Contribute to DSUK
At DSUK we are united by the desire to make Higher Education more accessible, and avoid more students going through what we have gone through. Contributing to our operations allows those with lived experience of being disabled students to channel their voice, expand their expertise and get invaluable employment skills.
The DSUK organisational structure, like DSUK itself, is rooted, accessible, strengths based, intersectional, pragmatic and results focused.
DSUK working group
Key to our work is raising up and incorporating the experiences of our contributors. Including those that do not currently have the capacity to volunteer. The most accessible way of contributing is engaging in our facebook platform, the DSUK working group. The group currently has 400+ contributors from 60 different universities. We regularly create polls and ask for input in this group. Occasionally we also ask for specific work to be done and put on co-working sessions. Such opportunities are ideal for those who want to contribute but cannot commit regularly.
All of our team members, including our three Directors, are current or former disabled students. The DSUK teams function as a platform for talented disabled current and former students who want to work for increased accessibility in Higher Education. We want to lift up skilled individuals who are able to contribute to our work at different levels. In order for our communication to function within the team each team member/volunteer needs to be able to contribute 2 hours per week. This includes attending meetings and staying up to date with activities on our platforms. Each person’s level of responsibility within a team is determined by their capacity and time. In this way those who are able to contribute in a limited capacity can do so without leaving others hanging, and those who have the time can quickly take on a lot of responsibility within the organisation.
Because of our non-hierarchical structure each person who gets involved is able to shape their role to a large degree, and thus work based on their strengths and interests. This offers an opportunity to develop and grow into roles that you may then go on to inhabit in your professional life.
Our flat structure does not mean that we decide everything together. A great deal of independence is required from each volunteer to be able to make decisions on their own. In this way each person works efficiently within the area that they are most skilled, without being restricted by others’ timeline or expertise. We have found that this structure works well for those who are comfortable with independent work, who are indifferent to status and who are focused on results. As a new organisation we don’t currently have the structure in place to accommodate those who require more guidance, although we wish to develop this with time.
Because of this structure the work that gets done by DSUK very much reflects what each volunteer is able to work on. If you have a project you’d like to work on as part of DSUK our most likely response will be “great, when can you start?”
Currently there are 4 teams within DSUK: Research, Network, Tech and Organisational.
You can join our teams as a general team member but we are also looking for people to fill the following roles:
As Accessibility Officer, you would research how we can make our operations accessible and then work to implement this. This includes working with accessibility volunteers as well as external service providers. For this role you must have experience working with accessibility in tech or as an (informal) accessibility consultant and have an interest in learning about new forms of accessibility support.
Community and Intersectionality Officer
This role requires experience of leading community events, safe-guarding policy and community organising. More than any other role, the Community and Intersectionality Officer must be able to bring people together. This role requires sensitivity and a desire to create spaces and events which offer our community opportunities for joint healing. You will have the role of encouraging and holding our volunteers (including leaders) responsible for being intersectional in their approach and encouraging engagement of disabled students of diverse backgrounds.
Social Media or Communications Officer
As a social media or communications officer you would need to have a good sense of tone and excellent communication skills. More than any other role it requires a healthy work-life balance. You would be responsible for DSUK communications with the media as well as our social media engagement. The role requires communications qualifications or extensive experience managing multiple social media platforms.
Funding and Finance officer
As Funding and Finance officer, you would have responsibility for acquiring funding for the organisation through grant applications as well as managing the organisation’s finances. This position requires a reliable volunteer with qualifications in finance or accounting.
DSUK is expanding and taking on more and more paid work in teaching, consulting, training and more, with the aim of both funding our activities and providing services which indirectly help disabled students. As a business officer you would have responsibility for things such as pricing, reaching clients, and managing our internal consultants. A background in business is preferred for this role.
The policy officer will research and suggest changes to HE policy as well as engage with government, regulators, and public policy professionals across all four UK nations. The role requires communication skills, experience with external stakeholders and an interest in policy specific to the higher education sector. A politics background is preferred.
For the organisation to run smoothly, our directors need to have the time and interest to keep up to date with what is going on within the organisation as a whole, work on their own remit, and lead a team. We estimate that this will take approximately 10 hours per week. Historically the bottleneck for this position has not been a lack of talent but rather how many people have the time and energy necessary for all three tasks. There are no direct applications for the Director role. Instead, we require that volunteers work as team members for a period and use this time to grow into the Director role. Any team member who consistently dedicates 10 hours per week to DSUK work will be considered for a Directorship role.
To learn more about what is required for this role, please see our leadership job description: If you have any further questions about what we look for in a director or want to let us know you’re interested in this role, please get in touch.
An adapted structure
Too often disabled student activists crumble under expectations that they should do activism in the same way as non-disabled activists: University “Disabled Student Officers” often burn out before the end of their term. At DSUK we have a disability informed structure which builds on strengths, supports weaknesses and allows contributors to participate at the level that they have capacity for. We emphasise accessibility, collaboration and clear communication around limitations. We ask volunteers to write down important access requirements when they join us and have created a Community Culture document which has been much appreciated and is being continuously expanded by new volunteers.
Responsibility to safety
With the freedom afforded to each contributor comes the responsibility to make our work inclusive and safe for others. Each contributor must have a level of emotional intelligence and willingness to work on themselves. This includes:
- being able to work calmly and effectively with people with very different attitudes, cultures and neurotypes from them. We believe that there are many different ways of doing anti-ableist activism.
- being able to state their own needs and limitations, as well as respect the needs of others. We believe that needs sometimes clash, this doesn’t say anything about either party.
- being able to reflect on internalised oppressive attitudes and work on themselves when they are “called in”. We believe that each of us acts in oppressive ways from time to time.
We also require our volunteers to make a commitment to intersectionality and representation in their work. We believe that by reflecting the experiences of as many disabled students as possible we will be able to create change most effectively. Each of our Directors is required to declare within their remit document how they will make sure that they are listening to and reflecting disabled students’ experience within their work as well as how they will make their work intersectional.
Read more about our community culture here