Indicators fail to perform well

October 13, 2000

I write as a disabled academic to argue that the university system in Britain is seriously neglectful of people with disabilities. The emphasis on broadening education access commonly ignores this section of society - the very people who often need education to overcome difficulties and gain employment.

My university and those I visit as an office bearer of my subject's national body rarely protect disabled parking spaces. The abusers are commonly staff and students, who are frequently abusive if confronted. My research takes me to campuses in Canada and the United States where vehicles so parked are towed away in minutes.

I had to withdraw from a conference at a university last week because the organisers had made no provision for disabled access to meals on a residential conference, despite the fact that I had flagged my disability in advance. Similarly, I have been excluded from meetings in my university and elsewhere when they are organised in rooms upstairs with no lift access.

At all levels of the sector, there are people who assume disabled people do not go to university. There is rightly much concern about the representation of ethnic minorities and socially disadvantaged people at university. There is, however, no comparable concern for the rights of the disabled. In my experience, the Disability Discrimination Act is widely neglected in the sector.

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