Today I went to a meeting of the University Equality and Diversity Board. I enjoy these meetings - the University has a very active diversity agenda, and reviews all departments and services on a regular basis - it was our turn earlier this year. Today, one of the main items of discussion was the introduction of Equality Impact Assessments which we will be doing on all new policies and services from the New Year. I think it will throw up some interesting issues. For example, one of the questions that will have to be asked is "does this policy/service exclude any group". Well, many of the services we in CiCS offer exclude a large proportion of University staff - those who are not routinely given a computer account. These are mainly staff who work in jobs such as cleaning, catering, and to some extent portering and other similar jobs. They often work part time, and don't routinely have access to a computer in their work environment. Consequently, different measures have to be put in place to make sure they are included, for example in corporate communications. Most of us are used to instant communication via email, but it can take days in these areas to make sure the message has got through to everyone.
But, even if there isn't access to a PC in their immediate vicinity during their working hours, some staff have access to a computer at home, or can access the internet via any of our student machines. We can also look at putting more web-kiosks out closer to where they work. So, one thing we have agreed to do is issue all of these staff with a computer account and email address, and provide focused induction and training. It won't solve the problem completely, but will provide a partial solution.
It will be interesting to see what else these EIAs turn up.