10 principles of disability created by the University of Greenwich

Universities and colleges are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of empowering, celebrating and giving a voice to disabled staff and students.  

A recent example includes the University of Greenwich driven by its disability and diversity focused initiative ‘STAART’. The initiative provides a set of principles and guidance to its future and current disabled students and staff.  

10 principles of disability 

The University of Greenwich’s disabled students, graduates, and staff have created 10 new ‘STAART Principles of Disability’ (abbreviated as SPoD) to be adopted across its UK campuses:   Group of young people sitting in a lecture hall

  1. Disability includes physical impairments; specific learning difficulties; mental health conditions; long-term health conditions; and/or potentially life-shortening illnesses.  
  2. We are not embarrassed and/or ashamed of our disabilities.  
  3. Some days are better than others.  
  4. Sometimes it may take us longer to work or study than our non-disabled peers, although sometimes we are quicker than our non-disabled peers to achieve the same results.  
  5. We are capable of great achievements.  
  6. Ninety-two percent of our disabilities are not visible.  
  7. Disabled peers can be our greatest allies and successful supporters.  
  8. We are disabled people, not people with disabilities. We are (mostly) disabled by the environment and attitudes rather than our bodies and brains.  
  9. We are experts by experience (of our disability/disabilities).  
  10. We come in different shapes, sizes, colours, faiths, and genders. 

The university is also encouraging other organisations to adopt the principles for their own staff/students, free of charge.   

Interview with the STAART Manager at the University of Greenwich  Melanie Thorley smiling at the camera

AbilityNet had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Melanie Thorley (pictured), the STAART Manager about the STAART Principles of Disability. 

What prompted you to create the STAART Principles of Disability? 

I noticed that there were no references to models of disability in my institution. I thought if we adopt specific principles, as agreed with disabled students and staff, the university has the potential to create a more disability-friendly environment for our students, staff, and visitors.  

STAART itself already has a positive reputation internally and externally. So, I thought a combination of STAART and the SPoD will ensure the university acknowledges, supports, and embraces disabled students and staff. 

How did you engage with the university to agree that these would be adopted? 

I created a business case proposal to adopt the STAART Principles of Disability (SPoD) which went to the VC group, Director of Student and Academic Services (SAS) and the Human Resources team at the University of Greenwich. In the proposal, I described a synopsis of STAART achievements in the last 3 years, SPoD’s potential benefits, and resource implications.  

What was the impact on people of creating them? What did everyone who contributed get from the process? 

With the collaborative efforts of disabled students, graduates, and staff, SPoD help to focus on the attitudes and behaviour of disability. By debunking the idea that disability is a negative state, SPoD may encourage more sharing and a more disability-friendly environment for our students, staff and visitors. 

Have you seen any initial impacts of having SPoD rolled out? Any tips for others who want to take up your kind offer of adopting them into their institution? 

I’m aware of two organisations who are considering adopting the SPoD for themselves, and I will share this information on the STAART social channels once the adoptions have been confirmed. Any organisation who would like to adopt the SPoD for themselves can contact me directly at me at m.thorley@greenwich.ac.uk.

Inclusive and Accessible Learning 

Dr. Melanie Thorley joined us for a webinar to discuss how to create inclusive and accessible learning and working environments moving forward during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Learn more about Dr. Thorley and the STAART initiative by accessing the webinar recording and transcript.  

Man drawing diagram on large presentation paper with woman looking on

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You may also be interested in our recent webinar where Amy Low, Service Delivery Director at AbilityNet was joined by Deborah Green, CEO of The University and Colleges Information Services Association (UCISA), and Stephen Thompson from the University of Sheffield. Five years on from the introduction of PSBAR, Amy discussed GOV.UK audits and sector-focused insights from our ‘Attitudes to Digital Accessibility’ survey with the panelists. 

Watch the recording of our webinar on PSBAR

Lived experience of disability 

AbilityNet provides lived experience training from its team members with professional knowledge and personal experience of disability. The authentic person-centred viewpoint helps Higher Education and Further Education institutions, and other organisations provide a learning and working environment that is inclusive by design.  

Our expert consultants can also help you ensure your institute’s website, apps and other digital services are usable, accessible, and comply with the new UK accessibility regulations. Find out more about our digital accessibility services.  

Further resources:

Blog: Higher education sector digital accessibility gaps highlighted in global report

Blog: Accessibility requirements for Higher and Further Education organisations

Training: How to deliver and sustain accessible digital learning - for HE and FE professionals