Revisiting data – creating character vignettes

Jen Remnant

One of the privileges of doing empirical research is returning to the data, either to see if there is something you missed during your previous analysis or to find something specific. One of the reasons I have been returning to interview data from DISC has been to write ‘vignettes’ for the delivery of some of our training.

Vignettes are a useful way to summarise themes and issues found in interview data. They are short, anonymous stories based on one, or multiple interviews. Details from interviews are collated, along with non-identifiable information about the participant and quotes from their interviews. From DISC data we have five training vignettes. Elizabeth, Michael, Hazel, Alex and Ian. They represent a member of human resources staff, a senior manager, disabled colleagues and a trade union representative respectively. 

Each vignette highlights specific examples of issues that came up in interviews – whether it concerns issues on how to manage an employee with a progressive health condition, navigating an inaccessible laboratory, procedural issues in following HR policy relating to supporting disabled colleagues or supporting a colleague through a disciplinary procedure. Vignettes re-individualise the data, reminding those that read them that when we talk about supporting and including disabled and non-disabled colleagues, we are talking about real people, making judgements and decisions that have important material implications in the workplace and regarding how organisations are run. 

In our training it enables engaging discussion about the nuances of inclusivity rather than offering a binary of good or bad practice. The vignettes challenge dated views of disability as only relating to wheelchair use and the provision of ramps (though this is still in need of improvement). The vignettes pull out issues relating to the built environment, policy, professional development and interpersonal relationships. Each vignette has partner discussion prompts to explore all the possible ways in which employers and individuals could make adjustments that would better accommodate specific employees, would reduce negative outcomes such as dismissal and/or improve managerial confidence in the resources available to support staff.

We have trialled this element of the training several times both in academic and non-academic settings and it has triggered fascinating and considered discussion. Each discussion has been different, as different attendees consider the story they are told differently, take a different perspective or identify different issues. These discussions allow for multiple right answers and result in attendees reflecting on what they do and do not know without shame or embarrassment. For example, a common concern in the interview data collected with university managers illustrated how it is not always clear in university environments how to fund workplace accommodations, which policy to draw on, or which colleague to approach for further information. 

The next available opportunity to experience a taster of our training will be on 24th November 1-2pm GMT

Enabling Academia: making UK HEIs more accessible 

The workshop will use experiential evidence from the DISC project to stimulate discussion about the current and potential management of disabled colleagues. 

Exploring (real) examples of HEI managerial practice, Human Resource Management and the experiences of disabled scientists, participants will consider options for the intervention and prevention of ableist norms and practices. We will discuss how and why universities maintain barriers to inclusion, and how to undermine them and foster meaningful accessibility to the academy.

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