Thursday Week Nine saw the Student Union host the ‘Students with Disabilities Employability Talk and Advice Session’, in collaboration with the CEEC, Disabled Student Services and Human Resources. The talk was designed to raise awareness concerning students’ career options.
The Student Union officer heading the campaign, non-sabbatical Students with Disabilities officer Cat Clark, organised a series of presentations from various members of staff, intending to erase misconceptions and to clarify the entitlements of students with disabilities with regards to the working environment, whilst highlighting specific schemes in place to provide help.
Clark initially organised the one-day campaign to highlight how almost all occupations are open to those with disabilities. There are currently laws to prevent unlawful discrimination and strategies in place to tailor to people’s individual needs.
“Discrimination is not acceptable”, said Clark, “I wanted to offer help and advice.”
The campaign opened with Clark, JCR Equal Opportunities Officers, Non-sabbatical and Sabbatical Officers handing out flyers in Alexandra Square between 1pm and 3pm, as well as putting up posters around the university, advertising the talk held in Bowland North at 4pm.
Although pleased with the response from students, Clark hopes that next time there will be more students willing to participate in the campaign. “It is especially important during the recession to highlight students’ options, so we tried to make the campaign constructive,” added Clark.
It is the first time the Students’ Union has attempted to run an event like this. “I am interested in knowing what opportunities are available to me and glad that a talk like this has taken place,” said Dere Coker, a first-year student present at the talk.
The CEEC (Centre for Employability Enterprise & Careers) initiated the talk, providing an overview of the assistance available. The CEEC produces various workshops and insight courses frequently during term time, aimed at developing students’ skills. These can include teacher training, confidence building and interview preparation workshops.
The Lancaster Career Mentoring Programme and the Lancaster Award are also available to students. The mentoring programme allows students to gain insight into the working world through a graduate mentor, allowing development of personal and career management skills, whilst the Lancaster Award is an additional qualification that prepares students with necessary skills for a working environment. Both can be tailored to a student’s individual needs, and Disabilities Adviser Christine Quinn affirmed “Helping students prepare for work and giving them the edge is important. We want a diversity of students within the workplace.”
Rob Kemp from Human Resources also provided information, more specifically to rules and regulations on discrimination in the workplace. “Anti-discrimination begins at application,” said Kemp and according to British Law, if a person with a disability fulfils essential criteria necessary to a job they have applied for, they are guaranteed an interview. Equality principles are applied throughout the workplace as employers are required to follow a strict set of rules.
Kemp also highlighted a governmental scheme, ‘Access to Work’, which provides financial and practical support for new and existing employees with disabilities and has been successful since it was founded in 1994. The scheme can provide help in areas such as travel, special aids and equipment, support workers and communication support. The scheme is funded completely by the government, although there is an application process.
In addition to this scheme, Christine Quinn discussed the key changes to the Equality Bill as of April 2009, which saw the introduction of single equality duty, covering discrimination by association, dual discrimination and discrimination arising from disability. The Bill is part of Governmental measures to improve equality and equal opportunities for not only people with disabilities, but women, minority ethnic groups and older people.
Information on the Bill can be found on www.commonsleader.gov.uk.
Information on workshops available can be found in the CEEC Centre.