Disability dangers

June 25, 1999

I would like to dispel the impression that my case was intended as an example of better practice towards disabled academics ("Disabled dons fight sector's handicaps", THES, June 18). That this impression has arisen is in part my fault.

When I gave evidence to Cedric Pugh for his second addendum to the House of Commons' Education and Employment Select Committee, Opportunities for Disabled Academics, I asked him to refer to my case only in very broad terms. The reason was twofold. First, I had wanted to spare my employer the embarrassment had I discussed the case openly and in detail. Second, and for reasons of goodwill, I unreservedly accepted apologies from senior managers for their shortcomings a year ago in responding to disability legislation as well as assurances that lessons had been learned.

Reading the article brought home to me the dangers that may ensue from misplaced loyalty to an employer when issues of fairness, social justice and equality are at stake. Moreover, in the past few weeks I have witnessed my employer reinterpret the "reasonable adjustments" negotiated a year ago under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) as limits on my ability to fulfil my contractual obligations: with the result that I have been asked to make a formal declaration to the effect that I am underperforming. In response, I have re-engaged Adrian Jones, Natfhe's regional universities official, to protect my "reasonable adjustment" agreement and thus my rights to full-time employment.

It is a measure of the deep-seated discrimination towards the disabled that merely retaining rights to full-time employment might be read as some sort of a victory.

Claire Hobbs

College of Ripon and York St John

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