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Making time for conversations around disability

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The following message has been sent to all colleagues from Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort

Dear colleagues,

Last month, I attended a meeting of the Staff Disability Network. Disability is one of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. All the characteristics included under this Act are important to us at the University and we aim to support those with them in our inclusive and diverse community. Colleagues at that meeting made a powerful case to me: that the University of Reading could do more to be a better place for disabled, neurodiverse, and colleagues with chronic or long-term illness. And that we need to do more now, given that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact in many ways on this group of people. As a first step, they asked me to write this open letter to all University colleagues with the aim of encouraging more conversations around disability and neurodiversity.

We are making some progress in other ways. Last week, the University of Reading received Disability Confident Employer – Level 1 (Committed) status. The Disability Confident Scheme helps employers to recruit and retain disabled people, who have great talent.

This letter is the starting point for a wider listening exercise led by Dr Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and Professor Elizabeth McCrum, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and UEB Champion for disability. I hope this will lead to a better understanding of the lived experience of disabled and neurodiverse colleagues and lead to best practice recommendations. Allán and Elizabeth will write to you later this week with their perspective and  provide more information about the listening exercise in the next few weeks.

What we can do now

In the meantime, some of you, like me, may be aware of the limits of your own personal experience. It is not for disabled or neurodiverse colleagues to have to educate me or you. There are simple things we can do.  Here are just a few:

  • Join the Staff Disability Network or attend any of the planned events
  • Complete the Hidden Disabilities Training on UoR Learn.
  • Attend the Disability and Neurodiversity showcase – led by Allán Laville and Jo Billington, doctoral researcher at our Centre for Autism. Register your early interest by emailing
  • Be an ally - challenge language and behaviour that you believe is contrary to our values of diversity and inclusivity. Use this link to register your interest in the Allies Training Event which will take place on Friday 5 March, 1-2pm in collaboration with women@reading network.

Kind regards,


Vice-Chancellor Robert Van de Noort

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