International Day of Persons of Disabilities
This week we mark the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. First observed in 1992, this annual event aims to promote the rights and wellbeing of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
At the University of Wolverhampton, we are proud of our students and staff with disabilities and the contribution they make to the diversity of our community. This year also marks our 28th year of delivering sign language interpreter education and training. The aim back in the 1990s was to “broaden opportunities for Deaf people, facilitate Deaf people’s access to Higher Education and raise Deaf awareness within all areas of society and work” and over the years, the subject has flourished and engaged in numerous successful initiatives and projects. But I am acutely aware of the need for change in the higher education sector and that improvements must be made to support students to access university.
In my roles as Chair of the Disabled Students Commission and as a Disability and Access Ambassador, I am determined that we will make changes to ensure students receive the support they need before they apply to universities, when they start and throughout their university journey. No one size fits all – and we must recognise that that an individual approach is needed. We must make sure that disabled students have time, information and guidance in order to make the right decision for them, as well as access to the support they need and to have it all in place before they start their studies.
We must also ensure that disabled staff are supported to carry out their roles through an inclusive and equitable approach. At the University of Wolverhampton, I am proud of the work of our Disabled Staff Network and the work they do to support colleagues and raise awareness of important issues. We have recently changed our recruitment processes in line with our Disability Confident Committed status, meaning that we are committed to ensuring our recruitment system is inclusive and accessible. But again, we are on a journey and more can, and must, be done.
The theme for IDPD this year is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.” We are now more than 20 months into the pandemic, and are still learning to live with its challenges. But while we are dealing with this on-going challenge, we must continue to listen to our communities, and what they tell us about their lived experiences and their hopes for the future. This is something that I am extremely passionate about, and I am committed to driving positive change to enhance the student journey into higher education and the experiences of disabled staff within the sector.
Professor Geoff Layer
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