Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

Tag: Disability (Page 1 of 2)

Posts related to disability

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 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. 

King’s Business School Wellbeing Day – Reflections and Successes  

Izzy Rhodes, Event Coordinator from King’s Business School, shares her reflections on the King’s Business School (KBS) Wellbeing Day. The event was held on 26 March 2020 and consisted of a full day of wellbeing activities. Members of professional service staff joined forces and led different sessions, ranging from resilience training to a cooking class. All wellbeing sessions were delivered virtually via Microsoft Teams, showing how well the school adapted to remote workingIf you would like to reach out to the KBS Wellbeing Group for tips on how to run your own wellbeing session, please contact izzy.rhodes@kcl.ac.uk or erk.3.gunce@kcl.ac.uk  

A poster detailing the wellbeing activities organised by King's Business School, including a coffee break, inclusive communication session, resilience class, cooking class, drawing class and meditation session.

Poster designed by Izzy Rhodes

Having been thrust into the arms of work from home culture two weeks ago, along with the majority of the country, the KBS Staff Wellbeing Team have worked their socks off to create a sense of community. It’s safe to say that we’ve all quickly come to appreciate that the concept of community goes far beyond our next door neighbour and local shop. Virtual connections have become a staple in today’s pursuit of happiness, and Thursday 26 March 2020 saw the Faculty’s first virtual Wellbeing Day.  

Since the move to working from home was implemented just over three weeks ago, many of us have found ourselves adjusting to a more sedentary lifestyle – bookended by commutes from the living room to the bedroom, as opposed from one side of London to the other. KBS Wellbeing Day’s practical focus was a welcomed change to a new and weirdly insular lifestyle. It gave time to focus on tactile skills and holistic conversations that are often rushed in a normal work environment.  

Consisting of a variety of activities and discussions, ranging from a still life workshop to a discussion about the language of disability, Wellbeing Day was a welcomed break from the newfound normality of being absorbed by spreadsheet-populating and report-writing in the quiet comfort of our pajamas. Run by members of the Faculty’s professional services team, the activities not only provided new opportunities for learning, but gave space for developing relationships with colleagues in alternative working environments and hours. 

The importance of wellbeing events and creative outlets within working hours cannot be underestimated. Providing wellbeing services within the confines of work time not only breaks up the working day with tactile and practical activities and stimulates our creative grey cells, but also validates the necessity of prioritising staff happiness and wellbeing. It builds community with colleagues and introduces different sides of people to an environment that can often value complete professionalism over personality. I found that being given the time and space to have open discussions, moving away from impersonal emails to video chats, was a valuable gateway to building skills outside of standard job descriptions. Overall, the KBS Wellbeing Day was a great success that brought staff closer together. Thanks to Joanna, Erk, Angela, Mia, Preena, Haz, Cathy and Sarah for leading the sessions.

Wellbeing Month: Being part of the King’s community

For Wellbeing Month, IoPPN’s disability inclusion network (INDIGO) member, Annicka Ancliff,  writes about being part of a network and how it can have a positive effect on your wellbeing. You can find out more about the Race Equality Network  as well as Proudly King’s,  Elevate: King’s Gender Equality NetworkParents’ & Carers’ Network and Access King’s: Disability Inclusion Network on the Diversity & Inclusion webpages.  

There are 5 main Ways to Wellbeing: invest in relationships, to keep moving, never stop learning, give to others and savour the moment. Staff networks have been hugely beneficial to me by increasing my wellbeing through all of the above 5.  We spend more time with our work colleague than with any other group of people so it is important that you are passionate about the work you do and the people you work with.

IoPPN Wellbeing Walk

IoPPN’s Wellbeing Walk

I am a member of IoPPN’s disability inclusion network (INDIGO) and the Sustainability team for IoPPN main building (Bee-Team). I am hugely passionate about Sustainability and disability inclusion and the people involved in these networks are kind, supportive and knowledgeable, especially on these subjects. These networks, for example, not only have taught me a lot but because of this I have felt more involved in the King’s community, I have been more active due to the monthly wellbeing walks organised by the sustainability team, I have also fostered connections which is helpful personally and also for my work.

My manager has been hugely supportive of me taking on these extra roles, taking on extra responsibilities can increase your confidence. Since starting these networks I have run workshops and events. It allows you an opportunity to take a break from your daily work, in particular my job involves coordinating data and administrative work so discussing potential sustainability projects is a nice break and can allow me to think more creatively.

Not only have I learned a lot from these networks, such as paper napkins go in the general waste bin rather than the recycling bin but I have formed relationships within these that have not only improved my wellbeing but also has positively impacted on my work.


Disability History Month: King’s Award

Erk Gunce, our D&I Projects Intern is pleased to inform all fellow D&I enthusiasts that Abbie Russell from IoPPN has won the Inclusive Workplace award during King’s Awards.

Abbie has been a leading champion for diversity and inclusion at King’s and has well deserved this recognition. On top of her main role as Administrative Support Officer at IoPPN, Abbie has volunteered to take on many additional responsibilities. She is a safety representative, a sustainability champion and disability equality champion. Abbie is also the co-chair of ACCESS King’s  – our very own staff disability network at King’s. She has played a pivotal role in advancing the network by organising drop-in sessions, arranging assistive software training and promoting panel and discussion events on neurodiversity.

Abbie has developed a Disability Inclusion Working Group, supported the establishment of an IoPPN Neurodiversity Peer Network and ensures disability features prominently in IoPPN communications such as newsletters, events, and social media. To us, Abbie is a living example of how valuable our staff volunteers are in advancing our networks & communities. It is colleagues like Abbie who, with their enthusiasm and selflessness, enable our staff networks to flourish and make a real difference to diversity and inclusion.


Please join us in celebrating Abbie for winning a King’s Award on Inclusive Workplace – way to go, Abbie!


Disability History Month: Independence in Amsterdam

For Disability History Month, Helena Mattingley our Head of Diversity & Inclusion, has shared her experiences travelling around Amsterdam with her mother who has low-sight. 

Last week I went to the Netherlands. I have been to Amsterdam many times before; I’ve typically been relatively independent, happily travelling through the city and following my own interests.

This time, I was very much trying to see it through my mother’s eyes, i.e. with very limited sight.

Crossing a road for me – look twice each way and made a dash across the pavement, cycle lane and tram tracks.

Crossing a road for her – listening for the beep-beep of a crossing, hearing the ‘ding’ of a tram move away, and seeing a smudge of colour move across a road.

Working out a route to Vondelpark for me – logging into 9292.nl and googlemaps.

Working out a route to Vondelpark for her – seeking directions from a local, asking the bus driver if they are stopping at museumplein, listening out for every announcement on the bus until she’s there.

Buying groceries for me – looking for recognisable icons, translating a few words on my phone.

Buying groceries for her – taking a gamble on whether you’ve just bought a carton of milk or pouring yogurt for coffee.

I’m independent. I don’t want to ask for advice from Amsterdammers, to reveal my abysmal handful of Dutch words, or to show I can’t work out something on my own. However, with my intrepid mother, I spoke to more Dutch people than any previous visit, received far more kindness, including finding out about Free Wine. Things change when you change your approach.

I am not trying to en-noble living with impaired sight, I know that mum would love to be able to see more and that it really affects how she engages with the world. It can be rubbish a lot of the time.  What I want to focus on is how we can change, and how adapting alters the way the world interacts with us.

What I want to learn from her is that she is brave enough to be vulnerable, show trust in strangers, and that this can be positive. She used to be as self-sufficient as me – and in many ways she still is completely self-sufficient – just her definition recognises that knowing we can rely on others is a predictable resource. While I am reliant on a smart phone and insulated from others, she can get information from almost anyone she meets – no battery required.


Language Matters: no ‘special’ education, thanks.

To kick off our UK Disability History Month celebrations, Erk Gunce, MA Student and member of King’s staff has kindly offered to write a guest post for us which reflects on the Dialogues on Disability conference and the importance of language when it comes to talking about the experience of being disabled. 

We re also hosting a very special Language and Disability Workshop on the 3rd of December as part of our UK Disability History Month events which will also launch of King’s new Disability Peer Mentoring Fund, an exciting initiative to help students get involved in inclusive practices at King’s.

To all allies, hello!

I have just returned from Dialogues on Disability. The week-long disability awareness program took place in Humboldt University, Berlin.  Every year, the Disability Support team at King’s sends students to different countries to increase their disability awareness. This year, at Humboldt University, we spent hours discussing the barriers imposed on disabled people and ways of removing them.

As a linguist, I am intrigued by language. The words we use… are they biased?  In Berlin, I led a workshop on Language and Disability. With students from all over the world, we analysed the language used to talk about disabled people. We weren’t happy with what we found.

The words we use to talk about disabilities have a lot of subtle biases. Think about the word ‘special education’. By calling someone special, we alienate them. Wouldn’t it be better to normalise disability, instead of alienating it?

There is much debate around terminology. Some people call themselves ‘disabled person’, others prefer ‘person with a disability’. Emphasizing the word ‘person’ highlights that one is a person, before anything else. Emphasizing the word ‘disabled’ highlights that disabled people are objects of a disablement – it is society who disable them, by not creating an accessible society.

The Guardian has a style guide. Columnists are told to avoid certain words, like ‘wheelchair-bound’. The word ‘wheelchair-bound’ suggests that someone is forced to use a wheelchair, that the wheelchair is a burden, an obligation. Isn’t it ironic to call a wheelchair a burden? A wheelchair is a liberator: it is what enables wheelchair users to contribute to society.

Did you see the British Government’s guide on inclusive language use ? They argue that we should say ‘non-disabled’, instead of ‘able-bodied’. Arguably, the word ‘able-bodied’ neglects mental health disabilities. How, then, can our language be fully inclusive? Think about the word ‘disorder’. Does it imply sickness? Why say that someone has a ‘learning disorder’, instead of a ‘learning difference’? Need I mention ‘delicate’, ‘spastic’, ‘handicapped’?

What I find unbelievable is that language bias is universal. Disability in French is invalidité. In Italian, it’s invalidità. In Slovenian, it’s invalidnosti. Can you see the trend? And it doesn’t end there. Connotations can change from one culture to another. Saying ‘hearing impaired’ can be offensive in America, but in the UK, it’s considered neutral.

So, how do we talk about disability? And which words are inclusive? My advice is to think. Reflect on the words you use and their subtle meanings. My second advice is to ask. Every disabled person will use different words to describe their condition. Ask what words they use to describe themselves. Better to ask than assume.

Need more on language and oppression? Check out things not to say . For more debates on disability, stay tuned for Disability Awareness Month in November. If you want to participate, get in touch!

Following the leader.

I spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing the ‘solutions’ to the various diversity and inclusivity challenges we face as employers and educators. Regardless of who I’m talking to or what I’m reading, the one thing that remains consistent in these discussion is that we need great leaders to create and sustain environments that people want to work in. The kind of work environment that gets you out of bed in the morning.

For me, this means having sense of purpose and feeling as though I’m adding real value – doing real good to ‘change the world’ to make it a fairer place. Working somewhere that has that purpose and with people who share my values is important. That’s what  gets me out of bed with a spring in my step.

What also keeps me going is working with leaders that I respect, and given that Diversity & Inclusion will be working closely with some senior leaders in the coming weeks. We will be briefing College Council, the governing body of King’s, on our work in race equality and disability inclusion, and engaging the Senior Management Team in Structural Inequality Training.

This level of commitment form those in such senior positions is heartening and leads me to reflect on what it takes to make a leader that I respect? What characteristics, skills and abilities make for good leadership in the book of Guerra?

  • Self-awareness is the cornerstone of good leadership for me. We emulate the behaviour of those we look up to. Leaders set the tone and standards of behaviour and are also role models rather than negative influences. Lessons in empathy and understanding yourself as well as your impact is one of the essential steps anyone can take in developing their leadership style.
  • Dealing with uncertainty whilst creating a vision – this leads people to understand how they influence and persuade others and so enable them to consistently perform well. Part of a leader’s job is to create an environment that enables and inspires people to use their energy and ability create personal, team and organisational success. That means leaders need to deal with uncertainty, find a path for themselves through complexity and a labyrinth of conflicting priorities.  To do that they have to have a clear view of a future state they are aiming for and galvanise their own enthusiasm and commitment to achieve success.
  • Involve others – good leaders recognise they don’t know everything and know they need to work with others and ask for support , listen to answers, join the dots and giving credit generously. Leading is about fostering relationships to achieve mutual goals, which can only work when both parties are honest and transparent.  That involves taking responsibility for communicating and being open with those they work with.  Communication is a two-way street. It’s so important to get to ‘know your people well’ – paying attention and taking the time to listen and learn from those they are leading.
  • Inspire and persuade – Those who lead should inspire and persuade through their interactions, rather than relying on status. The create genuine engagement and commitment in others rather than blind acceptance.
  • Be honest – No one can get things right all the time and good leaders are no exception. Recognising when things go wrong and taking responsibility, being open and showing you have learnt from them is a key leadership behaviour.

Autism Awareness Day – Jonathan Andrews

For Autism Awareness Day, we’ve invited KCL Alumni, trainee solicitor and LGBT and disability advocate, Jonathan Andrews to feature as our guest blogger.

You can read more about Jonathan here and follow him on Twitter.

As an advocate for fair access to the workplace and equality of opportunity, I’m particularly keen to ensure that social mobility is treated as an integral part of any strategy; workplaces need to be open to talent from all backgrounds, as it’s only then that they can be sure they’re reaching out to the widest talent pool possible and not overlooking talented people. This applies to social background (such as the types of school or university attended) as it does for anything else.

More than that, it’s important to remember than nobody has just one identity – everyone has a gender, a race, a sexuality, a social background, etc. – and often these overlap. The majority of disabled people, for example, aren’t going to be from elite backgrounds, just as the majority of BME or LGBT people won’t – and if employers want to reach out to all talent from these groups, they need to consider people of all social backgrounds too. It’s not just a nice thing to do, but makes smart business sense.

Initiatives particularly focused on employment for a particular group – such as King’s Advance internships, which offer employment in leading firms to disabled students – can intersect into improving social mobility in this way. I also know of some fantastic initiatives which are focused on increasing employment among disabled people – particularly autistic people, where despite the majority having a strong determination to work, the rates in full-time paid work is just 16%.

One such project is the Autism Exchange, an innovative initiative on whose steering board I sit. It was developed through a partnership between Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for young autistic people, and the Civil Service. It offers paid quality work experience to young autistic people (aged 18-25) in a variety of sectors, including civil service departments (such as the DWP, the Treasury, the Department of Education and Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and private sector firms such as Deutsche Bank; and autism awareness training to workplaces, allowing them to effectively understand how to create the conditions for interns to succeed during their placement. Feedback on the placement, and particularly on the skills of interns, has been very positive, with several subsequently being offered full-time roles.

On social mobility more widely, it’s also vital that people are able to see people from backgrounds like themselves making their way in different fields – “If you can see it, you can be it”, as an acquaintance of mine once said, and if there’s no one like you in a field – whether this is due to social background or anything else – it becomes that much harder to visualise yourself there. I’ve set up an alumni network at my old comprehensive Darrick Wood – and worked with national charity Future First who are aiming for an alumni network in every school – to help make this a reality.

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