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Disability Equality Scheme and Action Plan

2009-2012

Introduction

All Souls College is committed to ensuring the continuation of the highest standards of academic excellence for which the College is renowned and sees its equality policy, which includes promoting disability equality and preventing discrimination, as essential to the realisation of that aim.  It thus seeks to ensure that disabled people are able to compete on equal terms for its Fellowships, participate fully in College life, benefit from its teaching and research facilities, or work here if, with reasonable adjustment, they are likely to be able to fulfil the main duties of the post.  It also wishes to ensure full compliance with its statutory duties that the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 has introduced.

In conjunction with the University of Oxford’s Collegiate Disability Equality Scheme, this All Souls College Disability Equality Scheme outlines our continuing commitment to disability equality for Fellows, other members of the University who are likely to visit the College, its staff, and the wider community.  Through this scheme, the College aims to achieve the following:

The Disability Equality Scheme links with and supports the All Souls Equality Policy.  It focuses on the issues specifically related to its role and purposes as a graduate college and research institution and the specific challenges of its buildings which are Grade 1 Listed. 

College context

All Souls College is a small, primarily research, College within the University of Oxford currently comprising some 77 Fellows, about 10 Visiting Fellows, and about 17 former fellows who regularly visit College and use its facilities.  The College seeks to support all Fellows’ academic and research activities by providing them with research, accommodation, dining, and support facilities, in accordance with the entitlements set out in its Statutes and By laws.   Its Fellows also undertake undergraduate and graduate teaching and supervision within the College and during the course of a week in term-time, well over 100 members of the University may, in consequence, visit the College for lectures, seminars, and supervision.   Other scholars also make use of the Codrington Library.  As one of the older colleges and a Grade 1 listed building All Souls also attracts approximately 300 further members of the public as visitors in a typical week.


Legal Context


Public authorities have for some time been under the statutory duty not to discriminate against disabled people by treating them less favourably than other persons as well as the statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments, both anticipatory adjustments and individual adjustments, for disabled staff and students.  However, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 2005, which received royal assent in April 2005, contains a ‘positive statutory duty’ on public bodies to promote equality of opportunity between disabled and other persons and requires that in carrying out its functions the College must have regard for the need to:

This means that the College must take account of disability equality in every area of its day-to-day operation, including its policies, practices, procedures and plans.

Development of the Disability Equality Scheme

In developing this scheme, the College has sought to engage both staff and all current and former Fellows who regularly visit it in order to capture some baseline data on the incidence of disability and to gain the perspectives of the immediate College community on issues and problems which they might have experienced as disabled people in College, bringing disabled people into College, or anticipate they might experience.  They were all invited to complete a questionnaire and the responses to the Disability Equality Questionnaire (see below) have been useful in establishing baseline data, highlighting problems disabled people might experience, and providing constructive suggestions on how the accessibility of the College to disabled people might be improved.  There has also been detailed discussion with at least two disabled consultants were willing to share their experience and expertise.  The Domestic Bursar, the Manciple, and the Head Porter have also been closely involved and the University Disability Officer has also provided useful input and advice. 
 

Equal Opportunities at All Souls College - Disability Data on Current Fellows and Staff

All Souls Equality Policy requires that the Domestic Bursar reports via the General Purposes Committee to the Governing Body once a year on the effectiveness of its Equality Policy.  Several measures have already been put in place in recent years to improve disabled access to the College and ensure that disabled applicants’ special requirements for the Prize Fellowship examination are met.  However, until now, there has not been any systematic collection of data on disability for applicants for College Fellowships.  Although applicants for domestic staff appointments have been invited to complete equality monitoring questionnaires in the last few years, the data has not been analysed systematically or collected for longer serving or administrative staff.     

The survey of Fellows and staff that was undertaken in March 2009 has therefore been useful in gathering at least some baseline data (see Table 1) in relation to current Fellows and staff although the response rate (current Fellows (61%), Visiting Fellows (20%), former Fellows, domestic and administrative staff (47.9%)) means that it is necessarily incomplete.  No statistics have been collected on disabled visitors to the College although it is clear from anecdotes and comments on survey returns that some Fellows have had students with mobility difficulties visiting them in College at some stage.  

Table 1 - Current Fellows and Staff Declaring a Disability (2008/9)

  Current Fellows Visiting Fellows Former Fellows Domestic Staff Admin. Staff Total
Total numbers returning survey forms 47 2 2 15 9 75
Total numbers declaring disability 2 0 1 3 0 6
Percentage of Total 4.25 0 50 20 0 8

Given the response rate (61% from current Fellows and 48% from domestic and administrative staff), these can only be indicative statistics.  The actual overall numbers of Fellows and staff with some form of disability are likely to be somewhat higher.   Table 2 indicates the main categories of disability declared by Fellows and staff. 


Table 2 - Categories of Disability Declared by Fellows and Staff

Physical impairment such as difficulty using arms or mobility difficulty 3
Blind or visual impairment which impairs involvement in College activities
or work
 
Deafness or hearing impairment which impairs involvement in College activities or work 1
Long-standing illness or health condition such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, or epilepsy which impacts on ability to carry out normal day to day activities. 1
Mental illness, e.g. depression or schizophrenia  
Dyslexia or other learning difficulty 1
Two or more disabilities (details included under categories above) 1
Nature of disability not specified on returned questionnaire 1

Unsurprisingly, this is a rather different distribution of disability from that declared by undergraduate applicants to the University as a whole; among this group specific learning difficulties were reported by 93/151 and 68/126 successful applicants reporting a disability in 2007 and 2008 respectively.  The College is also regularly required to make special examination arrangements for candidates for the Prize Fellowship and dyslexia/dyspraxia frequently gives rise to requests from this group. (See below.)


Collecting Information

The College’s General Purposes Committee has already decided that it will invite applicants for future Fellowship elections to complete equality monitoring questionnaires which will cover disability as well as ethnicity and gender.  However, the reliability and quality of the data collected from them and College Fellows, former Fellows, and staff will inevitably be dependent on individuals’ readiness to provide such information and co-operate in surveys.  The Domestic Committee has decided that a further effort should be made to capture through a simple online or paper survey (with appropriate safeguards to ensure confidentiality is respected) more comprehensive coverage of the incidence of disability amongst current Fellows and staff but thereafter it should not be repeated more frequently than every three years.  The need to respect the privacy and wishes of any disabled people who are elected to Fellowships or offered employment in the College is also likely to limit the amount of detail that can be included in regular reports to the Domestic and General Purposes Committee. 

 

Provision for Disabled Applicants for Fellowships and Job Vacancies

Fellowships

In accordance with the College’s Equality policy, the College has for some time made clear its readiness to consider and accommodate valid applicants’ requests for special arrangements to be made for them in the Prize Fellowship examination.  The College seeks to follow the University Proctors’ policy on granting such requests, for example where candidates request extra time for specific learning disabilities.  During the last three years, special arrangements have been made for 12 dyslexic or dyspraxic candidates, 1 blind, and 1 visually impaired candidate.

Once elected, incoming Fellows will in future all be encouraged to identify as soon as possible, any special requirements they may have so that appropriate arrangements to accommodate these can, so far as is practicable, be put in place before they arrive to take up their Fellowship.  In the case of the Prize Fellowship where the new Fellow is expected to move into College the day after his or her election in early November, the Domestic Bursar will develop contingency plans for the suitable reception and accommodation of shortlisted candidates from the time at which the shortlist is drawn up. 

Staff Appointments

It is established College practice to ask applicants for College domestic staff appointments and their referees for details of their sick absence in their previous employment, the state of their health, and for applicants to be asked to complete an equality monitoring questionnaire.  The physical design of the College buildings and the nature of the work involved mean that all domestic staff appointments require reasonable mobility and involve some manual handling duties, as do some of the administrative posts.  The manual handling requirements are made clear in job specifications but in future the job descriptions for advertised posts will make it clear that the College welcomes applications from disabled people and will always consider whether there is scope to make reasonable adjustments for them.  We will also invite applicants to specify any special interview requirements. 

 While information given on the College’s Recruitment Monitoring Forms will be used only to support the statistical monitoring of the College’s diversity and equal opportunities policy, it is intended that successful applicants should, as is practice in the University, be asked to complete a separate Starter Monitoring Form so that we can establish and maintain proper records of our staff and ensure that any special needs are met.  Therefore where a successful applicant has declared a disability on the application form or on the Starter Monitoring Form, the Domestic Bursar or Manciple will arrange to meet the person to discuss their individual needs and seek permission to discuss requirements with immediate managers if appropriate. Once provisions are in place, follow-up meetings will be arranged at regular intervals if needed.


 Current Provision for Disabled Fellows, Staff, and Visitors

The College has already made a number of provisions to improve its accessibility to disabled Fellow, staff, and visitors.  These measures include:

Priority Areas for Action

Details of the further measures that have been proposed in response to the disability questionnaire and the consultations on the development of this scheme are included in the survey response and action plan but the main areas for action are to:
 

Progress Review

The Domestic Bursar will report to the Domestic Committee at least annually (in Trinity Term) on progress on the implementation of this Action Plan, including any further measures that may be agreed to be desirable. In any event, this Disability Equality Scheme will be reviewed and revised by Trinity Term 2012.  The Domestic Bursar and Academic Administrator will also prepare an annual report for consideration by the General Purposes Committee on progress against its gender, disability, and racial equality schemes.