Disability Champions of Change

In 2023, Professor Robert Greenberg (University of Auckland) and Professor Paul Harpur (The University of Queensland) led the formation of a new U21 Disabilities Communities of Practice (CoP). Emerging from Paul Harpur’s disability rights advocacy and research, as well as Robert Greenberg’s work in policy development, it is aimed at university staff who live with a disability or those who champion workplace ability equity in U21 members.

Their aim is to address policies and approaches relevant to issues such as how members promote awareness of the capacity and success of academic, professional and administrative staff with disabilities, and how universities support the career pathways of university staff as they seek to advance through the ranks to levels such as director, professor, dean, and other senior leadership roles.

Professor Paul Harpur headshot
Professor Paul Harpur, co-founder of a new U21 Disabilities Communities of Practice

Robert Greenberg and Paul Harpur are agreed that while EDI is often well-developed for students, there is still an issue of disabled staff members not feeling comfortable in disclosing their disabilities to HR, colleagues and managers, knowing how and when to ask for help, and being fairly employed or promoted.

The pair were, therefore, motivated to establish a network to allow more open conversations, especially with senior leaders. Given the nature of the network, they are addressing global problems, such as technology accessibility, as well as attitudes that vary across different cultures, from Asia to the US. They are also working towards policy and resources, which are needed around the development of reasonable accommodation, with a focus on staff requirements.

Both feel that the support of U21 sends a strong, impactful message and provides a positive example for the wider Higher Education sector.

“The visible presence of disability in U21’s global network is hugely impactful as it proves that universities are serious about EDI beyond creation policy. When senior leaders are committed to EDI, there is hugely positive impact; it gives members license to get results.” – Professor Paul Harpur (The University of Queensland)

“The mere fact that U21, a global network, has embraced this CoP, and given us visibility, is significant and trailblazing. To convert the hearts and minds of people, you have to be present and visible. Colleagues learn by interacting with disabled people, and see what is possible.” –  Professor Robert Greenberg (University of Auckland)

Members of the Disabilities CoP: National University of Singapore, University of Auckland, University of Birmingham, University of Hong Kong, The University of Queensland, University of Sydney.

You can read more about the Disabilities CoP in our Impact Report 2023