Flexible - especially on dance floor

September 8, 2006

Name : Mark Pimm

Age : 40

Job : Disability service manager, Birkbeck, University of London.

Salary : I thought I did it for love!

Background : While I have a degree in psychology and have done some masters programmes I do not have formal qualifications in disability. But I do have a lifetime's experience of disability, being blind, and have worked as a disability officer for 11 years. The most important qualification is being passionate about improving the lives of disabled people.

Working hours and conditions : My hours are 10am to 6pm, but at Birkbeck most teaching takes place from 6pm to 9pm so we all work flexibly, otherwise the students would not get the support they deserve.

Number of students you teach/ staff you work with : The Disability Office works with almost everyone in the college. We have some 600 students who declare a disability and we actively support about 400. There are three staff: Steve, our disability adviser, Caroline, our disability mentor, and me.

Biggest challenge this year : Drafting the student section of our disability equality scheme. It requires us to report on our provision for staff, students and visitors with disabilities and draft an action plan for how we are going to improve this provision over the next three years.

How you solved it : We have convened a working party on the scheme and appointed a diversity manager. We joined the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Institute of Education to host a disabled student voices event for students to comment on our provision.

Worst moment in university life : My first year at Birkbeck, setting up a service when you are blind, cannot access the college database and everything is designed for sighted people.

What is your office like? Small, but the location at the heart of the college activity is excellent.

What university facilities do you use? Ricky's famous end-of-term discos in the junior common room.

Do you socialise with people at the university? I go to college events and open evenings, student inductions and the freshers' fair. I socialise a lot with disability officers from other universities. Two of them flew to my wedding in New Zealand last year (my wife Lyndsay is a Kiwi).

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? Transport for London! I have twice nearly been knocked down on the way home because there are no disability-friendly crossings near Euston Station.

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