University Challenge - Evidence
Stats in the area
- One in five disabled students will not have access to all teaching rooms, study rooms and libraries in Welsh universities.
- 40% of university inter-campus transport is inaccessible to disabled students
- One in ten Welsh universities do not have good links with local care agencies and support services.
- The Clearing System disadvantages disabled students as it leaves less than a month to choose a preferred course and university as well as look at access, accommodation and care packages.
- 65% of Welsh universities do not have a disabled student union group or society.
- One in five Welsh universities do not have a member of staff responsible for adaptations and study support for disabled students.
90% of universities in Wales do not provide a freshers' guide to the university for disabled students.
Lauren West, from Cardiff, is hoping to start university in September 2009
I knew that for me it was going to take a lot longer and a lot more planning to firstly choose a university and then get all the arrangements in place. So, as soon as I had completed my AS levels, I, with parents in toe, started the long process of visiting many universities. I had a long list of universities that I would like to go but at that point I didn't really know what course I wanted to do which did cause a slight problem. It would be no good if I finally decided I wanted to do Law, when the Law buildings were Victorian and had a flight of steps up to them. All universities that I visited were really helpful and accommodating- all giving me tours of lecture theatres, accommodation and of course the student bars! I also had the opportunity to the Disability Support Teams who were going to be key in my student life. However, no matter how accommodating a university was, some access issues were just impossible to get around.
So I had finally settled on my five university choices, although I had my heart set on Manchester. I applied through UCAS just as normal, although I did have to give slightly more information as there was a section on disability (which is optional but I would definitely advise to fill it in as it means the universities' disability team can get in contact). Once I had applied, I had the normal waiting process, just hoping to see acceptance letters. However, whilst this was going on we had many other things to do. Student Finance for one thing is a very lengthy form and when you tick that you would like to apply for DSA you then get another lengthy form. Social Services then had to be involved to decide how my care was going to be paid for and what type of care I would need.
By the end of March, I had heard back from all my universities and thankfully I had got in to Manchester. I wasted no time in confirming Manchester as my first choice and Sussex as my second. Once this was completed, there was the slight issue of accommodation to deal with. Luckily, whist on my travels, I had got to see the accommodation in Manchester and it suited my requirements. I had also made contact with the Disability Accommodation Officer and made it perfectly clear the exact room that I wanted (it is a very good idea to take the details of specific rooms that meet your needs as it makes it a lot easier when applying for accommodation). I was lucky enough to have been assigned that room which gives you a lot of peace of mind knowing exactly where you will be living.
Once this was done, we had a break from university stuff whilst I had the scary A-Levels to sit. However, it didn't last long, on the Thursday, I sat my last exam, the next day I was on the 7 o' clock train to Manchester to have my DSA assessment. It was surprisingly straightforward, in the morning I met with Manchester's Disability team who carried out the first part of the assessment which identified the problems I would face at university. The second part was at an independent assessment centre. This was extremely easy, all I had to do was agree to the equipment she was recommending. It was exceptionally long list of equipment she thought I would need, and even if I didn't need it for my first year it still went on the list in case I needed for my second or third. After many years of fighting the system for the equipment I've needed whilst in school, this process was amazing and couldn't have been easier.
At the moment, I am stuck in limbo, just waiting for my results to see if I am actually going to Manchester. Once the results are out, it's all action stations as all my care needs to be sorted in a very short space of time. Currently, it's recommended I start with agency as it's the simpler option and then if I decide to hire self-employed PA's it will be easier as I will be in the area and able to advertise and interview as needed.
Of course, I'm slightly apprehensive about going 300 miles away and the process of making new friends and having 24 hour care, but it's all part of the experience. I could have stayed at home and gone to my local university- but what's the fun in that