This could include staff who have experience of:
- physical or sensory impairments (such as hearing and visual impairments, MS, mobility challenges);
- neurodiversity (such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia);
- mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety);
- other health/medical conditions (such as HIV, epilepsy, cancer).
It is important to recognise that disabled people are a very diverse group of individuals, and no experience of being disabled is the same. Not all disabilities are visible or permanent. The Network will never ask you to disclose any disability or health condition.
How does it work?
The Network is hosted on Microsoft Teams, where members can have conversations on Channels, share files and resources and host meetings online. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Team are on hand to help, and to take forward any issues raised by the Network.
The Microsoft Teams site is a private group and though there is some degree of visibility when you join (other members can see who you are), we request that members maintain strict confidentiality about its membership and contents.
This Network has initially been set up and is supported by the EDI Team, but it is not our Network: it’s yours. We hope that the Network will be led by staff, for staff. We are currently gathering ideas on how members want to run the Network and what you want to get out of it. Staff will have the opportunity to contribute in a variety of ways: for example, through Team Meetings online, Channel discussions via Teams as well as by email or phone.
Aims of the Network
Below are some core aims that the Network might want to consider. However, these need to work for its members, so these will be updated, refined and prioritised as members join and shape the Network to meet their needs and goals. These will also likely change over time as the Network evolves.
- Provide a safe and confidential space for staff to share their experiences and offer peer support
- Signpost to internal and external support and advice
- Share information and best practice with teams, colleagues and the University to improve the experiences of disabled staff
- Identify topics for events and activities of interest or benefit to Network members
- Raise awareness of disability issues across the University
- Encourage greater representation and visibility of disabled staff in all aspects of Queen Mary life
- Promote the provision and increase awareness of accessible spaces, routes, tools and technologies
- Promote the provision and increase awareness of accessible and supportive policies and practices
- Enable the views of disabled staff to inform policy development and decision making at the University by acting as a consultation forum (for example, through representation on the Accessibility Working Group)
- Contribute to discussions and consultation around the University's strategic aims and aspirations, notably the Queen Mary 2030 Strategy
- Take an intersectional approach to supporting disabled staff and work closely with other staff and student Networks at Queen Mary (such as QMOUT, the Staff LGBTQ+ Network, and the Staff Parents and Careers Network)
How to join
If you want to be involved with the Network, you can join the Microsoft Teams site here, or just search for 'Staff Disability Network' in your Teams searchbar and request to join.
We currently have informal gatherings every 6-8 weeks on Teams, please do join us at our next one (by joining the Teams site)!
If you do not feel comfortable joining the Teams site for now, have any questions or want to contribute in another way, you can get in touch with Daisy Crowfoot, who works in the EDI Team.