Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: accessibility

We Will Ride: Making Transport Accessible

This week, we share a blog from Savitri Hensman, Patient and Public Involvement Coordinator for Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) South London, based at IoPPN, which details a look back at the Campaign for Accessible Transport protests in London in the 90s. Thanks to Ruth Bashall for images.


‘We will ride’: making transport accessible

Getting to King’s College London, and around our city, is easier for many disabled people than it would have been a few decades ago. Public transport is far from fully accessible, especially the underground. The pandemic has added to problems. Yet much has changed, thanks largely to direct action by disabled campaigners.

Thirty years ago, buses were generally impossible to use if one was unable to climb on board and were without written and audio announcements of stops. Even the limited access to the tube which now exists was not in place. Though members of the public, many disabled people could not get around on what was meant to be public transport. Calls for change were largely disregarded. But in 1990, the issue became hard to ignore, as protests brought traffic in parts of central London to a halt!

Wheelchair users waiting to board buses as part of the protests to make London more accessible

The Campaign for Accessible Transport (CAT) protested in high profile locations such as Oxford Street, for instance halting a bus as a wheelchair-user symbolically tried to get on. They explained to impatient passengers that, while their journeys were delayed, some people had been waiting for years to get to their destinations.

Activities were carefully organised, with plenty of photo opportunities for the media. Some protestors chained themselves to buses. A number of people were arrested; being willing to take this risk often involved a fair deal of courage, especially since police tended to have no training in how to move disabled people safely and getting into police stations and courts often meant being carried up flights of steps.

I was young and non-disabled back in those days. But friends who were involved in organising the events roped me in to be present as one of the legal observers. I was not part of the protests but was one of those who observed, kept note of who got arrested and police behaviour and, in general, helped to protect the rights of protestors. I had no legal training but I did have experience at anti-racist demonstrations, which offered useful opportunities to practice staying calm amidst often violent chaos. So on perhaps a couple of occasions, I showed up, looked on and kept jotting, on the sidelines of the action.

Image of protestors

Wheelchair users waiting to board buses as part of the protests to make London more accessible

Singing was often a feature, including a song by an American activist, ‘We will ride’, which was adapted to the UK context.

These protests contributed to a broader shift in how disabled people were viewed in Britain, as those previously seen as helpless took bold action (though there is still a long way to go in tackling negative and disempowering images). In other ways too, disability rights activists – some of whom involved in diverse social movements for justice – were changing attitudes and practices.

Change did not happen immediately. But after CAT came DAN (Direct Action Network), with some overlap in membership. Newsworthy events happened in London and elsewhere, drawing attention to injustice in transport and other areas of life.

In 1995 a Disability Discrimination Act was passed, though tackling lack of access in transport through the law was a slow process. However some transport authorities were improving access; it was clear that disabled potential users were not willing to let the issue be forgotten. From 2000, the new Mayor of London introduced what was, for a while, probably the largest accessible low floor bus fleet in the world. Changes were also introduced in the underground and overground train network, though a new leadership did not keep up the momentum. Nevertheless the improvements had major effects on people’s ability to study, work or volunteer and be part of the community.

Making change happen often involves much lobbying and negotiation. But sometimes direct action may be needed, as happened so memorably all those years ago.

Map of the London Underground showing step-free and wheelchair accessible stations

Disability Inclusion at King’s – How far have we come, and how far have we to go?

Foreword from Professor Richard Trembath (Provost/Senior Vice President (Health)), John Darker (Access King’s Co-Chair), and India Jordan (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant)

We are delighted to announce that Richard Trembath (Provost/Senior Vice President (Health)) has been appointed as the Disability Inclusion programme’s senior sponsor. Within EDI we have a variety of sponsors and champions –  

  • Professor Sir Edward Byrne, President & Principal – sponsor of equality, diversity & inclusion across the College   
  • Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President & Vice Principal (International) – sponsor of our work on Race Equality and the Race Equality Chartermark 
  • Professor Evelyn Welch, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Provost/Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences) – sponsor of our work on Gender Equality and Athena   

We believe that sponsors are instrumental in driving institutional change. Having a senior sponsor and champion for this work demonstrates King’s commitment to improving disability inclusion. 

We are very excited to begin working with Richard in ensuring that disability inclusion is included in decision-making processes and structures within King’s. He will be an advocate for disability inclusion, protect and positively drive disability inclusion activity, and act as a role model for the organisation for an inclusive workforce.  

Richard says: I am delighted to have the opportunity to act as senior sponsor for disability inclusion. It is timely to highlight and ensure that King’s is at the forefront on development and delivery across the breadth of disability inclusion, from policy to implementation. My professional background as a clinician within the specialty of genetics, has provided significant opportunity for me to learn much of the impact of disability and of the benefits of inclusion, as means of enhancing wellbeing and enabling achievement.

Alongside a senior champion for our program of work, Access King’s highlight the importance of senior sponsorship within staff networks. John Darker (Access Co-Chair) explains: 

The role of a community network Senior Champion at King’s is a very important one, and includes being a strong advocate for the network, whilst informing senior colleagues about its work and the benefits it affords the University.  This year, Access King’s, the Staff Disability Inclusion Network at King’s, was pleased to announce that Dr Renuka Fernando had joined the Network as its Senior Champion.  Dr Fernando has proactively supported Access King’s, championing for disability inclusion at senior meetings including the review of Return to Campus policies.  Dr Fernando works with the Network’s Co-Chairs and its Committee to help progress its aims and goals.   

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, India Jordan, provides us with an update on the disability inclusion program of work so far, and plans and ambitions for this work as our next priorities. 


Disability Inclusion at King’s – How far have we come, and how far have we to go? 

 

At King’s, we are committed to disability equality and inclusion so that people with disabilities and those with longterm conditions are included and feel valued, and so that barriers are understood and overcome. Over the last 3 years, we have been developing and implementing a programme of work to support this. India Jordan, Equality Diversity and Inclusion Consultant within the EDI Sub-Function, reflects on our progress so far and our plans and priorities for the future. 

UK Disability History Month is in its 10th year this year and the theme is ‘Access – how far have we come? How far have we to go? These are useful questions to help us reflect on King’s disability inclusion journeys.  

 

So, how far have we come? 

Sarah Guerra, the Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, identified disability inclusion as a key priority when starting at King’s in 2017, and so work has been underway to develop this area since then.  In 2018/19 a Disability Action Plan and Maturity Model were developed to prioritise and focus disability inclusion work within King’s. The plans were developed in consultation with the King’s Community and the Business Disability Forum (a membership organisation working to remove structural barriers for those with disabilities and longterm health conditions), as part of a Disability Self-Assessment process.  

 The action plan focuses on four strategic areas:  

  • Leadership, Governance & Culture  
  • Policy, Process & Procedure 
  • Local Experience 
  • Data, Outcomes & Evaluation 

Each of these pillars cover areas in King’s that we know need to be developed for structural inequality around disability inclusion to be addressed. We need to have a holistic approach to tackling the issues. We know we need senior leadership buyin, effective processes, maturity around data collection and evaluation, as well as ‘on the ground’ knowledge, skills and experience for us to progress as an institution in supporting those with disabilities and long-term health conditions.  

Alongside the Action Plan, the King’s Disability Inclusion Maturity Model was developed. The model comprises four levels of maturity, from ‘basic’, ‘reactive’, ‘proactive’ to ‘innovative’ and includes the same strategic strands as the Action Plan. This helps everyone understand what best practice looks and feels like in reality and the action we need to take to reach the highest level of maturity.  

In 2020 Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant India Jordan reviewed our progress against the maturity levels. From this assessment, it is clear we have made significant progress in areas relating to Leadership, Governance and Culture and Policy, Process and Procedure, moving from Level 2 ‘Reactive’ (based from our initial assessment in 2019), to Level 3 ‘Proactive’. Some of the improvements include:   

  • Under the Leadership, Governance and Culture pillar, we have appointed a Disability Inclusion Senior Sponsor – Richard Trembath (Provost/Senior Vice President (Health))Richard’s role is responsible for steering, promoting and championing progress of this work amongst the senior leadership. He’ll be advocate for disability inclusion, protect and positively drive disability inclusion activity, and act as a role model for the organisation for an inclusive workforce.  
  • There is clear ‘board-level’ – in our case that’s Senior Management Team buyin and commitment through committees such as the Digital Accessibility Programme Board, the Digital Education Task and Finish Group, and through our governance structures. This means that now, disability is represented as a part of King’s diverse identity and there is demonstrable commitment to inclusion.  
  • Under the Policy, Process and Procedure pillar, we have developed our work on Equality Analysis. For example, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team recently reviewed Equality Analyses for disability-related impacts and considerations, best practice and areas for development, specifically in relation to the pandemic. This, alongside the Equality Considerations Report, is used and highly encouraged when considering all new projects across the university.  
  • Under the Local Experience pillar, we have developed resources and guidance that is available for all, such as the Disability Toolkit and the Accessible Guidance for Content Creators 
  • We are working to go ‘beyond compliance’ using inclusive design principles in consultation with service users such as our Access King’s Network, on projects such as the HR Transformation. 

Key to this progress, awareness and engagement of disability inclusion has been our newly formed Access King’s Network. Only 1 year old, Access King‘has seen a huge increase in membership and engagement, running events throughout the year from a discussion panel on leadership, to online events on how to run accessible and inclusive meetings. Access King’s have recently fed into the Return to Campus work by developing the Inclusive Badges project, a great example of the power of networks and community in driving institutional change.  

The value of our networks is more important than ever, at a time when we are more isolated from our peers – finding community to share experiences and support each other is crucial. To get involved with Access King’s and to find out more about their events being run over Disability History Monthhead to our webpage. 

 

…and how far do we have to go? 

Given the unprecedented events of 2020, the Disability Action Plan has developed in many ways. Digital Accessibility has become a priority for the College, particularly within the learning and teaching sphere. This will continue to be a priority for us as we support through various boards and working groups and updating and developing our Accessible Guidance for Content Creators.  

Alongside digital accessibility, our priorities are to work collaboratively and inclusively through forming a Disability Inclusion Steering GroupThis, in collaboration with our senior sponsor, will create action and hold people to account, ensuring all areas of King’s take responsibility for embedding disability inclusive practices. It is crucial we have support from our senior leadership, we need clear accountability and governance of the Disability Action Plan; with leaders knowing what is expected and required of them, which is why it is very exciting to be working with Richard Trembath on this project. 

Alongside the formation of a working group, we know from the work we have done that the following areas of work need to be a priority in the coming 12-18 months: 

  • Improving our adjustments process, including the development of a Staff Passport Scheme 
  • Building capability and confidence amongst managers through guidance, resource and training 
  • Continuing to support HR Recruitment, working closely on the selection and onboarding processes 
  • Ensuring our online and physical spaces are accessible to all 

It is important to reflect on our progress and celebrate our successes, but it is also important that we recognise where we need to improve and plan for us to be able to effectively do that. We want to reach the highest levels of maturity, we want to be a leader of best practice for disability inclusion for HE and most importantly, we want our staff and students to feel that there are no barriers to their being their very best whilst at King’s. 

It is hard to predict what the world will look like this time next year and undoubtedly we will face more change and challenges as we acclimatise to our new reality. However, we know that the changes and developments outlined above will enable us to move through and adapt to them more effectively and sustainably. The unique circumstances of 2020 have given us insight to a more accessible and inclusive world we believe is possible and we will continue to embed these practices, so they are not the exception, but rather the norm.  

How can you get involved? 

If you are interested and passionate about disability inclusion within King’s and want to make a difference within this area, join our disability inclusion staff network – Access King’s. They are hosting a range of events over Disability History Month and have regular monthly drop-ins. 

Top tips for communicating whilst wearing a face covering

Vector set of persons, avatars, people heads of different ethnicity and age in protective masks. Men and women in flat style following recommendations for the prevention of coronavirus.

Twelve million people across the UK have some form of hearing loss. Many people who are Deaf, have hearing loss or work in noisy environments rely on lipreading to communicate, and face coverings make this impossible.

Here are some tips for communicating with a face mask:

  1. Write it down – If speech isn’t working, write what you want to communicate down or send a text message.
  2. Use an app – There are mobile apps that can translate speech into text, or you could use the built-in dictate feature on iPhone notes (no need to download an app for this).
  3. Keep it clear – If you can, use a face mask with a clear panel or a clear face visor so your face is visible to lip-readers. You could make  your  own  or  purchase one online. There are plenty available on Etsy (such as here and here).
  4. Find a quiet place – This will make it easier for people to hear, especially if they are using technology to support their hearing.
  5. Use Microsoft Teams for video calls -Use Microsoft Teams for video calls – If you don’t need to meet face-to-face, a video call with captions or British Sign Language interpretation may work just as well and you won’t need to wear a mask to it. Remember that visual cues are lost when the camera is off, and for those that lip-read, being able to see the speaker makes a big difference. So, if you are happy to, put your camera on when you are speaking where possible. We recommend using Microsoft Teams, which comes with in-built live captions (other platforms, such as Zoom, do not have this feature as standard). Highlight this feature at the start of the meeting so that everyone is aware. Don’t make assumptions – hearing loss is invisible, and you don’t know who this might benefit! Find out more about choosing and using video conferencing platforms.

For more information, visit:

This list has been adapted from the National Deaf Children’s Society recommendations, with input from the IoPPN Disability Inclusion Working Group.

Top tips for accessible online meetings

Abbie Russell is the Administrative Support Officer for the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s, working in communications and health and safety. She is the Disability Equality Champion at the IoPPN and chairs the Disability Inclusion Working Group. She is also the co-chair (community) for Access King’s, the staff disability inclusion network. 

The Microsoft Teams interface

The IoPPN Disability Inclusion Working Group have collated these top tips for ensuring your online meeting or event is accessible. The list is non-exhaustive and we note that with accessibility should come flexibility, and that some of these tips will work for some people and not for others. Reach out to your audience and find out what works best for them!

Here we go… 

  1. Provide as much information about the event beforehand (as you normally would) e.g. how to sign up/join the meeting; what meeting platform will be used 
  2. The format of the meeting/event and who will be speaking. This helps to manage expectations and allow for any preparation beforehand. 
  3. Check with presenters that they are confident in using chosen platformOffer a short tutorial or test run ahead of the meeting. 
  4. Share slides ahead of time to allow processing time and to allow for technical issues (e.g. if the slides don’t load properly, participants can still access the slides, and use their own software to take in the information.) 
  5. Manage expectations and respect personal preferences (e.g. using video or microphone). For larger meetings, participants might be asked to join the meeting without video to improve the quality of the call. Alternatively, for a small team, participants may be invited to share their video if possible, to encourage participation. 
  6. Ask participants to join on mute, especially if there are lots of people joining, to prevent noise and make it easier to hear the speaker. 
  7. At the start of the meeting, outline the format of the event. E.g. what will happen and who will be speaking 
  8. Ask participants to post comments and questions using chat function (or ‘raise hand’ to notify the chair on Zoom). 
  9. Ask participants to introduce themselves before speaking, so that others know who is speaking. 
  10. Highlight features such as chat functions and live captions at the start of the meeting 
  11. Use live captions  this is good for people in loud environments or those with hearing impairment . MS Teams has an auto captions feature https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Use-live-captions-in-a-Teams-meeting-4be2d304-f675-4b57-8347-cbd000a21260  and Zoom provides closed captioning https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115002522006-Closed-Captioning-With-Zoom-Rooms. 
  12. Blur background if you have a busy environment – this makes it easier for participants to focus on the speaker. However, be mindful that this feature is not available to all machines and a presenter may prefer not to. 
  13. Make sure any materials shared before/after are accessible – use Microsoft Accessibility Checker https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Improve-accessibility-with-the-Accessibility-Checker-a16f6de0-2f39-4a2b-8bd8-5ad801426c7f 

Further reading: 

You can find more content like this on the Access King’s YammerClick here to read about the Access King’s community network and to get involved. 

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