This page signposts recent issues with links, where relevant, to further information. In due course we expect that larger topics would move to a page of their own.

The Network is not a Committee so we don’t maintain minutes of meetings. There is, however, an archive of meeting notes (spanning 2011-2015) available via the University’s EDI pages.

During 2015-2017 the Network structured its meetings around an Action Plan. We can’t link to a definitive version of this because it was amended at each meeting, but some key lessons learned are summarised here: notes from the May 2017 Network meeting.

Ableism in Academia

The University was one of the HEIs sponsoring the first Ableism in Academia conference, held at UCL in March 2018. Members of the Network helped in the planning and running of the event, as did a number of other staff and students from the University. The Network held a thought shower session in early 2018 to produce our suggestions for an Ableism in Academia Manifesto.

For more details see Nicole Brown’s blog and the Ableism in Academia webcast/s

Interfacing with other Staff Networks at Kent

As a way of building our capacity and sharing good practice we would like to develop links with other Networks at Kent, AND with Disability Staff Networks from other workplaces (primarily, but not exclusively those based within HEIs). On the latter topic please see NADSN, below.

Rep/s from this Network will be meeting with rep/s from other Kent Staff Networks on 17 October 2018.

National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN)

To date we have not made many connections with Disability Staff Networks in other workplaces but we made a start in 2018 by sending a delegate to the annual conference of the National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN) held in July at UCL. Many thanks go to the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science (SMSAS) for releasing a member of their Professional Services team, Derek Baldwin (DB), to attend the event. SMSAS also covered his travel costs.

In some parts of the country Regional Hubs have been developed, or are being developed. An exploratory meeting is being held at Birkbeck on 23 October 2018. We may not be represented at this but DB has passed on the following thoughts:

“…the opportunity to build capacity at a regional level seems to me a very worthwhile idea and one that could be worth the investment of time and other resources. Trialling the idea for 1-2 years must be worth exploring.

  • Rotating meetings between participating members might relieve some of the organisational/emotional labour, equalise the need to travel, and prevent one organisation from shouldering all the financial burden (if there were any).
  • I doubt that folks would be able to attend more often than termly though.
  • Arranging a “hub” meeting here that coincides with one of our pre-booked Network meetings (termly) ought to be relatively straightforward. If the idea gets off the ground I’d want to run this past colleagues, and maybe ask our Executive Group Champion if she could come along or offer support of some other kind.
  • We might be able to secure a modest amount of funding for refreshments or whatever.
  • Personally I would be more likely to play an active role if there was a relatively “businesslike” focus: informal ‘networking’ is rather intimidating for some people. Having some formal themes or topics for meetings can add focus.
  • Guest speakers like Jane and Hormoz from Result CIC would be bound to add interest.
  • Finding “hooks to hang it on” might help too e.g. Disability History Month.
  • Might people be able to participate virtually via some kind of video link or Skype?”

Will add any further details (and/or create a separate page) depending on how this initiative unfolds.

Consultative role of the Network

The truth is we’re not sure if the Network has a consultative role… we are certainly not a part of the University’s arguably rather labyrinthine structure of Committees. But it would be useful to explore some ways in which the lived experience and other expertise within the Network could be used to the University’s advantage.

An example in spring/summer 2018 was the rather low-key appearance of “resilience” training in the Learning and Organisational Development calendar of events open to staff. (It needs to be added though that attendance at these events was very high, so the word _did_ get out there.) We would have appreciated knowing about these plans in advance. (When time allows Derek Baldwin will add a blog entry with some thoughts on the session he attended in August 2018.)

See https://www.kent.ac.uk/hr-learninganddevelopment/eventscalendar2017-18.html?eid=31527 where there is also mention of “…offering Mental Health Awareness for Managers sessions very shortly”. Arguably the Network could provide ideas, and who knows maybe even trainers, as a resource in the planning and delivery of sessions like these.

Similarly, there are often changes to policies and procedures that could benefit from the perspectives of staff with lived experience of disability issues. An example in spring/summer 2018 was the University’s Psychological Wellbeing Standard, last updated in 2010. Our Occ Health rep has been closely involved in the work of making this fit for purpose and the new version was published in autumn 2018: Psychological Wellbeing Standard.

Accessibility and built environment

Formerly known as Day Walks, a schedule of Accessibility Tours is being finalised for 2018-19. Two Tours will be held of the Canterbury campus and one will be held at Medway. Details/dates are on the HR site at

The wider question is “How can the built environment at Kent better accommodate the needs of disabled and chronically ill users?” This is a topic that we hope an Estates rep to the Network can help us to understand better. Network members met with Dan Beacon on 9 October 2018 with this in mind.

Gill Sinclair attended the November 2018 DSN meeting to offer some perspectives on Learning Spaces (timetabling) and accessibility. We were particularly struck by the room allocation density maps, examples for SECL and KBS are shown here. Click the image to see a full-sized view.

How teaching events (left: KBS, right: SECL) were distributed across campus.

The Learning Spaces team are currently working with a Hearing Enhancement User Group to look at different hearing enhancement technologies in teaching rooms. They would welcome feedback from staff and students about existing rooms and technologies, or indeed comments on other technologies people may have encountered elsewhere. Get in touch via timetabling@kent.ac.uk.

Disclosure

… is a perennial issue for Network members. Jennifer Leigh and Nicole Brown’s paper Ableism in academia: where are the disabled and ill academics? captures some of the themes.

We wish to encourage more staff to use StaffConnect “My Equality Info” so that the University has a more fully-rounded and accurate view of the extent of disability among staff.

Please also see the Voluntary Reporting… framework issued by the Dept of Health and Social Care in November 2018.

…and not forgetting…