Disabled Staff Role Models

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 equalities@mmu.ac.uk or call us on 0161 247 6494.

Further Guidance for disabled staff or their line managers is available from http://www.mmu.ac.uk/equality-and-diversity/disability/

Dr Kate Cook, Senior Lecturer in Law / Head of the Sylvia Pankhurst Gender Research Centre and Co-chair of the Gender Staff Forum.


Why do you think it’s important to have disabled staff role models?
Disability is one area where attitudes have proved resistant to change.  In my view, there is still a broad tendency to see anyone with a physical disability as suffering and anyone with an invisible disability as malingering.  I would like to see far more assertiveness on the part of disabled people and, hopefully, role models can help with this.

Does being disabled influence your working life? If so, how?
Absolutely!  I have to be conscious of how much I take on and how thinly I spread myself.  I am always aware of trying to balance demands with my (relatively limited) energy.  I have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since I was 33 (I am now 57) and so I am (at least) very used to my condition.  I am also married to a woman who is disabled, so I am also aware of the complexities of her life and of the issues that arise when two disabled people are also each other’s carers, from time to time.

How easy is it to talk to your manager/s about your disability?
I have been lucky in this regard at Manchester Metropolitan.  Everyone has always worked hard to understand that there are limitations on my capacity.

How easy is it to talk to your colleagues about your disability?
Here I probably tend to be more cowardly.  I tend to “just get on with it” a lot of the time.  Maybe answering these questions will make me think harder about that.

What advice would you give to other disabled staff or students who may be facing difficulties because of their disability?
Try to be patient when people don’t understand the difficulties you are facing, but at the same time, make sure you demand that others educate themselves.  So long as somebody has the basic information, it is very easy for able-bodied people to find information for themselves.

What can we all do to make Manchester Met a better place for disabled staff and/or students?
I think I might have answered that, above.  Listen and learn.