University Challenge - Evidence
Stats in the area
- Half of universities in the South West don't have rooms for hired carers, forcing disabled students to live at home rather than with their fellow students.
- 60% of university inter-campus transport is inaccessible to disabled students.
One in ten students will not have accessible accommodation, cooking and dining facilities which are fully integrated into mainstream university life.
A third of all university teaching rooms, study rooms and libraries are not fully accessible to students with a disability.
More than 30% of universities do not provide a freshers' guide to the university for disabled students.
Kimberley Randle is a graduate of the University of Gloucestershire
Universities need to understand how to make it easier for disabled students to have the same great experience as any other student - attending university is one of the biggest decisions anyone makes."I knew that because of my disability I would have less choice and it would to take longer and a lot more planning for me to decide on the right university. That doesn't even include the extra struggle to get all of the care arrangements in place.
We hope that University Challenge helps other disabled students to make easier, more informed decisions about the university that best suits their needs.
Steve Ledbrook is a graduate of Plymouth University
It seems so many years ago since I attended Plymouth University to take my HND in Business and Finance. Choosing the university was a hard task. Did I want to stay close to home or miles away? I finally decided to apply to a university near me. I think I did this because I was worried about how I would cope on my own? Would I be accepted by others? Would my disability make things harder?
My Becker muscular dystrophy at that time didn't limit me as much as it does now but I couldn't run and hills and slopes. There were times I found it hard when I was tired.
When applying for university I found no problems with filling in my forms but I do have a very supportive mum, which made a big difference. When I finally achieved the qualifications needed I had the chance of visiting Plymouth University and I really liked what I saw. This was where I finally decided to go but first of all I had to make sure my halls of residence would have a room on the ground floor that proved no problem in achieving.
The day finally came to leave home and I arrived in Plymouth but I had to sort out a parking space in the car park outside the halls of residence and to be honest without this I would have found it hard work to get around the University and into the city due to the slopes around where I was. To start with I did have problems with using the car park has it had a barrier and my card didn't work properly but eventually this was sorted. Once the security knew more of me they were very helpful.
My bed in my halls of residence room was very basic, not the most comfortable bed. If my disability had been worse though it would have been difficult to sleep in it. It was very low and the room would have been to small to have hoist or various aids to help me up.
My kitchen was shared with 5 other students. I got on very well with them all, which probably helped my first year to be much easier. My accommodation also included a shared shower but I did worry when I used this, because I worried about the fire alarms. (we used to have regular fire tests.) If I had been in the shower when the fire alarms went of I worried that I would take longer to leave the shower and get dressed. I would find it to hard to walk in my bare feet due to my ankle weakness.
My first year at University was very exciting but I did get very home sick and did get upset about being away from home. I just felt restricted and I was very concerned on how people would deal with my disability.
When I finally began lectures, most of them would take place in the business centre. This meant walking down a slope then down another short slope to get to it. It was the walking back up again that made it difficult for me. At times I would drive my car down but I had to judge it right to get a space right outside. Even though I had a good reason I still felt people may think I was lazy and I felt it sort of made me miss out on walking down with other students on my course. I wanted to be able to walk into town with them to. I would say though it's amazing how many friends you get when you drive. I do think now that a scooter would have been a lot easier but on a student grant, this would have been hard to afford and with wanting to fit in with other students I did at times try to pretend I didn't have a disability.
I think it was very lucky I was able to drive because without my car, I would have had to reply on a taxi everyday to get me to lectures in the business centre. Of course we did have lectures in the main part of the University. I found this easier to walk to because this was flat plus this was where the students union was. Only disadvantage though was that the students union was down stairs. I did struggle with the stairs at that time but I was able to manage but now it would be impossible. Plus the pool tables and game machines were downstairs. When joining in with student nights there it was flat but I had to be careful when it was packed. Too much of a knock could have me falling over.
I was lucky at university to be honest because I met some good friends that would look out for me and I would get help if needed. I had a very helpful neighbour. I would say that by socialising all I could it helped to make my life a lot easier. I started playing pool a lot and joined teams in venues outside University life but I eventually set up the Plymouth university pool club and some good friends came from this.
I did manage to get help from the disability support advisor but I think I didn't really use this as much as I could, I wanted to be has independent as possible. I found that if I asked for help most of the time the university was helpful.
Other access issues I found problems with were the big lecture theatres, that had seats on various levels e.g. like a cinema does. I hated sitting at the front, I wanted to be further back to feel more involved with other people. I think though that a PA at the time would have helped me a lot more.
With regards my social life I did like to dance when I went out but this got harder over the years I was there. Even though this was the case I still kept trying even if I fell over. This did frustrated me too because I couldn't mix as well and be more the life and soul of the party.
After the first year I had to look for new accommodation in Plymouth and this was very hard has I didn't meet the right people to move to a student house. I took an option of a flat. This did have stairs but I coped just. I wish I'd been given more options to find somewhere else to live. It was mainly houses available so it usually meant stairs had to be involved. To be honest there was a limited amount of ground floor flats available. I think it's important that all Universities have lists of accommodation options for people with disabilities or the option of staying in halls. I did feel I missed out on sharing a student house.
Unfortunately in my second year I also had glandular fever which made me miss out a lot of my second year. They were very understanding about this and let me retake my second year again but this was hard because the friendship I developed with others on my course was very different. It was like making new friends again.
Overall I think Plymouth University did give me a lot of support but at the time it was access which was the greater issue, if I went there now I doubt I could handle getting to the business centre and accessing the students union. I think I could have done a lot more with improving the access for others but I think I did things relevant to how my disability was at the time.
I personally think everyone should try their hardest to get to university because I think it really helps to develop and find out more about yourself. It's true that it's the best time of your life and you meet the friends at University that will stay with you forever. You should never be worried about asking for help with your studies. Don't miss out on taking part in the social activities available, you will meet people that don't understand about your condition but importantly you do meet people who treat you as a person. I think people respected me a lot more because I just got on with it and didn't let people get to me. You are there for the same reason has everyone else to have the best time ever and to study hard.