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21. We are moving! How to prepare for changes with a team of researchers with learning disabilities

Written by Andrea Bruun, Research Associate, Kingston University.

Until now our Kingston University research team has been based at St. George’s University Campus in South London. We should have moved last year, but we were lucky to be able stay longer, especially because changes can be difficult for our team of researchers with learning disabilities. But now it is time to be with our fellow Kingston University colleagues at the beautiful Kingston Hill campus on the outskirts of London. So how do we do that? A key word here is preparation!

Early on we discussed what we would need from a new office such as:

  • Lots of space – as you can see here, we are a bit more loud, creative and take up more space than your average research team.

  • A room that is accessible for people with mobility challenges.

  • Support with getting our colleagues with learning disabilities to campus. Most of us live pretty far away from the Kingston Hill campus, and new, complicated and long journeys can be confusing for all of us, but for people with a learning disability it can be particularly worrying. Having to use public transport would take so much time and effort, that it would make the job inaccessible for them.

This meant that a lot of things needed to be in place before we could move. Irene went to check out the facilities last month. She was impressed: Kingston University has worked hard at finding us a suitable space to work in. Kingston University also really helped by booking taxis for Leon, Amanda, Richard and David – and have promised us they will continue doing so.

We then planned a Kingston Hill day trip for the whole team. The first thing we did when everyone had arrived was to do a round where we talked about our different journeys – with a piece of home-made cake and a cuppa. We shared how we got here by taxi, train or tube, by bus or bike. Jonny, who works on the Staying Alive and Well project, got here by running the final stretch and passing a deer in Richmond Park.

We met some colleagues from our faculty and presented some of our research findings to them. It was a beautiful day, so we also walked around campus (in the sun) and checked out the buildings, receptions and cafés – and took a nice group photo!

The day ended with asking how everyone felt about the move. Most people seemed okay, but these are only the first steps in ensuring that everyone is able to cope with the move. That is where our colleague Jo becomes particularly important! Jo’s role is to support our researchers with a learning disability. This includes her regularly checking in with them before and after our workdays. Her conversations are crucial as she often catches worries before they become problems. We couldn’t really do what we do without someone like Jo – and she is not only an incredible person but also incredibly good at her job.

We are not moving until September, so as you can see, such a big change requires planning, thought, flexibility and support for each other. Being able to imagine life after the move, because we have seen it, definitely helps us to be more prepared. “Planning for moving office” is not in the same sphere as “planning for end-of-life”, but we are definitely experiencing the importance of planning here!


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