When we begin to despair about the soul of capitalism, all we have to do is turn to face the new breed of authentic social [enterprises] to rekindle our optimism about the future. Right at the very front, among the leaders of this force for change, is [DnA], whose unquenchable passion is ripping the 'dis' out of disability...
DnA is shaking up a thoroughly miserable and misguided state of affairs in disabled and dyslexia support for students in higher education and putting the individual student at the heart of their own decisions and learning strategies. This sort of common sense is far from common practice, and that is [DnA's unique offering]: shining light on the obvious, and making simple things happen fast...
Students, and now college authorities, are flocking to DnA and their championing of Neurodiversity inclusion.
Adrian Gilpin, Chairman, Institute of Human Development
Ceinwen Blake, Office for National Statistics
Assistive technology provision and training should be more than a standard 'blueprint'. DnA provide an in-depth analysis of what software can do for students in the context of their current and future studies both as freestanding and integrated systems.
[Their] understanding and promotion of free open source software has opened my eyes to a world of opportunity for funded and unfunded students alike. DnA are about sharing information and facilitating success, not about 'shifting units' or 'ticking boxes'.
David Mooney, Tutor, SpLD Assessor, Imperial College London
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I didn't have to explain my difficulties in order for the mentors to understand my view point as they came with a wealth of personal experience to overcoming dyslexia. What makes them experts in their field is the fact that they also have dyslexia and are living proof of how to successfully overcome the barriers we face.
Ebony Phipps Thomas, Undergraduate, Goldsmith University
Thank you very much DnA team for your vivacious session which kept our staff gasping for more. It was great to experience and learn how to apply some of the innovative and user-friendly techniques available to us. As educators we cannot afford to be on-lookers when it comes to technology and without a team like yours who knows what we are missing out on.
Our teachers are excited and have already introduced learners to the fantastic tools including the voice typing apps and others. Your team with their infectious enthusiasm and great teaching strategies even managed to excite our most ICT - resistant members of staff who were very vocal in how much they had enjoyed and benefitted from the session.
The benefits are already apparent and we cannot thank you enough.
Elisabeth Seifert, Newham College, London
Today was just my first session but I was absolutely amazed at how the trainer immediately pinpointed my learning difficulties and the areas I struggled with and how he used the equipment provided to aid these problems. All this was done without me uttering more than a few words. I am elated that someone finally understands my struggles. My confidence has soared and I am certain that I will now excel with my course.
Emine Mercan, Undergraduate, London South Bank University
Adam was an inspirational speaker that developed an immediate rapport with the audience. He was able to inclusively pitch the speech to reach and involve the wide background of attendees. Adam raised some very valid points whilst providing plenty of food for thought, and the talk resonated with everyone. I would recommend DnA wholeheartedly and hope to work with them again in the future.
Helen Bigham, Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association
The University of Cambridge's Disability Resource Centre ran a pilot programme with Diversity and Ability in the 2016/17 academic year for the Assistive Technology training for international disabled students who had been awarded software via Cambridge's International Disabled Students' Fund. We were impressed by the feedback we had had from students who had been supported by them in the previous years, and by their model, particularly the fact that the majority of trainers are ex-disabled students who have been through the DSAs process themselves, so they know the ropes; they can empathise. We have also been impressed by the focus on quality, on ensuring students are helped to build effective and sustainable strategies, and by the learning plans which allow other support workers (such as study skills tutors and mentors), as well as disability advisers, to have an understanding of how the students they support are using their assistive technology. It's all very joined up; very impressive.
The feedback from the evaluation we have run with students who have been part of the pilot has been highly positive. We have also had very positive feedback from disability advisers and support staff, who DnA ran training sessions for.
This would be my definition of 'value for money'. They are not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. Value for money has to be about quality and sustainability, not just about costs. It has to work. This does. I would strongly recommend them
We have also had very positive feedback from those DSAs funded home students who have been allocated support from DnA. I just wish it could be provided by DnA for all of them.
John Harding, Head of the Disability Resource Centre, University of Cambridge
John Pullinger, Office for National Statistics
We chose DnA as one of our providers for Assistive Technology (AT) training because they are student focused. DnA were able to show how assistive technology can be used to aid each individual student's needs rather than training students on every feature of the software. They have been able to provide a bespoke training programme for our students with disabilities ensuring that they see the benefit of AT and how it can be used to assist them during their time at University and beyond.
Karen Hocking, Disability Services Manager, Plymouth University
I was very apprehensive in having online training as I thought I would need someone to be physically with me to understand the technology fully, however even right from the first session I was really impressed with how well it went. My trainer... went over and above the call of duty and I actually enjoyed the sessions. I felt confident asking any questions however obvious the answer may have been. I feel this assistive technology helps me a huge amount with my studies and now feel confident in using it.
Katherine, Undergraduate, University of Sunderland
I would just like to say a big thank you to Tim. I have received training that has been so specific to me that it went above my expectations. Tim has a natural gift to teach, he has qualities that have ensured that I am now on my way to becoming independent with my technology aids. He is extremely patient, much needed as previously I had experienced training that was not effective. Tim has suggested apps for my iPad that have enabled me to have more independence and choice regarding my own learning. This has given me the choice over where I have my learning, as in uni I have now extra facilities to develop myself further. I have also recommended your company to other students. I am also hoping to be able to have extra hours awarded through my funding body. Choice over provider should be paramount over cost. This is such a high quality provision that I feel privileged to have experienced this.
Leeanne, Undergraduate, Edge Hill University
In my role as Head of Disability Services / Access Centre Manager, I worked with Diversity and Ability (DnA) for over 5 years and found their energy, creativity and enthusiasm thoroughly refreshing. Their integrity and learner-centred vision permeate all aspects of their services - they really do listen to what students want. As a disabled-led organisation, it's clear that this makes a difference in the dynamic of the support provided, as DnA trainers relate to their students and the barriers they face, so can offer practical advice and support. On that note, some of our former students, having received DnA support went on to work at DnA as trainers, so there's a nice model where DnA provide employment opportunities for disabled graduates as well.
DnA sees all aspects of the student experience in a connected and holistic way, which, in an environment where many services are working in isolation, is important in ensuring students receive high-quality support. They have worked with us to try to close gaps between the needs assessment, 1:1 support and AT training, encouraging communication across services both informally and via their Individual Learning Review's (ILR). This document is shared with our 1:1 tutors to support the students' ongoing learning of AT. DnA is passionate about sharing knowledge and expertise and have provided training to our team of tutors and also group AT sessions for our international students and those ineligible for DSA funding. They are innovative in their approach and enthusiastic about trying new ways of working.
Initially, it was Atif's enthusiasm and collaborative way of working with us that appealed, but we saw the same vision shared with all members of the DnA team. In the world of higher education, we all strive to be learner centred, but DnA is actually doing it and are a pleasure to work with.
Lisa Forbes, Head of Disability Services / Access Centre, University of Roehampton
I'd worked with Jamie and other members of the DnA team in the past and have always been impressed with their expertise and approach to staff development. After the government's announcement about proposed cuts to the DSA, I asked Jamie to come to work with a team of our teaching and support staff to help them understand more about some of the relevant free and low cost resources for computers, mobile phones and tablets that students with specific learning difficulties would find helpful in their performing arts training. Of course, staff soon realised that all our students will benefit from this knowledge. Jamie is an expert in his field and a pleasure to work with. He listens to the brief and plans accordingly, arrives very well prepared and passes on his impressive, up to date knowledge with good humour and a "light touch".
Lois Keith, Equality and Diversity Manager, The Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (2003-2015)
Thank you for bringing together an interesting, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable workshop session for us. We really felt like you had personalised it towards Futureboard and what we do as an organisation which was fantastic. We all took a lot away from the session and it was great for some of the new members of our team to meet such a passionate organisation that values individuals as much as we do!
One of the biggest themes that came out of the session is how passionate everyone at DnA is making a positive difference and being a really key driver of change. The team are clearly passionate about what they're doing and the authentic discussion around about their own experiences of disability made the session feel really personal and it brought the topics to life. They did really well at creating an open dialogue so you didn't feel self- conscious saying what you thought - a 'safe environment'.
It really opened my mind to the issues surrounding social attitudes and need for change. Aware of the legal steps that have been taken to establish equality; hadn't thought about the conflict with social attitudes and the different models. I also gained a better understanding of the impact assistive technology can have on a person's life and the consistent talk of 'strategies' made it feel like a productive session. The discussion of language and how it is used currently and how it needs to change, was also very relevant and interesting.
Keep up the good work!!!
Megan Nee, Consultant, Futureboard Consulting
Adam delivered a talk for us at our annual student of the year awards about neurodiversity and the barriers disabled people face in the workplace. He really did captivate the room with his knowledgeable delivery on the subject, raising many issues our professional learners had never thought about within their own organisation. We had great feedback from those attending, with many asking us for more information about [Diversity and Ability]
Mike Russell, Acacia Learning
Diversity and Ability have been running a series of digital inclusion and wellbeing workshops for our members at Crisis since 2014. Crisis is the national charity for single homeless people dedicated to delivering life-changing services.
DnA's workshops are designed to support homeless adults, many of whom have left school at an early stage due to learning difficulties, and didn't have access to diagnostic assessments or support. Using a blend of inclusive technologies and practical day-to-day strategies, DnA supports our members to overcome systemic barriers and build their confidence.
It is clear from feedback that the workshops have helped members accomplish their personal goals and become more independent. The knock on effect is vast, enabling increased access to housing, employment and social welfare. DnA is showing how technology can be made accessible, useful and empowering in breaking the cycle of homelessness.
Nahid Behzadi, ESOL Tutor, Crisis
I've recently had the opportunity to work with Diversity & Ability when they agreed to fill a couple of slots at our organisation's annual Diversity conferences. They were recommended to me by my summer diversity intern and I have been delighted with their contribution.
From my first contact with the team, the 'can do' attitude and knowledgeable discussions gave me confidence that I was dealing with a professional organisation that could deliver. I especially want to mention Atif Choudhury and Adam Hyland here as it was their enthusiasm that made the sessions come alive. The workshop focused on reasonable adjustments and inclusive practices in the workplace, with a particular emphasis on how these could be implemented. Atif and Adam challenged the participants to think differently about ability, and our Permanent Secretary said it was the 'best session' of the day. High praise when there were many excellent contributors.
We are so impressed with their knowledge and skills we will be working with DnA in the future to provide services to our employees. Who better to help others achieve their potential than those who understand where they are coming from?
Pam Blackhurst, Head of Equality, Inclusion, and Well-being, Office for National Statistics
I was immediately struck by DnA's very passionate and inspirational approach to providing assistive IT training to students in receipt of DSA. They demonstrated this through the encouragement of use of free Apps, in addition to the standard DSA approved software provided to students, and the suggestion that all students could equally benefit from having access to free Apps which would provide very useful support for their training...
The holistic approach offered by this company chimed with RADA's student support policy through which we aim to foster creativity and celebrate the neurodiversity of the student cohort...
I recommend that colleagues invite Atif Choudhury for a meeting to discuss the positive ways in which his team at DnA can support your staff and students in providing assistive IT training with a difference.
Patricia Myers OBE, Registrar Emerita, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
I first encountered DnA when I was Head of the DAS at the University of Oxford. In that role it was sometimes the case that I was bombarded by service providers promising inclusion, excellence and empowering services but which when we piloted collaboration, did not deliver. Oxford DAS and the excellent Assessment Centre, quickly partnered with DnA as they did what they promised. They employed diverse talent to deliver role modelling of the skill set they deliver and continued to deliver high quality work; they didn't do an initial big push and then slacken off.
Since then I am aware of their success at the University of Cambridge and with other organisations that rely on exemplary high performance. DnA truly reflect the social model of disability and ask questions of themselves and their collaborators that challenge norms, breakdown barriers but don't compromise on quality. I am pleased that both corporate and third sector organisations are making use of DnA to be challenged and improve their inclusive approach and practice which can only make them better as teams, organisations and individuals.
Pete Quinn, Pete Quinn Consulting
Thank you for your contributions and partnership work with Disability Rights UK to make apprenticeships, education and skills training inclusive for disabled people. DnA's presentations at our events were powerful and well received. Your enthusiasm and continued support is valuable to us and we look forward working in partnership with you at future events.
Rabia Lemahieu, Disability Skills Manager, Disability Rights UK
Having worked in the disability field myself for many years, I was immediately struck by the clarity of DnA's understanding of disability as a social phenomenon, as well as their empathetic and refreshing approach to working with students with a range of learning difficulties.
Non Medical Help is too often delivered as a 'one size fits all' package which students are expected to fit their needs around. Diversity and Ability take a very different view. Their training service starts from the premise that each individual has specific and distinctive needs. Their aim is to empower individuals by demonstrating how strategy based support can be effective, accessible and tailored to suit these needs.
Roddy Slorach, Disability Adviser, St George's University of London
I just love DnA's passion - it's infectious and empowering and is such a positive force for the students who are lucky enough to get their training from this hands-on organisation. In a context where students are often confronted with so many things they "can't do", it's energising to see training that is determined to put into action the "can do". Rarely in today's commercial climate do we find the combination of generosity and knowledge that I see in the very 'gene structure' of DnA. May it grow from strength to strength - the students of the world will certainly be better off for it!
Tanya Zybutz, Dyslexia Co-ordinator, Central School of Speech & Drama
I began working with DnA as the manager of the Oxford University Assessment Centre. I had been taken on by the university to set up an assessment centre that was focussed on delivering the high level of quality that students would expect from an Oxford University service. In order to achieve this it was clear that not only did the needs assessment process have to be done as well as possible, but also that this quality and approach would need to be matched by the services delivering the recommendations we made in the needs assessments.
For me, this meant services that genuinely valued the students they worked with, and after meeting with DnA, it was clear that they were an organisation who we could be very confident about referring our students on to. DnA empower the student to have the confidence to use the tools provided through the funding in the way that best meets their needs. Over a few sessions this means that the trainer-student dynamic can be completely reversed so that the student gets to the point that they can provide the training. To me, and to the students who have given feedback, the value to this process is enormous, both in terms of the student's technical knowledge but also with regard to their confidence, self-esteem and crucially in their engagement with their support.
As an organisation, I cannot commend DnA highly enough, both in terms of the services they deliver and in their overall ethos and approach.
Tim Jones, Regional Manager, Contact Associates