Staffordshire University Disability Equality Scheme – Annual Report 2007/08 Introduction The University remains committed to equal opportunities and diversity which are part of the core values of the institution. Our aim is be an inclusive organisation where everyone has a fair opportunity to fulfil his/her potential. One of our central aims as a university is to make a difference to the experience of potential and current disabled students and staff and to create an environment where diversity is recognised and valued. We appreciate the positive contribution that disabled people make to society and are committed to doing our part to give disabled people a fair and equal chance of succeeding as part of an inclusive community of students, staff and partners. This report was considered by the University’s Academic Board on 19 November 2008 and will be considered by the Board of Governors at its next meeting. Professor Christine King, DL, CBE Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Staffordshire University Background Staffordshire University published its first Disability Equality Scheme (DES) in December 2006. The Scheme set out our commitments to disability equality, how we would engage and involve disabled people and how we would assess the impact of our practices, policies, regulations to ensure we were fair to all groups of people. We also set out our Action Plan for the next three years covering the areas of students, staff, the physical estate, the wider community and marketing and information services. This report reflects the second year of operation of the Scheme and is intended to show what progress we have made against our Action Plan and what we have learnt from that. Achievements against the Action Plan during 2007/08 The University has made considerable progress during 2007/08 towards meeting its stated actions. Not all the target dates have been met but a number have been achieved earlier that anticipated. Attached to this report is the updated Action Plan showing what has been achieved, where work still has to be completed in some areas and where decisions have been taken not to continue with a particular action. Below are some of the highlights of the key issues under the main headings we have used in our Action Plan. Students The number of students declaring an impairment in 2007/08 was 1338 (8.4%) out of a student population of 16000. This number was 800 (5%) for 2006/07 against a similar student population. We have therefore seen a 67% increase in students declaring an impairment between last year and the previous year. Engagement with disabled students continues to be one of the most difficult issues we have faced last year. Disabled students have been reluctant to attend open meetings, focus groups and scheduled meetings to discuss their views of the University and contribute to our plans. A key feature of our 2008/09 Action Plan is to find ways of engaging more disabled students. We have been one of six successful universities to secure project support form the Equality Challenge Unit on ‘Furthering the involvement of disabled students in Higher Education Institutions’. This is a one year project and will produce information available to all HEIs in progressing this area of difficulty. Nevertheless, Faculties have had a little more success in involving disabled students on their staff/student committees and Faculty Engagement Forums. A considerable amount of work has been undertaken in developing inclusive learning environments and improving flexibility to meet the demands of disabled students. Each Faculty and Service has appointed a Disability Co-ordinator. Those for the Faculty are responsible for liaising with the students and teaching staff in their Faculty. Each Faculty has developed a staff development programme that covers inclusive learning principles and disability equality. Examples include staff development sessions on supporting autistic and hearing impaired students. Assessment schedules and associated support for individual students are regularly reviewed and amended as appropriate. A resource bank of alternative assessment strategies to allow teaching staff to customise assessments in order to meet individual student needs is being developed. We are also working to establish a policy on Inclusive Assessment. All placement policies have been reviewed to ensure compliance with current legislation and placement provider practice has also been reviewed so that disabled students can participate fully in their placement. The University’s annual Student Viewfinder Survey asked students to express their level of satisfaction with our equality and diversity policies. Nearly 74% (73% in 2006/07) of the students who responded to the survey were satisfied with our promotion of equality and diversity in the University and 59% (56% in 2006/07) were aware of our Disability Equality Scheme. We believe that this is encouraging although recognising more needs to be done. We will continue to work with our disabled students, in particular, and with the Students’ Union to ensure that we reach more students. Staff The University has worked hard to both encourage disclosure and increase the number of staff declaring an impairment. In 2006/07 41 staff declared an impairment (2.4% of the workforce). This number has increased to 80 (4.2%) for 2007/08 against a similar workforce population. In October 2008 5.25% of the workforce had declared an impairment. 29 staff have indicated an interest in joining a Disabled Staff Forum. Training needs for staff will be considered by this Forum. A series of leaflets promoting diversity including one on disability were developed last year which are made available to all staff and students at intervals throughout the year. Disability Equality programmes have been built into the University’s Management Development Programme, and training initiatives for non management staff are included in the University’s open programme of staff development. The Physical Estate On an annual basis progress towards completion of works identified in campus access audits is evaluated and monitored and contained in a report to the Board of Governors. New build plans are vetted by both access consultants and the local Planning Office to ensure compliance. The University has also developed a Strategic Access Statement in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act 2006. A Residential Accommodation Strategy is being developed as part of a wider review of the University’s residential estate. Work on the strategy started November 2007. The Wider Community Work has started with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to look at representation of young disabled people. We hope to establish a conference for young disabled people, working with Aim Higher. We have signed a contract with Staffordshire Assist whereby they provide staff on two days a week to work with disabled students and their academic tutors. Marketing and Information Services Both Marketing and Information Services have set up groups which include disabled students so that they can get direct feedback on the accessibility of marketing materials, IT and other services they provide for students. Disability awareness training has been undertaken by the staff and work continues on revised guidelines to all staff of the University on the use of marketing materials. Each year, Information Services provides inductions and tours for students with disabilities and for their support workers. Equality Impact Assessment All the University’s policies and procedures have undergone an initial Equality Impact Assessment by 1 December 2007. All University-wide policies have been identified and documentation drafted to assess all written policies. Training has been undertaken with staff from all areas of the University in order to raise awareness of Equality Impact Assessment and to provide support to them. 10 out of 113 policies were identified as ‘high priority’ and a Full Equality Impact Assessment has been carried on 7 of the 10 so far. The results of these are being disseminated to the authors of the policies for consideration and action. A timetable for the completion of Full Equality Impact Assessment has been agreed. Monitoring the Action Plan The Action Plan has been reviewed by the Disability Forum which reports to the Diversity Committee and Academic Board. Each Faculty and Service has also produced its own Action Plan which feed into the University’s Action Plan. Half yearly reports on progress against the plans are reviewed and discussed at the Disability Forum which has representatives from all Faculties and Services and the Students’ Union.
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