Disability act plea

January 23, 1998

Vice-chancellors and lecturers' union leaders have been urged to put pressure on the government to include education in any new disability discrimination act.

Delegates gathered for a seminar on disability and employment this week called on the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Association of University Teachers to join forces over the issue.

They said the two bodies, which jointly organised the seminar, should press for a repeal of the present Disability Discrimination Act, which excluded rules for education.

The call followed comments from Alan Howarth, the equal opportunities minister, indicating the government had "not ruled out" repealing the act.

The minister urged institutions to do more to correct the under-representation of disabled staff and students in higher education.

Meanwhile the AUT called for all universities and colleges to carry out a "disability audit" to expose gaps in facilities for disabled academic staff. Although most institutions have been making efforts to improve facilities for disabled staff, they are not doing enough to meet the general requirements of the act, the AUT warned.

Adrienne Aziz, AUT assistant general secretary, said: "Institutions cannot know what they need to do until they have informed themselves on where the shortfalls are. It is not really possible to know unless you have carried out a full disability audit."

Diana Warwick, CVCP chief executive, added: "Universities should act as exemplars. Students are the employees and the employers of the future. Their experience of higher education and their perception of employment conditions will influence what they accept and the standards they set in the future."

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