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Facilitating a Positive Culture for the Disclosure of Workers Disabilities: Experiences of Developing a Pilot Volunteer Intervention Programme within a Higher Education Institution

Background: Within the UK an individual is disabled if he or she has an impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on their ability to undertake daily activities. Once a disability is disclosed to an Employer, the Employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments at work for the employee. However, because of the stigma often associated with being disabled many individuals are fearful of disclosing their disability as they fear they may be discriminated against. This apparent fear appears to be reflected in the disability disclosure rate for English universities, which in 2014 was only 3.9% . This paper outlines the work undertaken at one English university to improve the staff disability disclosure rate (currently 2%) through the application of a volunteer intervention programme. This programme has been designed by the university’s Disabled Staff Network (DSN) and is supported by the School of Health Sciences.

Method: The aim of the intervention programme is to develop a positive culture of disclosure by providing a confidential guidance and information service that enables workers to make an informed decision regarding disclosure as well as a series of seminars that provide co-workers, supervisors, and managers with an opportunity to explore their responsibilities about supporting disabled staff in the workplace. An action research approach has been taken using a mixed methodology, which included a qualitative analysis of narrative from case studies and an analysis of a participant satisfaction survey using descriptive statistics.

Findings: The outcome of this initial work has enabled the DSN to confirm the relevance, suitability and effectiveness of the peer to peer support service and the disability awareness seminars.

Conclusion: No attempt has been made (at this stage) to establish cause and effect. Therefore, further empirical evidence is needed of the benefits of this programme.


Malcolm Day

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