Future directions in STEMM for people with disabilities: STEMM Disability Advisory Committee Conference – March 2016

A PDF version of the document is available to download here. 

Common themes and opportunities for progression

In March 2016, the STEMM Disability Advisory Committee hosted an event to share and discuss best practice in the provision of support to people with disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering Maths and Medicine (STEMM) while making the transitions through education and employment. It investigated the role learned societies and professional bodies can play in complementing these pathways to progression.

This event brought together people with disabilities and those working with them: employers, career advisors and many others involved in supporting their transition within STEMM education, and into the world of work or apprenticeships. Attendees were given an opportunity to share and discuss best practice and to develop plans and tools to enhance the support they access or provide, as well as suggesting further activity for professional bodies and learned societies to become more effective in this vital area.

The programme included a keynote address from Phillip Connolly, Policy Development Manager from Disability Rights UK, a panel Q&A session with expert representatives from various participant groups, delegate discussion groups, and a networking session where delegates made contacts to develop their work.

The importance of having teachers, colleagues and employers who value and support staff who need to work flexibly is paramount to achieving greater diversity. Joined up services all the way through progressive stages of education and employment are vital to aid the transition and progress of confident, appropriately skilled individuals. Accessible student services and inclusive corporate attitudes are crucial to the creation of environments that support disclosure. Both individuals and companies must understand the benefits of implementing reasonable adjustments to enable diversity and make the most of everyone’s differences.

During discussions between delegates, issues and barriers to making progress were discussed. These included:

To make progress on these issues, communication is key. Consultation between stakeholders will help disseminate good practices that work and increased communications with minority groups and disabled people is needed to gather case studies and a more detailed understanding of requirements for specific disabilities. Fundamentally, solutions must be driven by those who need them. There should be ‘no decisions about me without me’.

Arising out of the discussion groups, various solutions were raised about how services and support could be improved through more collaboration, developing partnerships and solution sharing to address some of the barriers that still exist. Below we have summarised some of the suggestions that were made at the conference for further consideration by the various stakeholders.

Schools could think about:

University STEMM departments could consider:

Learned societies, other Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) could:

STEMM employers could discuss how to:

Government could consider how to encourage:

Although these recommendations are presented by a stakeholder group, the key to real progress is, and will continue, to be collaborative approaches that span different education and career stages. We welcome discussions with specialists in disability support, particularly those active within STEMM communities, to help to inform our future activity in this area.