Posted on Mon 27 Feb 2017 at 14:45 by Anna Warren
Last year’s equality and diversity officer, Gemma Turner, passed an important piece of policy to ensure that LUU commits to making clubs and society activities are accessible to disabled students. Off the back of this policy, your equality and diversity officer, Emma, and I, have worked to enshrine this principle to develop the Accessibility Fund.
The Accessibility Fund’s purpose is to provide support for disabled students to access co-curricular activity or to aid in the facilitation of more accessible events by clubs and societies. This means, individual students who identify as disabled can apply to it or clubs and societies can use it to make their events more diverse. Example initiatives are to cover the extra costs of wheelchair accessible taxis; pay personal assistants; hiring of more accessible spaces (i.e. wheelchair accessible or have audio loops); or to hire facilitators who can provide mixed ability sports.
Of course, the Fund can cover any multitude of needs for disabled students and the more accessible the events, the better – hence, I really encourage all students to consider how it can help them and for committees to consider how they can use it to help others partake.
With the policy passing last year and the development of the Fund this year, as well as recently passed policies that mandate LUU to provide liberation training and include libcos in the representation system, I believe the organisation is taking steps to move forward on its inclusion and diversity agenda. There are many facets to this, but one of the key ones is the diversity of clubs and societies.
In this context, diversity not only means diverse membership, both general and committee-level, but also in the types of events. Clubs and societies are one of the main avenues for building friendships, and loving your time, whilst you study at Leeds. The diverse range of societies we have, the incredible events they put on, and the amount of effort our committees put into delivering activities of the highest level, are one of the key reasons LUU is sector-leading in the world of Students Unions.
It is a priority that all students can share in these activities and can all feel included. It is only through diversity of people can we create diversity of activity, and through that will we foster a community of students that take pride in their membership of LUU and are able to feel that they have contributed to this. LUU is for all students, not just the majority.
My key objective before the end of the year is to begin work to expand the principles of the Accessibility Fund. Whilst breaking down the financial barrier is key, more needs to be done to include disabled students in all areas of co-curricular. Moreover, I envision a growth in the fostering of BME engagement with clubs and societies and LUU as a whole, which would occur through the provision of training and support for committees in all manners of issues, ranging from liberation and privilege, to accessible language. Finally, reviewing how to institutionalise these principles in the structure and management of clubs and societies will be key, in order to ensure long-term progress. I do not see this as a goal to be achieved, but a path that must be travelled.
We have made progress, with a new BME Student Engagement intern, who is working with clubs and societies on an individual level to help them break down any barriers they may currently have (you can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how they can work with your society too!) and many other things are being developed.
But for the time being, do look at the Accessibility Fund and get applying and get in touch with me kwith any questions or ideas you may have!