Do disabled students get enough support at university?

An article appeared in The Independent recently which looked at the level of support that is currently available for disabled students going to university. A summary of the article is provided here.

The process of deciding to go to university, applying, finding accommodation and studying to get the grades is stressful enough, but if you are disabled this can be an added challenge.

Natasha Wilson, 19, was unable to go to her first choice university because her local authority could not pay for the cost of care. Forced to choose her local university she was then unable to gain funding to live independently so she had no choice but to continue living at home.

“I don’t feel like I am getting what all my friends are getting out of university,” she said.

A report last year by the Equality Challenge Unit showed that at all degree levels, disabled students were more likely to study part-time than non-disabled students. Many of the reasons for this include challenges such as getting a care package to issues of accessibility.

Tanvi Vyas, campaign officer of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, said old university buildings, including libraries, are often not fully accessible, if at all and covering the cost for carer’s accommodation can also be problematic.

Juliet Marlow, 43, who is doing a PhD in televisual representations of disability at Southampton Solent University, said studying with a disability is “ten times tougher than without one.”

Getting funding to cover care and other costs related to a student’s disability is one of the most pressing concerns for disabled people eager to enter higher education. Huge cuts to local authority budgets in the last year and the closure of the Independent Living Fund mean it is becoming increasingly harder to secure funding.

The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) offers students up to £20,000 and covers specialist equipment and non-medical help, such as note takers but does not cover care costs.

Paul Alexander of the Snowdon Trust, a UK charity that gives grants to students unable to secure funding, said that the DSA is not enough to cover costs.

“The Trust steps in whenever we are needed. £20,000 sounds like a lot, but students who have severe disabilities have expensive needs. The amount of money given should be based on an individual’s needs, not on an arbitrary cap. Disabled students need more [funding] from my perspective. It’s tough on them.”

Universities and their disability services are often very willing to accommodate a student’s needs but the size and quality of those services can vary.

Gill Beech, operations manager of the disability and dyslexia service at Brunel University in Middlesex, said, “I would advise any disabled student thinking of applying to a university to speak to the person or team who is responsible in that particular institution. Applicants should not be afraid to ask questions and should always try and visit the university before final choices are made.”

Natasha is coming to the end of her first year at Sheffield but is thinking of dropping out and going back when she has care in place and can live independently.

“What I would say to anyone with a disability who is applying to university is to not let social services force you in to taking the easy option to reduce their workload. Fight to the end to get what you deserve or you will regret it.”

To view the full article please click the following link: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/student-life/health/do-disabled-students-get-enough-support-at-university-8597314.html

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