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Meet the Committee

Jen Cole, Co-Chair (she/her)

Hello, my name is Jenny and I am a Co-Chair of the Staff Disability Network.   

 I’ve been at Sheffield Hallam University for 10 years now and joined the Staff Disability Network Committee in Spring 2022.   

In recent years I have been diagnosed with a couple of long-term medical conditions which can make me feel very tired and at times makes it difficult to concentrate due to the tiredness. Add on the menopause, (other networks are available!) and my memory recollection can be challenging. 

However, these were not my reasons particularly for joining.  I wanted to become more knowledgeable about how I can support the people I work with whom have any type of disabilities here at Hallam.   

I have personal experience of caring for a physically and mentally disabled parent, and through experiencing access difficulties that being a wheelchair brings, negotiating streets & buildings, drove me to want to ensure that I can support and drive change for those staff who have a disability or long term medical condition. 

 The Staff Disability Committee is a vibrant group of passionate and dedicated staff and I thoroughly enjoy being part of this team who want to drive change. I was welcomed into the group a year ago and have made some great new friends and colleagues and highly recommend joining one of the meetings or coffee mornings to find out more. 



Liz Dew, Co-Chair (she/her)

Hi everyone, I’m Liz, one of the Staff Disability Network’s new Co-Chairs.  

My current role at SHU is in the Refugee Rights Hub, based in the Department of Law and Criminology, where students work alongside caseworkers to reunite refugees with their family members from all around the world. I’ve always been drawn to people facing roles and social justice work. I have also run my own business and Chaired the Maternity Voices Partnership in Sheffield.  

I was identified as autistic in my early 40s, after recognising that my eldest child was autistic. At first it didn’t fit because I knew very little about autism – I mistakenly thought I couldn’t be autistic because I like people, am empathetic, caring and great at communicating. 

 When I started looking to people with lived experience for information and not medical sources, things started making much more sense. I began feeling a sense of belonging to a community of amazing neurodivergent people.  

 It doesn’t sit well with me that autism is classified as a disorder. My neurotype is different to the predominant neurotype, and it can be very disabling to exist in a world where my neurotype is not considered or included. As my colleague Luke Beardon says: “Autism + environment = outcome”  

 After ‘masking’ for more than 40 years I am starting to understand my own needs and preferences. I can be hard to ask for help, and it has taken me a while to accept the ways in which I experience disablement. 

I wanted to get involved in the Staff Disability Network to co-create a space where disabled people can enjoy a sense of community and safety at work.  I want to work for and with disabled people to advocate for our needs and create positive change at SHU. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible, whether that be in person or virtually – feel free to drop me a line for a chat on Teams. 



Ruth Deller, Events Officer

Ruth is a Reader in Media and Communications in the Department of Media Arts and Communication and the Ethics Lead for the Culture and Creativity Research Institute. Outside of work she is into theatre, creative writing, cookery, film and TV.


Jaira Warner, Co-Chair (they/them)

Heya SDN community, I’m Jaira, one of the Staff Disability Network’s Co-Chairs. I’m still relatively new to Hallam and the network. In my current role, I work in Access Development within Student Recruitments & Admission focusing my time on Widening Participation (helping students that traditionally face additional barriers or are underrepresented in Higher Education to get into Hallam themselves and succeed). I am American and before working for Hallam, I was the Founder and President of Creating Survivors, a mental health and suicide prevention charity that worked with institutions of Higher Education in Washington DC, California, and New York to increase access to counselling services.  

 I was first diagnosed with a disability when I was 19 and have been diagnosed with multiple since, but my overarching diagnoses are Complex-PTSD, ADHD, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Living with these conditions has impacted me significantly. My undergraduate studies took 8 years because I had to take two medical leave of absences, but I completed that degree and have gotten a master’s since, and I’m planning further study to start soon. I am also happily married and celebrated my 5-year wedding anniversary this year with a husband that empowers me and helps me be my best self. While my disability affects my life, I am thriving, not in spite of my disability, but because I have learned to live with it.  

Before going full time with the non-profit, I worked various roles for new and emerging tech start-ups. The last role I worked ended when I had my first experience of a PTSD episode. In the middle of a health crisis, I lost my job and source of income despite the fact there is legislation to protect workers in such situations. This helped me learn that while disability is a protected characteristic, it does not mean people don’t still face discrimination. 

 I joined the Staff Disability Network committee to help be a support and grow the community. I know what a hostile work environment can do to an individual, and I want to help make working conditions equitable and accessible for all. I also want to fight stigma around disability and empower people to feel confident in declaring their disabilities so they may get any and all the support or adjustments they need to succeed. By having pride in my disability and myself, I aim to be an example that others can look to and a beacon of hope for any that need it.


Lynne Barker, Co-Chair (she/her)

Hello everyone, welcome to our Staff Disability Network Community. I’m Lynne and was recently appointed as one of the Staff Disability Network’s Co-Chairs. So, I’m a newbie and still finding my feet but very much inspired by the passion of the other Co-Chairs and committee members. I started out at Hallam in 2006 as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Politics, and have since progressed to Senior Lecturer, and then Reader/Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience. I love all things ‘brainy’, a passion that originated due to my brother’s head injury as a teen where he was knocked off his motorbike and critically ill, in a coma for a while, thankfully he recovered remarkably well. My textbook ‘How to Build a Human Brain’ is published by Palgrave MacMillan in early 2024.  

 I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as an adult in 2019 which came as a shock, but had likely been evident, undetected, for about ten years previously according to my Diabetes Consultant. This condition is caused by immune cells destroying the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin so the body cannot manufacture insulin. It is an autoimmune condition and has nothing to do with diet, weight, how much sugar you have eaten or any other myths. Consequently, I have to inject insulin between 5-20 times a day. I am not afraid of needles – they are my friend! It is still a poorly understood condition and I’m constantly amazed about how little people know about it, how it is life threatening on a daily basis, and how it requires constant vigilance (24 hours a day – yes, even during sleep) to keep blood glucose under control. It has been a challenge to adjust to this new way of living but my diabetes nurse and NHS staff here in Sheffield have been so supportive, they are truly among the best in the world, and I could not have managed this without them and their dedicated care. I only wish the same was true for other conditions. I wear a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) inserted in my arm that talks to my smart phone and gives updates every 5 minutes. It has truly revolutionised my ability to manage the condition.  

 Career wise my focus has been on education and research about the brain, anatomy, functions, disease, cognition, and cognitive dysfunction. I also focus on developing new ways of detecting conditions earlier and measuring functional ability using innovative, co-created and co-designed technology. Our team was recently awarded funding for the first phase of the Longitude Dementia Prize, we were one of only 24 successful teams from 175 global applicants, and I am very proud of our achievement. Our plan – with our external partner Ombeond, is to build A.D.A (an automated dementia assistant) that will be wearable technology designed to adapt to end-user needs. People living with dementia in our region named the product and they will be involved in its co-creation throughout. 

 I am passionate about educating people about disability, there are so many things about many conditions that are poorly understood, and this hinders capacity to fulfil personal, career and life goals for many. I feel it is our job to be spokespersons for those with disability to create a more diverse, compassionate, and supporting work environment and broaden understanding, access, and opportunities. We are in a privileged position as Co-Chairs in a well-regarded educational establishment, and we are determined to implement and navigate much-needed change. We need your voices and experiences. So, please get involved, join us, in any capacity and let’s be a force for positive change.


Kevin Kerrigan, Senior Champion

Photo of Kevin wearing cycling gear, sunglasses and a helmet out in the countryside.

I have lived in Sheffield for the past 5 years having moved back to my home county after about 30 years becoming an ‘honorary Geordie’ in Newcastle and Gateshead. I am Pro Vice-Chancellor for Business and Enterprise and I really enjoy the external engagement work I do in Sheffield and further afield. Meeting entrepreneurs, business leaders and community groups in this vibrant city and helping them establish and grow new ventures is really rewarding.

My main interest outside work is cycling. I live within easy reach of the Peak District which enables me to get up into the hills (when I have the energy) and there is nothing better than looking down on the city from the ridge between Ringinglow and Redmires knowing that you have a 5 mile descent into town! Here is one of my favourite rides.

I asked to be involved as a University champion for disability because I believe that if we can improve the experience and support for disabled colleagues and students not only do they feel more of a sense of belonging and being valued but the University benefits enormously by helping people achieve their potential and the success that results from this. If organisations like ours can understand better the barriers disabled people face and make adjustments in a fair and systematic way, I am convinced that huge gains can be made. I see my role as helping to advance this agenda, ensuring that SHU recognises its responsibilities and adopts a positive, proactive and collegiate approach to addressing issues.


Emma Booth, HROD Representative (profiles to come)