Disabled Students’ Caucus – Discussion Topics

We will run a conference via Skype for each of the five campaign caucuses. There will be a debate on campaign priorities, run like a formal conference debate and chaired by the Steering Committee. This will take place on 27 May.

Following the policy ballot which closed on Friday 15 May at 12 noon, we can now reveal the topics you chose to be discussed at NUS Liberation Conference. The topics you selected are:

  • Disabled Students Allowance
  • Education experience
  • Learning disability assessments.

Click here for a full description of each of the topics to be debated or find summaries below.

Below are summaries of the topics that were proposed by students and students’ unions for discussion at the caucus.

Accessible on transport

In Northern Ireland, there is a lack of accessibility awareness on public transport with some signs using outdate and often offensive images that don’t recognise that not all disabilities are visible. There are no signs on the trains or buses where it should say not all disabilities are visible.

Often students with an invisible disability just traveling to and from college and work can feel anxious, with feelings that people are always judging and expect you to move. We must recognise Not all disabilities are visible and not all pain is obvious.

We believe those with disabilities should not feel any different from when sitting in the seat that are located for them as it should not be taking a hit on their mental health causing anxiety from just sitting in a seat but being judged for sitting there or being told to move when u can’t see there disability. You should not have to feel uncomfortable or anxious when traveling to and from college or university by taking public transport.

British Sign Language

At present, there are approximately 151,000 native users of BSL in the UK. As a diverse learning community in the FE and HE sectors, we thrive due to the fact we engage with so many different cultures and communities. Whilst we thrive, their voices are often lost in a world of ableism and the community having to adjust to the demands of the hearing world.

This proposal addresses the need for more widespread usage and understanding of BSL including wider usage of BSL interpreters at government press conferences plus training and guidance for BSL training and support for the deaf community in FE and HE institutions.

Disabled Students Allowance

Disabled students are still struggling to access sufficient support, whether for physical, learning disabilities and mental disabilities. Mental Health provision and waiting times are poor there have been serious delays and problems with support provision since cuts to and restructuring of the Disabled Students Allowance.

Specific support systems in place for disabled students should be accessible, fair and delivered in a timely manner. Proposed solutions include a review of how universities work with agencies/partners to provide DSA support and celebrating best practice from universities across the country.

Education experiance

The Equality Act 2010 imposes on universities the obligation to make reasonable adjustments in educating students with disabilities. However, education should be intrinsically accessible.

This proposal argues Education should be intrinsically accessible. If it is possible to educate in a way which is more accessible, this should become the educating norm, not the reasonable adjustment exception. Universities should monitor the reasonable adjustments they are implementing, ensure that staff receive appropriate training in understanding common disabilities, consider the routine use of technology to make education accessible and ensure that the views of students from Liberation groups are adequately heard in academic representation

Independent living skills

This proposal addresses the need for teaching of independent living skills in further and higher education. Many students go into college and uni with no idea how to cook even basic meals, pay their rent, budget for food or other necessities, or even how to iron their clothing. Many students who have a disability or additional needs may not be on a specialist independent living skills course but could benefit from training in these subjects.

For this reason, it is proposed that independent living skills are made available so that disabled students can access vital life skills. By teaching these in college and/or uni, you would help students be better prepared for coping in the world at large.

Learning Disability Assessments

Two proposals were submitted on the subject of diagnosis and assessment of learning disabilities. In the UK, it is estimated that between 3% and 4% of the adult population have ADHD, with an estimated 4% of students enrolled at all higher educational levels having Specific Learning Difficulties. Many students are not included in the statistics because they have not been assessed. Students in HE and many FE institutions are able to access learning assessments to support diagnosis of a learning disability and then access help to ensure they are able to learn in a format that suits them. Outside of a few large employers, apprentices are unable to access this and often have to wait years for an NHS assessment.

This proposal arues that universities and the government should provide financial assistance towards full diagnostic assessments. Universities and colleges with the facilities to offer learning assessments to apprentices in local communities and industry should be encouraged to do so and that there should be a campaign that celebrates autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other learning difficulties both in and outside of full time educational institutes and across industry.