Case Study A is about a business management student with visual difficulties who describes how she studies and what difficulties she has encountered and overcome. Case Study B is about a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, who has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive. Although not a specific higher education setting, this case study does address issues relating to visual difficulties and management in general.
This information has been extracted from the RNIB website http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_studentinterview.hcsp (information accessed and extracted May 2008)
Danielle Dixon is currently in her second year of studying a BSc Hons in Business Management at the University of Wales, Swansea. Danielle has glaucoma and an eye condition called Peter’s Anomaly.
Studying with a sight problem
The teachers’ appreciation of my sight problem varies as it would with any group of people. All the lecturers know about it and try their best to overcome any problems I have. Teaching styles are very different across the academic staff and so the ability to alter their methods differs as well. One of my lecturers has left a slot open in her timetable so that I can go and see her and she’ll run over anything we’ve done in the lecture so I know exactly what went on. Most of my lecturers email course material to me which is brilliant so they do understand that my needs differ from most students. I have a note taker who comes into all my lectures with me and writes basic notes. She copies the overheads that I’ve not been given or any ad-hoc notes from the white boards that I can’t note down myself.
As part of my course I had to complete a module using specific computer packages which did not work with the access technology that I am using. One of the postgraduate teaching assistants had to act as a reader during the examination so that I could complete the module. This was not an ideal solution.
At the moment I have to contend with another computer program used to model business simulations. It has been turned into a group project so that anything I can’t do, my team-mates can. Students are a completely different issue from lecturers! Young people are more likely to ask questions about my sight problem and are more confident about expressing their curiosity. Most students are quite willing to help out if need be and are friendly.
Changes to university administration
I think my university has the potential to be a great institution for blind and partially sighted students. I would say however that communication between departments needs to be improved so that they are aware of the needs of any disabled students that may wish to take up a module outside of their home department. The computing facilities could be improved also. The library has a room with about six PCs that have been adapted for the use of blind and partially sighted students. I feel that if these PCs were integrated into the rest of the library then we would be able to participate in teamwork and social activities while studying and take part in all the non-academic discussions!
This information has been extracted from: Being in Management as a Disabled Person, The ADP Employment Series: http://www.adp.org.uk/downloads/Being%20in%20Management.pdf
Nick Clarke was a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, but has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive. Nick is partially sighted.
“I worked with service managers on managing change and making their services more accessible and accountable to people. I became a manager in public service because I wanted to use my skills to make things better for people. I discovered fairly soon that specialist equal opportunities jobs were not capable of bringing about change, so I went into more mainstream management.
We’re all lacking in confidence around our own impairments and asking for the things we need – we’re good at asking for things for other people, but it’s more difficult to ask for it for ourselves. In the end, I went to my employer, who now employ twelve or thirteen support workers or personal assistants (PAs) for individual employees. So it led to a lot of other people getting principal reasonable adjustments. PACT (now the Disability Service Team) provided the know-how about what I would need. I tried out things that other partially sighted people were using, and I talked to other people about different systems. I gained a lot of support through that. I feel confident in asking for what I need. I have a full time PA for the vast volume of paper work that comes in, and for dealing with meetings. My job is about understanding people, understanding change. I have a large print computer and a talking computer. I also have tape recorders and CCTV. The photocopier is one that I can use, and so is the fax machine. They consult me on the way things are laid out, and on policies like fire evacuation policies.
I have done a Certificate in Management Studies and a Diploma in Management Studies with Sheffield Business School, at Sheffield Hallam University. The Diploma of Management Studies was helpful in me getting my new job. They’re the first two years in the Masters in Business Administration.
I’ve just had to negotiate my salary for my new job. I know people who’ve sold themselves cheap as disabled people and gone for the lowest point on the salary scale. I talked to lots of people before negotiating the salary and tried to talk about myself in a positive light. I think I’ve got a decent salary. A lot of disabled people are good problem solvers because of the sort of life they’ve had to go through. We can bring different approaches to problem solving and to working with people. More women managers led to a change in management. I think more disabled managers will lead to new ways of approaching management; new ways of thinking about the cultures in which people work; the best ways of enabling people to work well. Something I have to think about in my new job is how to be taken seriously. People are not used to being managed by a disabled person, or working with someone who is using a support worker, or specialist equipment. They’re used to thinking of disabled people as people they provide a service to, particularly in public service. They’re not thinking of disabled people as creative managers who will line manage them. Sometimes I see things from a different point of view, which is positive. I pick up things that other people don’t pick up.
Mentoring, and talking to people, are good. Try to find someone in management who will spend some time with you. I was mentored at one stage by the Chief Executive in Kirklees Council, which was very positive. Try things out. Try and get some way of managing a project. Gradually build up your portfolio of experiences. Take yourself seriously. Value yourself. Read about management. Believe that you can be a manager and that you’re going to make it. Think of things you want to change, and then think of ways of doing them better.
I think a network of disabled managers would be good. It might be good to try and set up systems of mentoring or support networks. The vast majority of disabled people who are managers became disabled when they were managers and are not happy to talk about themselves as disabled people.”