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Covid-19 information and updates

Disability day of action

Day of action for disability equality in education

The 2020 day of action for disability equality in education was held on 25 November 2020.

This is our third year of action and our theme is 'organising for disabled workers'. Covid-19 has brought new barriers and challenges for disabled workers. We know that this virus can attack anyone and we are all in this together to defend our lives and our livelihoods. But we also know that disabled people have been hard hit by this crisis with two-thirds of the dead being disabled people. But we also know that it is an unequal crisis in which structural inequalities have caused disproportionate deaths among Black and disabled people and emergency legislation has dismantled some of our rights, including to inclusive education.

Many of us are more at risk from the virus itself and this creates risk if forced to return to the physical workplace which some employers refuse to recognize; but our lives are also impacted by ableism which, according to a recent report by the CAB, means we are more likely to be made redundant, and especially if we were shielding during the national lockdown. All workers in post-16 education have seen our workloads increase and work stress rise exponentially, and for disabled members, this is compounded by barriers such as trying to sort out reasonable adjustments for blended teaching, and compressed hours on campus with back to back teaching. Members who have caring responsibilities are also more likely to be selected for redundancy and to find the return to face to face teaching a source of constant stress.

With these new barriers and challenges, it is increasingly urgent to organise disabled workers to defend and extend our rights and equality at work.

We hope this campaign will involve a whole union and intersectional approach in tackling these and many other barriers and challenges facing disabled members at work, the impact on careers, mental and physical health and well-being, accessing reasonable adjustments in the workplace to making workplaces accessible and ensuring those who need to continue to work from home or to get disability leave where not possible.

Our day of action is also supported by the TUC disabled workers' committee and by education trade unions and disabled people's organisations. We would encourage branches to engage with disabled members and to hear concerns being raised, seek collective means of resolving work place issues and to work with campus and student unions on joint initiatives.

I would like to thank the disabled members' standing committee (DMSC) for their work in campaigning and supporting members in working toward achieving disability equality and wish all branches a very successful day of action. Please remember to let us know how your branch will be marking the day - email


Elane Heffernan
Chair of disabled members' standing committee and NEC FE rep

Read our disability day of action briefing here:

2020 day of action briefing [190kb]
2020 day of action briefing - large print [50kb]
2020 day of action briefing - dyslexia friendly [50kb]

Fund the Future webinars

As part of the Fund the Future campaign we hosted two webinars.

Organising disabled workers

Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted on disabled workers from being denied reasonable adjustments to being the first to be made redundant. In line with our theme for this year 'organising for disabled workers' we held this important and timely discussion.

Watch back:

Everyday ableism

Ableism is discrimination in favour of non-disabled people. It is based on an assumption that the physical, cognitive and sensory differences with which disabled people live with are deficits, and it is rooted in the medical model of disability that assumes that disabled people need to be 'fixed'. It is manifest in physical, environmental and attitudinal barriers that exclude and stigmatise an entire group of people as 'less than'.

This webinar explored what ableism is, recognising it, and how to challenge it. 

Watch back:

Social model of disability

UCU follows the social model of disability which looks at the ways in which society is organised and the social and institutional barriers which restrict disabled people's opportunities.

The social model sees the person first and argues that the barriers they face, in combination with their impairments, are what disables them.

Barriers, including attitudes and perceptions around disabilities can make it impossible or very difficult for disabled people to access jobs, buildings or services. Removing these barriers is the best way to include millions of disabled people in our society.

Watch our film on the social model of disability and discuss how branches can adopt the social model:

Health and safety

Work with health and safety reps to conduct Covid-19 risk assessments of your institution to address issues of inaccessibility. Read our latest information sheet on disability and health and safety [296kb] and UCU's health and safety guidance in relation to Covid-19.

Branch negotiations

Disability Pay Gap Day was held on Sunday 1 November. The pay gap has increased by 4.5% on last year's finding and is now 20%. This means disabled workers are now paid £2.10 less an hour than their non-disabled peers. This is based on a 35 hour work week, is equivalent to being paid £3,800 less a year. 

Branches are encouraged to review disability monitoring policies and practices and to negotiate for mandatory disability pay gap reporting and to sign the petition calling for mandatory disability pay reporting.

Branch meetings

Branches can host meetings/talks to:

  • address and challenge negative stereotypes including ableism in the workplace
  • establish whether branches can address the issue of reasonable adjustments collectively rather than on an individual basis
  • include disabled members when reviewing policies/procedures that will impact on them
  • establish a disabled worker network and/or electing a disability officer to support the work of the equality rep
  • work with campus and student unions to work on joint initiatives.

Use our resources to find out how to map your workplace [39kb] to ensure that your branch is fully representative of its membership.

Disability equality resources

Use our disability equality resources to campaign and understand the issues facing disabled people:

Display our range of posters and wallchart

Celebrate disability

Highlight, celebrate, discuss and help shape the agenda for disability equality during and at the following annual events:

  • Disability History Month, 22 November - 22 December 2020
    UK Disability History Month (DHM) will take place from the evening of 18 November with an online launch. The month creates a platform to focus on the history of disabled people's struggle for equality and human rights. The theme for 2020 is 'Access: How far have we come? How far have we to go?' For further information on activities being planned for DHM, visit
  • International Day of People with Disability, Thursday 3 December 2020
    The UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities is held annually on December 3 and is focussed on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. 
  • Trade union disability solidarity event
    The TUC disabled workers' committee is organising a zoom meeting for disabled trade unionists and allies on 3 December (5:30-7pm) to mark UN Day of Disabled People. Details of speakers are being confirmed. Access support will include British Sign Language and speech to text captioning.
  • UCU's annual equality conference, Thursday 3 -Saturday 5 December 2020
    Registrations are open for UCU's annual equality conference. This is an opportunity for you to discuss and agree strategies to progress equality issues at work.
  • TUC Disabled Workers' Conference, 10-11 March 2021
    The annual TUC Disabled Workers' Conference will be held 10 - 11 March 2021. This will be an opportunity to hear key issues facing disabled workers across the wider trade union movement. Due to local restrictions being imposed in some areas, the conference will be held online and registration details will be circulated in due course. 

Social media

Use your social media accounts to help spread the day of action by tweeting and/or retweeting support of the day of action using #Includeus. See below for selfie ideas and to upload your pictures!

The social media element of the campaign aims to get as many members as possible to show support in a simple, quick and effective way. Download and take a photograph with our range of selfie posters (see below) or make your own and tweet your support to @UCUequality using the hashtag #IncludeUs

  • complete and tweet the following statement 'I am supporting UCU's Day of Action for Disabled People because...'
  • help to get the hashtag #IncludeUs trending on twitter!
  • encourage colleagues to write on our 'see the person' downloadable poster the attitudes, barriers or challenges they face daily as a disabled person; or, as a non-disabled person, that they see disabled people face. 

Selfie poster: See the Person [367kb]
Selfie poster: See the Person [56kb]

Selfie poster: Supporting the campaign [474kb]
Selfie poster: Supporting the campaign [40kb]

Selfie poster: Campaign poster [76kb]
Selfie poster: Campaign poster [47kb]

Branches can let us know what activity they will be doing as part of this campaign by sending an email to with details, pictures, etc.


Last updated: 1 December 2020