Universities still failing disabled students on access


The university clearing system is placing disabled students at a disadvantage because of continuing problems with access and care packages, according to a new report.

The Trailblazers network of young volunteers, part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (MDC), investigated the challenges in securing a university education.

They asked 15 key questions about access and facilities for disabled students at the UK’s top 100 universities.

Their findings are published in the report, University Challenge, which also includes a guide for disabled students on surviving the application process and enjoying university.

The Trailblazers concluded that disabled students are penalised by poor access when choosing a university – with the late summer clearing process giving them less than a month to find a course and check out access, accommodation and a care package.

The report says one in ten of the 78 universities that responded to the survey does not have accessible accommodation integrated into university life.

Only just over half say all their teaching and study rooms and libraries are fully accessible, while 30 per cent say not all their campus transport is accessible, and a tenth do not have good links with local care agencies and support services.

A quarter of the universities do not have rooms for personal assistants.

And nearly two in five do not provide a written guide for new disabled students.

The best-performing universities in the survey were Brunel and Coventry, which each answered 94 per cent of questions positively, while Bedfordshire was the worst, with just one in three.

The Trailblazers also investigated university websites, with eight scoring nought out of five for providing accessible information for prospective disabled students, while 12, again including Coventry and Brunel, scored full marks.

Kimberley Randle, who studied at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “I knew that because of my disability I would have less choice and it would take longer and a lot more planning for me to decide on the right university.”

The Trailblazers want the government, councils and universities to make a series of guarantees to ensure disabled students are not disadvantaged.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents university heads, praised the report and said it showed that initiatives introduced by universities had led to “significant improvements” in access and support.

But she added: “Universities recognise that there is always room for improvement and this is an on-going process.”

18 August 2009

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