The Inclusive University

Time to Talk Day

Posted by Anna Houghton | 0 Comments

Contributed by Sue Ollis, Student Support Adviser.

On Thursday 2nd February, once again the Mental Wellbeing Peer Support Staff Network marked national Time to Talk Day here at UWE.  As you can see, we offered free apples, free hugs and free conversation. 

Volunteers covered the stall from 11:00 until 14:00, during which time many hugs and positive conversations were exchanged with both students and staff.  Some staff also took the opportunity to join the Peer Support Staff Network.  You too can do so by e-mailing your interest to

This Time to Change national day is an opportunity to break the silence of mental health, to encourage people to speak about their mental ill health as they would physical ill health.  Working to raise awareness, reduce stigma and also reduce mental health discrimination, as UWE pledged to do following the signing of the Time to Change pledge in February 2013.  Since becoming a Time to Change Champion both in the workplace and beyond, I regularly speak out about my own experience during my own struggles with mental ill health during my fulltime working over the past 38 years.  On the morning of Time to Talk day, I was invited into Radio Bristol to highlight the need to talk.  You can listen to the show here (external link) between 2:02 and 02:15 hours in. (Available until 4th March).

On the day, there was also a positive message from the Prime Minister which you can see here (external link).

Since the signing of the pledge in 2013 and the subsequent organisational healthcheck, UWE have continued to address recommended actions including the launch of the Reasonable Adjustments Policy.  Further information can be found here.  Also, following a successful pilot scheme, we now have a Support Service for Disabled Staff.  This invaluable service can provide advice and support on a referral basis on disability-related matters, including – Reasonable adjustments, Access to Work and Mental Health.

The Director of Time to Change, Sue Baker (OBE) will be coming to UWE on Monday 3rd April and will be giving a lunchtime talk for interested staff and students.  More information will follow nearer the time, please check the events page for details.

Although much has been achieved, there is always room for improvement and much more to be done, to quote the PM, ‘not just in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities’.

A Personal Experience - The Disabling Effects of Trauma

Posted by Valerie Russell Emmott | 1 comment




What happened to me

Earlier this year, I felt a sudden change within my physical and mental functioning. It started with night terrors and insomnia, but quickly turned into extreme depression, very high levels of anxiety in seemingly normal situations, regular panic attacks, unwelcome flashbacks, periods of disassociation, hearing and seeing things that did not exist, emotional numbness, demotivation, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, heightened fear, body tremors, body pains, feverish sweating, loss of appetite and nausea.

I felt I could control or contain it until it started affecting my ability to speak and write. I could no longer access language the same way and this caused me to forget simple words. Sometimes, it brought on a stammering problem, and there were times where I would open my mouth and I could not get one word out.

My academic and professional life felt strenuous and tiring. I could no longer remember routes that I had walked a hundred times before and I started to lose balance in my body easily therefore socialising became more and more difficult. My personal life was painfully affected and I lost a lot of confidence very quickly. I isolated myself from my family, lost a lot of friends and lost the relationship I was in. The loss in every area of my life and inability to function felt like being trapped within my own body.

Seeking help and getting diagnosed with PTSD

It took me some time to accept that I needed help but once I did, I approached my GP at the UWE Health Centre, UWE Wellbeing, the NHS and various charitable organisations. After several assessments, I was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a condition that sets in after a traumatic event where the event could not be processed properly at the time of occurrence. The memories are not stored in the brain in the same way and then start to re-surface later as though being played back in flashbacks with heightened reactions, triggered by the smallest of sensory reminders. This causes the physical and mental capabilities to feel overthrown.

For months, I had not understood what was causing these troubling symptoms that I could not control or contain, which felt even more disorientating - therefore finally having the PTSD diagnosis felt comforting. It helped me to understand that there was nothing wrong with me, I simply had a condition that was affecting my abilities.

Following the diagnosis, I did many new things to help me adjust and cope better:

    • I read available information to understand more about PTSD;
    • I was given medication specifically for PTSD;
    • I approached therapy that was targeted at PTSD including counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR);
    • I joined a specialist group to meet others who struggled with similar issues;
    • I discussed my diagnosis and circumstances with my Head of Department at UWE, my line manager, supervisors and colleagues that I worked very closely with;
    • I lived a crisis house in Bristol for a month to dedicate time for my recovery;
    • I mapped out my triggers and reactions to pinpoint what I find difficult to cope with;
    • I changed my lifestyle to be more accommodating and manageable;
    • I was kinder and less critical of myself;
    • I made time to do small replenishing things I had denied myself earlier in the year because I felt undeserving – I went for leisurely walks, listened to music, joined a choir, wrote in a journal, read books, cooked, went out for meals, travelled,got a kitten (whom I named Detective Bubbles) and even dyed my hair in colours that I liked; and
    • I spoke openly to my friends and family instead of putting on a pretence.


Almost a year has passed now since my diagnosis. Even with all the positive steps I have taken, it is an ongoing battle with symptoms that still surface and re-surface. Yet I am very grateful I reached out for help and receive the support I need.

Language as a barrier to healing

In terms of language, there were many labels and negative phrases people said to me: "you're weak," "move on from this," "you always act like a victim," "it's like you're 98%," "overreacting," "the past is the past," "you only think about yourself," "abusive," and "behaving like an abuser."

PTSD is a difficult condition to describe. I would personally describe it as living in a different world; one filled with fragments of a past traumatic event that flood your system, seize your senses and cease you from existing in the current world. The emotional and physical pains that come with it are terrifying mainly because you cannot stop or control them. The powerlessness, guilt and shame are heavy burdens to bear. It is difficult enough having the condition and made more difficult by negative connotations people attach to it.

Language is a two-edged sword. It can be used effectively to communicate messages and it can be used to entrap people. Nobody should have their personal circumstances dismissed or minimised, ignored or shamed. I consider Post Traumatic Stress a disabling condition for myself yet I describe myself as strong, as a survivor, and as 100%.

I hope this will give encouragement to be kinder to those around you because regardless of their appearance or behaviour, they may be going through difficulties that are both visible and invisible to the eye. I also hope that this blog post can help others come forward and seek the help they might need.

by Dharshana Navendren, Graduate Tutor, Department of Architecture and Built Environment, FET

Disability History Month: Language

Posted by Anna Houghton | 0 Comments

From By Collette Fox, WECIL trustee.

This month is Disability History Month, an annual event which raises awareness of issues affecting disabled people, and encourages discussion around different themes. The topic to explore this year is language – the language used to describe disabled people, and the language used by disabled people to describe themselves. You may think that words have little meaning, but often they can have an impact on how you see yourself, other people and the world. Here's our advice on what language we like to use.

Positive or negative language

Sometimes, we use language that could sound negative without even realising. Compare the two descriptions of someone being 'wheelchair bound' or a 'wheelchair user' for example. Which one sounds more positive? Using the term 'wheelchair bound' kind of implies that someone is defined and restricted by their wheelchair. Whereas a 'wheelchair user' gives us a picture of an everyday person who also happens to use a wheelchair.

Communicating in an inclusive way
Consider also the way in which you communicate with a disabled person. For instance a deaf or hearing impaired person may be able to read your lips when you speak to them, so make sure they can see your face, talk directly to them and don't cover your mouth. If you see someone struggling in the street, just ask if they would like some help. There's no need to jump straight in or be offended if they say they are ok, they may just be working hard to tackle a challenge themselves.

Person with disabilities or disabled person?

It can sometimes seem hard to keep up with so called political correctness and changing 'advice' on the language we should use around disabled people. Many people feel it's better to put the person first and describe an individual as a 'person with a disability'. Here at WECIL we prefer a 'disabled person', as in line with the Social Model of Disability. This states that it's actually an inaccessible world, rather than a person's impairment or 'disability' that stops someone from being able to do the same things as other people. So, if we all work to ensure we're removing these barriers or even better, not creating them in the first place, we can build an inclusive world.

All of these little differences in the way we talk about disability encourages us think and act differently, so we can work together to create a more inclusive, healthy and positive community.

WECIL (The West of England Centre for Inclusive Living) is a charity run by and for disabled people in Bristol and the surrounding areas. We support over 4,000 disabled people every year to have more choice and control over their own lives. You can find out more at

WECIL is a member of ACFA: The Advice Network. You can find out more about ACFA on their website


Getting people talking about mental heath

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments

Frenchay campus was home to a Time to Change Christmas village for the day, encouraging staff, students and the local community to engage in conversation about mental health.

Those passing through a Frenchay courtyard on Wednesday 9 December could stop and watch videos of people talking about their lived experiences, plus they could have a chat, see Santa and pick up some chocolate.

UWE’s campus police officer, PC Mark Brain, arranged the event, he said:

“I’ve recently become a Time to Change champion and I’m really passionate about raising more awareness and eradicating the stigma attached to mental health.

“Mental health problems are common, but nearly nine out of 10 people who experience them say they face discrimination as a result. This can be even worse than the symptoms themselves. So the idea behind the village is to show that mental health is something we can talk about, that we should talk about, so that we can change attitudes.

“We were able to get lots of people talking on campus, and the videos and literature we shared are helpful resources for everyone. The more we can educate ourselves and share experiences, the better.”

Sue Ollis, student support adviser and Time to Change Champion within UWE and beyond, said: “Mark initially approached my Time to Change colleague, Liz Andrews about his idea.  We all them met to discuss the finer points.  We were fortunate to have an application accepted and are in receipt of the first allocation funding from the Bristol Time to Change Champions Fund.

"This enabled us to purchase Christmas decorations, organise facepainting and chocolate that could be exchanged for a meaningful conversation to further the aim of raising awareness and reducing stigma. It was a tight timescale in which to submit the application and arrange the event before the end of term.  The preparation and organisation that took place behind the scenes was hard work, but well worth the effort. On the day we had 149 conversations. Many thanks go to those who volunteered and helped to make it successful.  Special thanks to Liz Andrews (Time to Change Administrator for the South West) and Andrews Marquees - who delivered, helped set up and then collected the Time to Change Village at the end.

"Many valuable conversations resulted and included invitations for us to further speak at a Sikh Temple and at another UWE colleague’s church."

New online file conversion service available for students and staff

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments

The library now offers an online file conversion service, which enables students and staff to create their own accessible documents in just a few minutes. Simply upload a document, select your chosen format and enter your UWE email address. The converted file is emailed to you within a few minutes.

You can upload a variety of formats including .DOC and .DOCX (Word), .PPT and .PPTX (PowerPoint), JPEG (photos), EPUB (ebook) and PDF.

Documents can be converted into a range of formats including accessible PDF, Word, Braille translation, ebook, and MP3 (audio).

This service is perfect for converting short documents such as journal articles or reports.

If you have any questions or would like to know more, please contact the Library Disability Support Team (

Princess Campbell paediatric suite opens at Glenside

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments

The new Children's Focused Nursing Simulation Suite at Glenside was officially opened by Kath Evans, Experience of Care Lead – Maternity, Newborn, Children and Young People for NHS England.

The Suite, which includes a simulated children's ward and a sensory room, ensures student nurses develop skills and get the chance to practise them in a safe environment, improving their confidence and ability when they are on clinical placement.

The new facility is being dedicated to Princess Campbell MBE who was Bristol's first black ward sister, and who worked and studied at Glenside. Princess Campbell campaigned tirelessly for disadvantaged communities and sought to represent and give a voice to vulnerable people.

New customer relationship management system to improve services for disabled students

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 6 Comments
Contributed by Christine Little, Senior Project Manager, Strategic Programmes Office

Strategy 2020 Update: Ways of Working 2020

Disabled students will benefit from the introduction of a new customer relationship management (CRM) system to help manage the process of assessing their study needs. This is the first part of an improvement project within the Ways of Working 2020 strategic programme.

From this month the Access West of England (AWE) team and Disability Services will use the CRM system to deliver their service. This will:

• Significantly reduce the risk of breaches of data protection
• Provide more rigorous records of student data
• Make it easier for staff to access and maintain student data
• Enable a more efficient service

AWE provides a service to more than 900 disabled people each year, both UWE students and those going to other higher education institutions, to assess their study support needs.

The next part of the project is to develop an online portal to provide an accessible entry point for students who wish to carry out tasks such as making appointments and submitting enquiries, and provide data with improved security and automated data transfer to and from the CRM system.

Ron Ritchie: his thoughts on leaving UWE

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments

Contributed by Ron Ritchie, Senior Diversity Champion

A retirement event for UWE's senior diversity champion, Prof Ron Ritchie, was held on 26 August in the Community Hub.
Ron was invited to reflect on his 40 year career in education in the greater Bristol area as a secondary school teacher, primary teacher and leader, local authority advisory teacher and HE teacher and leader.
He explained that he had very mixed feeling about leaving UWE having tried so hard to get here - first in the late 80s - before, several applications later,  he finally arrived here in 2001. He said that he had wanted to work here for a simple reason - it seemed like an institution that shared many of the values he held as important. It turned out to be a move that never disappointed him - he said he had always been immensely proud of the difference UWE makes to its students, its staff, local communities and the  local economy, culture and society. It had, he stated, been a genuine privilege to work here with many highly talented and committed individuals.
He emphasised the importance to him of values - what we hold as important as human beings - and noted that there's a big difference between espousing values and living them out. He said he had always tried to do the latter, not always successfully!
He explained his commitment to social justice and moral purpose was a result of experiencing the transforming power of education on his own life, being the first in his family to go to university. He had left school and started an apprenticeship in the aircraft industry which led to him studying aeronautics and astronautics at Southampton University. Whilst there he found life in student politics and the SU more stimulating and rewarding than his academic work. He spent a lot of time on campaigns such as those related to improving the opportunities for local youth and challenging negative attitudes towards mental health.
At this point, Ron reflected on choices we all have to become a 'prisoner, passenger or participant' in society - he had determined to become a participant and an activist!
He decided to complete his degree and train as a teacher. His experiences on a PGCE at Sussex University, especially in disadvantaged areas like the Moulscombe Estate, reinforced his commitment to fighting injustice and promoting equality. As a young teacher in a challenging Bristol comprehensive, his love of teaching developed and his activism led to him becoming the school's NUT rep.
He explained that his growing understanding and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion was strengthened through living in Bristol and valuing the diversity of its population whilst feeling aggrieved about the inequality he saw. He also referred to his personal experience as a father and how this had informed his understanding of equality issues and increased his commitment to improve things, this included having a daughter who suffered from a serious mental health condition and another who is gay and now a university teacher.
Returning to other values that are important to him, Ron shared his belief in the importance of lifelong and life wide learning - saying he was always happy, even as a professor, to call himself first a foremost a learner. Indeed, he noted, his role as UWE's diversity champion had been a rich learning journey. He said how pleased he was to be supporting Bristol's ambition to be a Learning City as a consultant post his UWE retirement.
Ron stressed how much he had enjoyed teaching and believed that you should always strive for improvement given your responsibilities to learners, young or old. He reminded us that 'you don't have to be ill to get better'!
He talked about how he had always valued research and scholarship - his own PhD had been through action research; evidence-based and research-informed practice. He had written a number of education books, all including case studies of practice in real settings. Through his teaching and as a teacher educator, he had developed his understanding of the importance to professionals of reflection and reflexivity - being self critical and honest with yourself and recognising how who you are changes what happens around you and how others behave.
Later in his career, he had come to appreciate that successful leadership has to be authentic, distributed and person-centred. He stressed that to him 'leadership' was a more important concept than 'leaders' - he believes everyone in an organisation has the potential and should be given opportunities to contribute to leadership capacity.
Ron emphasised his belief in the benefits of collaboration and partnership based on various experiences in his career, for example in an advisory teacher team, in the Education Department (as part of the then S Block 'family' of academic and professional support staff) and more recently in the context of the Cabot Learning Federation.
He returned to leadership and organisations and said we should, perhaps, recognise more often the importance of people over processes. He said his aim had always been to empower others through reward and positive feedback. In that context, he thanked colleagues who had written in support of his National Diversity Champion nomination last year and said how moving and motivating he had found that public feedback.
Ron talked about the importance of significant others in our lives, both professional and personal and thanked those in the room and those unable to be here who had made unique and highly valued contributions to his time at UWE.
He concluded by reflecting on UWE's recent E&D successes and ongoing issues that remain work in progress …
The successes he celebrated included:
• Our ongoing commitments to activities related to widening participation and partnerships with schools in disadvantaged areas;
• The central and secure place of EDI in the UWE strategy, the successful Single Equality Scheme and senior staff commitment;
• The range and impact of staff and student networks;
• Stonewall Workplace index success;
• Athena SWAN success;
• The developing Disability Service for staff;
• Two Ticks accreditation;
• Time to Change commitment;
• Race Equality Charter Mark application;
• The outstanding contribution of HR and the E&D Unit.
Ongoing challenges for UWE that Ron recognised included:
• Further improving the diversity of staff;
• Maintaining inclusivity as a strategic goal, which includes promoting its benefits;
• Continue to probe the 'lived experience of staff' to ensure it is positive for all;
• Celebrate successes and promote role models;
• Find smart ways of measuring the impact of EDI work against the UWE Strategic Plan;
• Continue to build leadership capacity for the agenda;
• Foster more joint working (for example with unions and networks) and partnership with other organisations;
• Join things up to ensure efficacy, efficiency and maximising benefits;
• Develop efficient and constructive approaches to equality analysis;
• Ensure EDI doesn't suffer in the context of further inevitable change and uncertainty in the HE sector.
Ron finished by thanking colleagues for the support and friendship he had been given. He wished all well in continuing to make UWE the special place that it is and furthering the cause of equality, diversity and inclusivity.

Student Disability Service host overseas visitor

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 1 comment

Contributed by Vicki Campbell, Head of Disability Service, Student Partnership Services

At the end of July, the Disability Service hosted a visit for Widad Al Hashmi, the Head of the Special Needs Department from Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.

Widad’s University is in the early stages of supporting disabled students and managing a strategy for inclusion. Widad became interested in learning more from us following a one day visit to UWE as part of a study tour of Universities from the United Arab Emirates organised by the British Council. With the help of SPS Admin and lots of willing colleagues involved in supporting disabled students, we were able to arrange a full shadowing and training programme for Widad.

Widad was overwhelmed with the vast knowledge and experience at UWE:

“I have attended many conferences, workshops and visited different institutions but I have never seen services provided for disabled students as at UWE. Students are getting all kinds of support to help them achieve their full potential in their academic profession and integration in society. The staff I met are qualified, experienced and dedicated. They were very supportive, helpful and made sure I got everything I needed to be equipped with more knowledge and skills required to deal with my responsibilities with greater aplomb at my university”.

I am very grateful to staff across SPS and the wider University who gave up their time
to meet with Widad.

Remember Me: An Understanding of Dementia

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Contributed by Jackie Chelin, Dementia Friend and Deputy Director of Library Services

September is World Alzheimer’s month and to mark the occasion some Dementia Friends Information Sessions are taking place at Glenside. 

Dementia Friends is part of a social action initiative to help to create dementia friendly communities, i.e. communities in which people have an understanding of dementia and the things they can do (however small) to make a difference to people living with dementia. 

The sessions will take place between 14th and 25th September over lunchtime and will last up to an hour.  The sessions are informal, free to all and include some fun activities.  To sign up please follow the links below:

Monday 14 September 2015, Tuesday 15 September 2015, Wednesday 16 September 2015, Friday 18 September 2015

Tuesday 22 September 2015, Wednesday 23 September 2015, Thursday 24 September 2015, Friday 25 September 2015

In addition, on 21st September, there will be a Dementia Café at Glenside Students’ Union bar from 2.30-3.30pm.  This is an opportunity to meet in a friendly environment and to share experiences of dementia.  There will be snacks, refreshments and live music, so please just turn up or email if you have any questions.