Young campaigners to probe university access


Young campaigners are to investigate problems with access and support faced by disabled students at universities across the UK.
More than 100 members of the Trailblazers network of volunteers, all aged between 16 and 30 and most of whom are disabled, will survey universities and draw on their own student experiences.
As well as compiling an access league table of UK universities from the survey results – based on answers to 15 key questions – they will publish a guide for disabled students on how to negotiate the higher education system.
Trailblazers is part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (MDC), which said the decision to launch the investigation followed a series of problems experienced by network members at university.
These include isolated accessible accommodation, a lack of support from tutors, inflexible timetables, and poor planning by university authorities.
It is the second Trailblazers campaign, following an undercover investigation that found disabled people were still struggling to use public transport, because of problems with safety, reliability and cost.
Trailblazer Zoe Hallam, who is disabled and studies at Oxford University, said: “Taking into account accessibility and care packages, it took me over a year to organise my move to university.
“In a process that is already complicated for any student, the additional restrictions placed on disabled people can make it a real challenge to go to university.”
Two years ago, the Disability Rights Commission reported that more than a third of all people in Britain without any formal qualifications were disabled.
Philip Butcher, chief executive of the MDC, said: “Academic qualifications have become increasingly important in securing a job for all people.
“If universities are not providing adjustments for disabled students they will be left behind and will not only miss out on higher education, but also be disadvantaged in finding future employment.
“Many people with muscle disease feel that our university system is still hard to negotiate, and we are now putting this to the test.”
23 July 2009