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 was introduced to mark 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Further Guidance for disabled staff or their line managers is available from http://www.mmu.ac.uk/equality-and-diversity/disability/
Marina Matosic is the Careers & Employability Consultant and Co-Chair to the Disabled Staff Forum
Why do you think it’s important to have disabled staff role models?
To give encouragement to others. Being disabled can be a scary and lonely place especially if recently diagnosed. To see others happily living a successful life can be a great help.
Does being disabled influence your working life? If so, how?
Of course it does! I have a visual impairment but as long as I am by a computer with zoom text loaded on (my assistive technology) or am by my magnifier then I am not disabled. As soon as I step away, then it’s another story – so I stick near to them! The worse thing for me is that nobody realises I have a visual impairment – great in many ways but I constantly feel that I am potentially being rude to people. This morning for instance someone walked past me and said hello. I think it was an academic I have recently worked with but I’m not sure. They had gone by before I realised it was me they were saying hi to. Now they probably think I am moody or unfriendly or both, which is so not me.
How easy is it to talk to your manager/s about your disability?
I arrived with my disability so it was out in the open and my line manager has never known me in any other guise so in one sense this has made it quite easy. Even so, it can still feel a bit awkward and I try hard to make him feel at ease about it all.
How easy is it to talk to your colleagues about your disability?
Again my close colleagues are used to it and so it is easy to let them know if something is proving difficult. Our wider team has expanded and in writing this, I realise that I haven’t talked about my disability directly with any of them. Perhaps I am being naïve and should do so; possibly my belief that they will somehow learn by osmosis how to react to my visual impairment is expecting too much? But it’s a hard conversation to keep on having and the very thought of it wares me out so I guess they are told by others. I have never had to have a touchy feely conversation with anyone – this is good as I hate those sort of conversations and might end up being off hand!
What kind of reasonable adjustments has the University put in place to support you in your work?
Loads, they are a brilliant employer! I have never had to fight for an adjustment and have always been fully supported. I have 5 hours of reader support a week, assistive technology, magnifiers and I print out documents in very large print – good for me not so good for deforestation!
What advice would you give to other disabled staff or students who may be facing difficulties because of their disability?
Take things slowly and start telling just one person and then once confident tell more and more. My job takes me all over the university so I constantly have to inform new staff and students that I have a visual impairment. I just say it and let them deal with it. I can honestly say that no student or member of staff has ever let on if they have an issue with this. They are all pretty cool and take it in their stride and students often come to my assistance if I get lost in the middle of a PowerPoint presentation – yes I have been known to start going backwards! Disability is a part of life so don’t be scared about letting people know when you need help.
What can we all do to make Manchester Met a better place for disabled staff and/or students?
Be as open and as forthright as you possibly can. We are in an educational environment so let’s educate people about disability and how to accommodate and support it so that we are working and living in an inclusive environment. Be confident about who you are and all that you have to offer and always try to laugh rather than cry. Disability is frustrating and hard work but it does have its comedy moments so celebrate these too. Oh and I nearly forgot – join the Disabled Staff Forum. Not only does it give us the opportunity to make Manchester Met a better and stronger work place for staff and students, it’s also a great support network too and I have made some of my best friends at work through it.