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Animmersion works with Heriot-Watt University to improve disabled scientist recruitment and retention

A Teesside digital firm has worked with a Scottish university to improve the recruitment and retention of disabled scientists.

Animmersion supported Heriot-Watt University with interactive programmes focused on changing academic managers and key stakeholders’ perceptions.

The Middlesbrough-based business has created two thought-provoking experiences, which are designed to highlight unintended and blatant bias around disability within academic recruitment.

The first activity simulates a job interview involving a disabled candidate that takes place within a video conferencing scenario.

The second uses virtual reality to recreate the effect of working in a busy, open plan office for someone living with auditory hypersensitivity.  

Various levels and types of responses are explored in each scenario to highlight differing levels of discrimination, responses and actions – giving decision-makers an insight into the largely unintended bias encountered by disabled colleagues.

Both experiences form part of the Disability Inclusive Science Careers (DISC) initiative, which aims to improve the recruitment, retention, and progression of postdoctoral disabled scientists.

Heriot-Watt University is leading the scheme, supported by the University of Edinburgh, University and Colleges Union Scotland and the National Association of Disabled Staff.

Sam Harrison, Animmersion managing director, said: “It’s certainly a novel approach to use immersive gaming technologies to raise awareness of real-life workplace bias experienced by disabled researchers.

“We are experts in transforming academic material and making it engaging and accessible to wider audiences and our team is proud of its contribution to DISC. 

“We hope it represents a leap forward in promoting a greater understanding of issues surrounding disability in academia.”

Professor Garry Pender, programme lead and Heriot-Watt University’s deputy principal for research and innovation, added: “The experiential element of the training provided has enhanced managers’ understanding of the challenges facing disabled colleagues.

“I am sure this will lead to a positive outcome in the design and implementation of suitable adjustments to the working environment for disabled researchers.”