Three quarters of disabled staff at Sheffield university experience discrimination

A Sheffield university report found that a majority of its disabled staff have experienced discrimination, but were unaware of reporting procedures.

Thursday, 10th February 2022, 10:27 am

A survey circulated by the University of Sheffield found that a significant proportion of disabled staff were unsatisfied with their treatment in several key areas.

The survey was completed in full or in part by 354 staff, of whom 144 indicated they had a disability.

Stark findings from the report showed that 75 per cent of disabled respondents experienced discrimination in relation to their disability occasionally, frequently or daily.

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Research led by the University of Sheffield has shed light on the links between loneliness and the demand for primary health care services.

Moreover, 79 per cent of disabled respondents indicated that they did not report it, and over half (54 per cent) stated that they were unaware they could report harassment and discrimination through the university’s Report + Support platform.

This platform allows students, staff, and university visitors to report any form of discrimination such as harassment, abuse or bullying based on disability or other characteristics, anonymously or with personal details given.

Disabled staff also felt the university fell short in efforts to recruit disabled staff (47 per cent of disabled respondents rated the university’s efforts as below average or poor), and to retain disabled staff (54 per cent rated the university below average or poor).

Disabled students have also been affected by a lack of adequate support from the university, with some students switching courses, taking a leave of absence, or dropping out altogether.

A University of Sheffield survey found that a majority of disabled staff experienced disability based discrimination.

Daniel Swain, who is registered blind, dropped out of the University of Sheffield in October 2020 because he said his learning support plan (LSP) had not been circulated and many of his learning materials failed to meet accessibility standards.

Daniel said: “I had no idea how widespread the problem was.

"Seeing that the staff were victims as much as students shocked me the most. Things are not changing fast enough.

"One of the shocking things I came across was that the university has known about these problems for a while now. Before I was a student they were having problems circulating learning support plans.

Daniel is registered blind and feels that he received more support at school and college than at university.

"I am still pursuing a complaint against the university, seeking compensation for maintenance costs, but more importantly I want to hold the university to account.

Case studies seen by the Telegraph highlight the experiences of other disabled students at the university.

Laurie Brown, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), depression and anxiety, studied Japanese Studies at the University of Sheffield in 2017 but changed to East Asian Studies because of exam failures, which he says were due to a lack of departmental support.

He wrote to the department complaining about the lack of classroom support, and was told to remind his lecturers of his LSP. However, Laurie said that his LSP did little to change any methods of teaching in his Japanese language classes.

James Wraith, who started studying in the school of English in 2020 and has functional neurological disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder and ASD, he took a leave of absence from the university because implementing support for his mental health conditions was taking too long.

He experienced a lack of digital accessibility in the university and is still trying to get the university to implement more support.

A spokesman for the University of Sheffield said: “It is very important to us that disabled students and staff are welcome and supported in our university community and we are working hard to improve the support that we offer.

“As part of our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we have developed a new disability equality strategy and action plan that sets out how we are making changes across the university.

"We worked with disabled students and staff to develop the new action plan and we ran a number of consultation surveys to hear about their experiences and how we can best address them. The action plan will be launched this semester.

“We are grateful for the important feedback from disabled students and staff and we encourage everyone to continue to share their experiences with us. We know that there is more work to do to improve disability equality and this work is a priority for the university.

“We have made a number of recent improvements to how we support disabled students and staff, including a new system for communicating student learning support plans across the university.”