Vet schools to eye up access

March 28, 2003

Slaughterhouses will find themselves the subject of an unusual inspection this week as part of an attempt to boost disabled access to veterinary schools.

Anne Tynan, director of Diverse, a three-year access initiative, is visiting abattoirs and farms to find out exactly what is required of students.

She has also produced a report on admissions to medical, dental and veterinary schools for applicants with disabilities.

"We are in the dawn of the era when students and doctors with disabilities will become a common sight rather than a rarity," says her report, Pushing the Boat Out , from the Learning and Teaching Support Network subject centre for medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine.

"We need to achieve a balance in this area," Ms Tynan said. "We need to promote the rights of disabled people to work in a mainstream context but also in a professional context where others, in particular patients, have rights too."

The £245,000 Diverse project was the largest bid to be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England under the disability funding programme. It is a collaborative venture between the UK's six veterinary colleges.

Ms Tynan said: "Once we can establish good practice in veterinary schools, then other fields can follow. We have representatives from medical and dental schools on the project."

The Disability Discrimination Act was extended to cover further and higher education last year. All education providers must make "reasonable adjustment" to accommodate disabled students and ensure they are not treated "less favourably" during the admissions process or their studies.

The LTSN report says that doctors with disabilities would raise standards in the health service. "Their disabilities will serve as tools to improve the quality of the way in which the medical profession serves patients who have disabilities," it says.

* The Medical Students Committee of the British Medical Association is to launch its report Medicine in the 21st Century at its annual conference today.

The report sets out the rights and responsibilities of medical students and advises on the standards that medical schools should be delivering. On admissions, it says that procedures must be "transparent" and comply with current legislation.

Rafik Taibjee, chair of the conference, said: "Often applicants don't realise that they can come forward and say that they have a disability, and that medical schools can make extra provision."

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