Newcastle University’s Disability Interest Group held their inaugural meeting entitled “Closing the Gap” on 19th October 2017.
The Closing the Gap event brought together academics, professionals, staff and students to launch the Disability Interest Group, a network coined by wellbeing staff in conjunction with last year’s Students with Disabilities Officers. Talks by local disability specialists were followed by a poetry reading by autistic poet Sez Thomasin, followed by a talk led by Errol Kerr, one of last year’s Students with Disabilities Officers and current President of the Disability and Neurodiversity Society, discussing both his experience at Newcastle University as a disabled student and introducing the Daniel Wood Award. The event provided live speech-to-text as well as a hearing loop to include all individuals.
This follows the launch of the Disability and Neurodiversity Society (DaNsoc) last year, which was established with the aim of increasing representation of disabled students within Newcastle University.
“Daniel was an amazing person - he's the reason I’m still here”
In addition to inaugurating the Disability Interest Group, Closing the Gap also saw the launch of the Daniel Wood Award, which aims to celebrate the accomplishments of disabled individuals at Newcastle University.
Daniel Wood, who previously served as joint Students with Disabilities officer, passed away on 12th June 2017. Daniel’s family were in attendance as the award was introduced.
Concerning the Daniel Wood Award, current Students with Disabilities Officer Zöe Godden said this: “I’ve been working closely with the Disability Interest Group over the summer in preparation for their launch, and I’m really excited to see where the project goes from here. The staff are incredibly passionate in making change at Newcastle University, and I’m really keen to get students involved too.
The Daniel Wood Award aims to celebrate the work of a disabled individual who has gone out of their way to make real change for disabled students and staff. Daniel was fiercely passionate about his work, so it seems only fitting we award someone with as much drive to make change as he did.”
Additionally Errol Kerr, who also served as Students With Disabilities Officer alongside Daniel Wood added: “Daniel was an amazing person, and he's the reason I’m still here. Without him, DaNSoc wouldn’t exist, and I wouldn’t be speaking about our achievements. I’m in discussion with Judith Rankin, who is chairing the award nominations this year, to ensure that the person winning this award upholds the kind of standards and fighting spirit that I saw whilst working with Daniel last year.”