Manchester Metropolitan University is committed to ensuring that all its staff and students are able to work in an inclusive environment, regardless of their age, disability, gender, marital status, race, religious belief (or no belief), sexual orientation or transgender status.
Disabled staff are more motivated, efficient and confident in the workplace when they are able to feel supported with their disability. However, disclosure can lead to a feeling of vulnerability so it is not something that is easy for everyone.
The Equality & Diversity Role Models series profiling disabled staff members on ManMetLife has been introduced in time for the International Day of Disabled People (3rd Dec) and to highlight the fact that having a disability need not be a barrier to thrive at Manchester Met. We encourage other disabled staff to inform their line manager so that they feel supported and their talents will not go to waste.
The series demonstrates that diversity – and being our authentic selves – is something to be celebrated. No matter what your job role within Manchester Met, if you are disabled and would like to feature as a role model and/or need any advice, please contact email@example.com
Further Guidance for disabled staff or their line managers is available from http://www.mmu.ac.uk/equality-and-diversity/disability/
Disabled Staff Role Model
Lykara Ryder, Management Services Officer, FSAS, Faculty of Business and Law
Why do you think it’s important to have disabled staff role models?
I became disabled in my twenties, and I had to completely change my career plan. It was really difficult; I struggled to see myself doing anything other than what I had been doing. This is where role models can be so influential: when you identify with someone who is succeeding at something important to them, it is powerful encouragement to visualise yourself succeeding at something important to you. Perhaps that’s why disabled staff role models are particularly important in universities – this is the place and time in many people’s lives to plan their future and work out ‘success’ means to them.
Does being disabled influence your working life? If so, how?
I have two disabilities – Crohn’s Disease and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – and they both affect my working life to some extent. (If anyone isn’t familiar with ‘the spoon theory’ metaphor to explain how disabled and chronically ill people have to manage their energy, I highly recommend reading about it: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/. It’s an incredibly helpful way to understand one aspect of the day-to-day business of living with a disability.) I sometimes have to take days off due to pain or exhaustion, but the University has a separate system for recording absences due to disability so that these days aren’t recorded the same way a sick day due to a cold would be.
How easy is it to talk to your manager about your disability?
My current manager is fantastic, and has always been supportive! Whereas my inclination is to push through illness or pain in a (misguided!) attempt to ‘justify’ my work as a disabled staff member, she is very good about reminding me to take care of myself. In a work environment like that, it’s much easier for me to stay well all the time rather than experience the peaks and troughs that are more usual with my disabilities.
How easy is it to talk to your colleagues about your disability?
I have always been very open about my disabilities, especially because they are ‘invisible’, and this hasn’t ever posed any problems at Manchester Metropolitan. It’s also made colleagues feel more comfortable talking to me in return about their own disabilities/chronic illnesses, which I think is incredibly important for not only raising awareness of specific disabilities but also for creating a more inclusive society generally.
What kind of reasonable adjustments has the University put in place to support you in your work?
I haven’t needed any reasonable adjustments yet, but I have talked with my line manager about how they may become necessary if I have a flare up in either condition.
What advice would you give to other disabled staff or students who may be facing difficulties because of their disability?
I’d advise them to say something – the sooner, the better. There is so much goodwill at Manchester Metropolitan; everyone is united in wanting to ensure students have a good experience and staff are well supported. Speak to your cohort and Personal Tutor; speak to your colleagues and your line manager. There are systems in place to help so please take advantage of them! And if you’re a member of staff, I’d encourage you to join the Disabled Staff Forum; it’s a good way to make sure your voice is heard and join in the work of making a more equal and diverse university for everyone.
What can we all do to make Manchester Met a better place for disabled staff and/or students?
Appropriately for a university, I’d say the best thing to do is learn and teach. Find out all you can about the lives of disabled people in our community and listen to the things we have to say for yourselves, then share what you’ve learned and practice empathy in a way that motivates the people around you to do the same.