University Challenge - Evidence
Stats in area
- Nearly half of all universities in the South East don't have rooms for hired carers, forcing disabled students to live at home rather than with their fellow students.
- 40% of university inter-campus transport is inaccessible to disabled students.
- One in ten universities in the South East do not have good links with local care agencies and support services.
- 85% of universities in the South East do not have accessible accommodation in all university halls.
Just over half of all universities do not have entirely acessible teaching rooms, study rooms and libraries.
More than 40% of universities in the South East do not have a disabled student union group or society.
Zoe Hallam, Oxford University
The best piece of advice I can give anyone who's thinking of applying to university with a disability is: don't take no for an answer. Although every university I applied to was more than happy to accommodate me in any way they could, the real problem lay with arranging my care packages and equipment that I needed to live independently.
I began looking at universities in the summer after Year 12. I'd done the research on my course and narrowed my choices down to five or six feasible choices. I'd definitely recommend you visit any university that you're serious about applying to: I found that what is accessible or inaccessible on paper is often different in reality, and places which I thought might be inaccessible to me could actually be made accessible without much effort. Visiting also lets you get a feel for the university, and if possible meet the disability support staff who will be vital in making the transition as smooth as possible.
That was the easy part. All five of the universities I applied to had excellent accessible accommodation, social facilities and surrounding cities, and were really keen to make any changes to lecture theatres, halls or communal facilities that I needed. What caused issues for me was the fact that my local social services (who were responsible for my care package and equipment) seemed unable to comprehend that I would not only need a fairly dramatic increase in the amount of care required as I was no longer dependent on my parents, but also another height adjustable bed, armchair and desk for my college room. The problem with the transition to university is that it comes at a similar time to when most of us are moving from child to adult services, which is difficult enough in itself. As such my case seemed to frequently get lost in endless piles of paper.
You have to be incredibly tenacious to get what you want. The resources are there, the laws are there, but the general ineptitude of my social worker and my occupational therapist were definitely the most significant stumbling block in my application process. Start hassling them early, and hassle them often. From the March when I received my final offers and accepted a firm and insurance place, right through to the October when I began my course (and in fact a little beyond that) I was on the phone to them at least once a week, chasing up everything that needed doing. Obviously I can't say that this is the case in all boroughs or indeed any others, but even so you should try and be as efficient and pre-emptive as possible. It's better to have everything in place ridiculously early than get to the end of August and find that there are still a million things that need doing.
Studying at university when you are a disabled student is no different than studying as an able-bodied student. The social life is brilliant, the courses are great and really interesting, and your fellow students will be completely accepting and open to you. Just make sure that you have all your needs sorted out well in advance of your first term, and then everything else should follow smoothly.