Universities ‘still failing disabled students’


theweeksubUniversities are still putting significant barriers before disabled students and failing to provide them with the support they need on campus, according to new research carried out by young campaigners.

Four years on from another study that exposed access problems at universities, the report by the Trailblazers group – part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign – reveals that many disabled students are still unable to use vital facilities on campus.

Among the findings of University Challenge 2013, three in 10 recent graduates who took part in a survey said they felt limited in what they could study because of concerns about their care packages, while six in 10 said there was not enough information about accommodation for disabled students on university websites.

Only just over half of universities that responded to another survey for the report said disabled students had full access to all of their teaching rooms, study rooms and libraries; while three in 10 said their graduation ceremony had taken place in an inaccessible or non-inclusive location.

Just one in five universities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said there was an accessible toilet with a hoist in every one of their buildings.

The report includes pages of advice and information for disabled young people planning to go to university, as well as quotes from graduates describing their own experiences.

One graduate, Harriet Butler, said: “I would have wanted care in place earlier so I could have enjoyed my first year. My experience would have been improved by a disability support service that actually knew what they were doing.”

Another, Elora Kadir, said: “There was no information to suggest that it would be necessary to go over a footbridge in order to get to where my evening meal was being served… There was also no information to suggest that the actual residences’ office and place for collecting post was inaccessible.”

A third graduate, Matilda Ibini, told how she boycotted her graduation ceremony because the university had been reluctant to provide any details about access until she bought tickets.

Among the report’s recommendations, it calls for accessible and inclusive graduation ceremonies; a recognition of the additional care and support disabled students will need when living independently; better access to student union facilities; and extra support and information for disabled students on work placements and internships.

Tanvi Vyas, Trailblazers project manager, said: “It is really positive that an increasing number of disabled students are entering higher education.

“However, we continue to hear about how many universities are still missing the mark when it comes to helping people planning on entering higher education – and helping them to complete their time there.

“There are plenty of simple measures that universities can take. Providing inclusive freshers’ guides, handy information on accessible transport and buildings, and support networks can all make a huge difference to students adapting to campus life.

“We also need the government and local authorities to examine the issue of relocating care packages, which continues to be an enormous struggle for many students studying away from home.”

3 October 2013