Disabled students ‘still need more help’, says report

Disabled students are calling on universities to do more to help them to access campus facilities.

October 4, 2013

Many disabled students are unable to use lecture theatres and libraries, according to a report by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers group.

Some institutions are also failing to signpost vital information required by disabled students, such as details about accessible university accommodation or how wheel-chair users could navigate campuses.

The study, titled University Challenge, published on 3 October, used information from disabled students at 100 UK universities.

It found that only half of universities had made all their teaching rooms, study rooms and libraries fully accessible for students with mobility difficulties.

Only a quarter of the universities audited had considered disabled students when planning freshers’ week information, it added.

Sixty per cent of students polled also felt there is not enough information for disabled students on university websites regarding accessible accommodation.

While the number of disabled student attending university had increased in recent years, more needed to be done to help them play a full part in campus life, said Tanvi Vyas, project manager at Trailblazers.

“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,” she said.

Disabled students also raised concerns over local authorities and the care packages they provided, with many young people telling how worries over continuity of social care when moving away from home had heavily influenced where they eventually chose to study.

“My local council…were quite insistent that I should stay and study at my local university (ranked 119th as opposed to Oxford, ranked first) and do a course that I had absolutely no interest in,” said Zoe Hallam, who studied at the University of Oxford.

“My decision to move away was treated with complete bewilderment; there was no understanding of how my care package would be accommodated, and the idea that agency care was more expensive in the new local authority caused real problems when negotiating my direct payments,” she added.

The Trailblazers report found universities had improved their disability access since it conducted a similar study four years ago, but more support was needed for students with disabilities.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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