Ahead of our Diversity Matters: Disability event on 2 December, we wanted to highlight the importance of disabled accessibility in the workplace. We caught up with ULaw Disability and Inclusion Service Manager Jennifer Harley to discuss her experience supporting disabled students and how businesses can support their disabled employees.
I am the Disability and Inclusion Service Manager at ULaw; this involves delivering the service across all the campuses and courses. I provide advice and guidance on disability matters throughout The University of Law.
I have dedicated my career to enabling disabled students to succeed in their chosen paths. As a former disabled student who has benefited from robust support, I want to ensure this continues and improves over time.
Increasing disability representation within the legal sector enables people to make changes at a grassroots level. The students being supported into law now will become the partners and judges over time. Their experiences and representation can influence legislative changes and set precedent in case law. I strongly believe that increasing the representation of disabled people within law will lead to improved services and changes across all sectors to improve the studying, working and life experiences of disabled people.
I became involved in Access to Higher Education to improve services around Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA) uptake and chaired the disability forum for several years. Through this, I started to attend conferences as a speaker, including the AHEAD conference and the National Association of Disability Practitioners annual conference. I then joined the National Association of Disability Practitioners as an elected board member. I wanted to share best practice and contribute to the narrative around supporting and including disabled students in university life.
ULaw has a fabulous group for disabled employees. We are a lovely bunch, and I enjoy getting together for the social aspect as well as the professional side of the group. Recently, ULaw has launched staff Inclusion champions to provide training to staff across the business. Currently, we are delivering training on unconscious bias. It’s a serious subject but an informative session looking at the psychology behind why humans exhibit unconscious bias and what we can do as individuals to challenge ourselves.
ULaw is a member of the Business Disability Forum that provides fantastic resources for employers and employees. I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to know more about disability representation in the workplace. I would also encourage people to apply for Access to Work; it’s similar to the DSA and can provide a range of support in the workplace. It is a government fund to support employees with funding for adjustments, equipment and assistive technology in their workplace.
If you’re a non-disabled colleague, really listen to the person with disabilities point of view. Remember that it may have taken the colleague time to feel comfortable enough to discuss their needs with you and may have very real concerns about career progression and how they will be perceived.
Any workplace can organise disability awareness training for their staff and, where possible, sign up to the Disability Confident employer scheme. This lets potential employees know you are committed to supporting them in their careers.
Our next event in the series, Diversity Matters: Disability, is being held virtually on 2 December at 6pm. For further information and to register your attendance for this free-of-charge event, please check your student email.