July 8, 2018, by Simon Langley-Evans

Declaring a disability at work

I recently attended a workshop entitled Declaring a Disability. The session covered four main areas:

  • The legal and philosophical framework which underpins University’s approach to supporting staff with disabilities
  • Checking that everybody understands what constitutes disability
  • The process for making a disability disclosure
  • What is reasonable adjustment and how can an individual request this?

The University of Nottingham subscribes to the Social Model of Disability which means that it’s not the persons impairment that leaves them being disabled, rather it is the environment and the barriers which exist within society which disable them. Society is designed predominantly for ‘able’ people. The Equality Act (2010) requires organisations like the University to anticipate barriers and wherever possible remove them. Reasonable adjustments is the legal term relating to the changes which help people with disabilities to participate more fully or equally in society. We have to anticipate what people may need and put measures in place. We are all familiar with measures within building structures such as accessible toilets, lifts and ramps. It would also include many of the routine teaching methods we use such as making lecture notes accessible prior to the teaching itself, recording lectures etc. We are trying to be inclusive of people with a variety of disabilities. Of course it is not just visitors and students that we need to consider but also staff. Line managers have a responsibility to support any of their staff with a disability to enable them to perform to the full extent of their ability.

There is a push within the university to increase the number of staff declaring a disability as currently the number of staff identified is low. If you do have a disability you do not have to declare it but you then cannot easily ask for specific reasonable adjustment. Unfortunately declaring a disability to HR does not mean that there are people eagerly waiting to responding with offers of help. HR are just collecting the data. If you do have a disability you need to speak with your line manager which some people are reluctant to do as they feel it may negatively affect their PDPR or promotion prospects. Clearly that should never be the case but many people attending the session with me lacked confidence.

How do we overcome this and not just improve the numbers but also actively promote equality for staff with disabilities? The training session does not provide all of the answers I’m afraid but here are a couple of thoughts

There is a disabled staff network which provides peer to peer support. You can email dsn@nottingham.ac.ukor look at the web page https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/hr/equality-diversity/staff-equality–diversity-networks/index.aspx#DisabledStaff

If as a member of staff with a disability you are having problems you may wish to speak with a Dignity Advisor.

If you are a line manager and don’t understand your responsibilities have a look at the guidance for managers https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/hr/guidesandsupport/equalityanddiversitypolicies/documents/supportingdisabledstaff-guidanceforlinemanagers.pdf


We can all increase our disability awareness so we can support colleagues with disabilities and create a more inclusive environment.

Dr Kirsten Whitehead
Chair Biosciences EDI Committee

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