- Supervisors & managers
- Premia - making research education accessible
- Supervising disabled researchers - Premia
- Accessing academic networks
- Improving access to other networking opportunities
Improving access to other networking opportunities
There are differing reasons why networking can be an issue for disabled postgraduate researchers. There are different forms of networking, which to be effective often demand strong written and spoken communication. It also needs the researcher to be confident and assertive, ready to maximise opportunities for exchange of knowledge and ideas. The person or group with whom the researcher wishes to network needs to be at ease, unthreatened and responsive. Most importantly it means a recognition by the researcher that they have something to contribute which is of worth.
No-one feels entirely comfortable entering a room full of strangers. If communication difficulties are added to the situation, then it can be fraught with unease. A Deaf researcher who works with an interpreter may have to approach an unknown person, knowing that the person may be unaware of how to converse through an interpreter. A blind researcher may need a non-medical helper to guide them to the person. A researcher with a communication impairment may lack confidence and find it impossible to handle a dialogue when they meet someone for the first time. For a dyslexic person, e-mail correspondence with people who would expect a high level of written skills can be difficult.
Some reasonable adjustments to usual practice might include:
- Letting researchers know about e-mail professional lists
- Introducing the researcher directly to people in our own networks
- Helping to set up meetings with individuals and, if there is a communication issue, with the researcher's permission prepare the contact for the meeting. E.g. explain that the researcher will arrive with an interpreter, lip speaker, non-medical helper, offer advice if it is needed and highlight access arrangements so that meetings take place in accessible venues
- Preparing a researcher for a seminar at which it is expected that they will contribute. We need to ask what the issues will be and find out whether they have the research has their own strategies. A researcher who lip reads said that, when she enters a group of unknown academics, she explains that she is a lip-reader, that she needs them to signify who is speaking, that they will need to face her and that she will ask them if there is something she has not been able to understand. It puts them and her at ease
- A researcher may need to rehearse the situation if they are lacking in confidence. Just telling them what it will look like, what is expected from them and introducing them at a distance to the participants will help
- Perhaps one of the most useful things we can do is to encourage researchers to participate in the research and generic skills opportunities offered in-house and regional GRADschools coordinated by Vitae. They will help the researchers to form informal networks by introducing them to their peers and by the development of confidence that is integral to the programmes. Informal networks within and outside the researcher's institution help to keep problems in perspective and counteract personal and intellectual isolation.