With Disability History Month in full swing, accessibility and inclusion is on everyone’s mind. At Student Hubs we realise that a commitment to disabled people’s rights extends beyond the month commencing the 18th of November and instead should exist within an organisation as a consistent priority.
This is why Student Hubs joined over 20,000 organisations in completing the self assessment to be called a Disability Confident Employer. This is a status that celebrates and recognises organisations who play a leading role in changing the behaviour, culture, and attitudes of the job market when it comes to supporting people with disabilities to apply for work, throughout the recruitment and selection process, and then once they are in post.
I’d like to preface this blog with the caveat that I do not identify as disabled. I am writing this from the perspective as a staff member on the Student Hubs diversity and inclusion team and as someone who hopes this blog will help inform other organisations to fight ableism in the workplace. That is why today, we wanted to share our work with gaining this accreditation to become a disability confident employer and to encourage you to reflect on your own practices and culture.
How we became a Disability Confident Employer
Advertising our job opportunities in an accessible way
One of the first things to review when it comes to your workplace accessibility is can people get a job with you in the first place? For many disabled people job hunting is made even more difficult due to the often ableist way recruiters measure a candidate’s suitability for a role. For example, text heavy application packs formatted in a way that screen readers struggle to access, inflexible interview slots, and tick box exercises that reduce down people’s experiences and individuality.
At Student Hubs, we’ve committed to the following:
- To have two versions of job packs, one as a PDF and one as a text only document which is more accessible to screen readers.
- Image descriptions on all social media posts and within job packs rather than relying on text within images.
- Advertising that candidates can apply through alternative means to the standard CV/cover letter, for example, having a phone call with a member of staff or recording a video response to the questions.
- Automatically offering an interview to disabled candidates who disclose their disability to us as long as they meet the minimum requirements of the role. This is in recognition of the barriers they face to the application process compared to non disabled candidates.
- Openly sharing our commitment to making reasonable adjustments to the application and interview process, with examples of adjustments which could be made. For example, providing a sign language interpreter or having the interview on a video platform where automatic subtitles can be used.
- Ensuring our selection process is fair and consistent by sharing questions with candidates ahead of time, using scoring matrices and having at least two members of the team (who have received unconscious bias training) on the interview panel.
You can see this process in action as we are currently advertising a Programmes Manager role at Cambridge Hub. Find out more about the role on our Careers page. If you are interested in applying for this role the deadline is January 3rd 2022 and you can contact our Network Operations Manager Sophie to find out more by emailing email@example.com.
Supporting staff in their role at Student Hubs
Similarly to applying to work, disabled people can face barriers once in an organisation due to a company’s work culture. For example, not having the option to work flexibly or only offering minimum statutory sick pay/no sick pay at all. Students Hubs values their staff’s individuality and experiences that make an organisation flourish and grow. As such, we have measures in place to support staff wellbeing and ability to do their role.
Having a Wellness Action Plan (WAP)
Staff are asked to fill out a WAP in their first week of work. This outlines any mental or physical health points they wish to raise that may impact their ability to carry out their role. It also goes into detail about what signs there may be if someone is struggling at work and crucially, what that staff member wants as an action if these signs are noticed by their line manager. This not only ensures we can provide adjustments where needed but also gives control to the staff member about any actions surrounding their support. As mental health charity Mind notes, WAPs ‘open up a dialogue with your manager in order for them to better understand your needs and experiences… This ultimately leads to greater productivity, better performance and increased job satisfaction’. You can find more information about WAPs here.
We subscribe to a task based rather than time based approach to work. So long as staff are meeting their goals and completing key tasks the hours they choose to work can be flexible. This goes alongside our Friday afternoon wellbeing policy – that every Friday afternoon we give staff the option to work or sign off for wellbeing or personal development.
Diversity and Inclusion Training
All staff and volunteers at Student Hubs are required to do basic Diversity and Inclusion training which goes over reasonable adjustments and how to create an inclusive workplace. However, alongside this we also have training in Accessible Programme Design, this delves deeper into disabled people’s inclusion in the workplace and in our volunteering programmes. This training covers important theories such as the Social Model of Disability and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. To encourage other organisations to do the same, these training sessions are also available as part of one of our training packages.
How you can become a Disability Confident Employer
- Look at the guidance on how to become a Disability Confident Employer and start to interrogate your processes, culture, and ways of working.
- Make changes! No organisation is perfect and this shouldn’t be seen as a journey with a final destination. Treat this work as the first step in your ongoing commitment to learn and grow to continue to put disabled people’s rights at the heart of your operations.
- Chat with our Diversity and Inclusion team. If you have any questions and want to know more about how we went about this work you can contact Sophie at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a meeting with our D&I team.
- Listen to disabled people – broaden who you are hearing from when it comes to this topic. There are some absolutely great disbaled activists out there talking about the disability equality movement. You can find out more information about some of these activists in this article from Able magazine. Some of my favourite disabled creators on Instagram include: Chella Man, Becks Greatbanks, and Cathy Reay. You can find a list of even more disabled creators.