Stats in the area
- Nearly half of universities surveyed in the West Midlands don't have rooms for hired carers, forcing disabled students to live at home rather than with their fellow students.
- One in five 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.
- 20% of universities in the West Midlands do not have accessible accommodation in all university halls.
Jagdeep Kaur Sehmbi is a graduate of Wolverhampton University
During my last year at college I met with my tutor to discuss university courses, and after looking through UCAS and different prospectuses I applied to a course at BCU. I visited the university and was shown around all the facilities by someone from the Disability office. Support needs were discussed and I applied for finance including DSA.
It was only just before the course was to start that I found that the course would be running at a new campus, that was partly still under construction. This meant that I missed the first two days of induction as the lift was being fitted. After that, I attended for about three to four weeks before it was decided by a tutor and course leader that I would not be able to continue the course as some of the modules required large-scale technical drawing that I am unable to do. I knew there would be elements of drawing before I started but was told I could work at my own pace and on smaller scale, then instruct a support worker to re-create my work on large scale. They said it was more about ideas than actual drawing skill, so I continued.
However, after they had changed their mind, I wasn't allowed to carry on. I then was referred to the careers adviser at the university, who helped me find a different course (at a different university because I really didn't want to stay on at BCU!) and after meeting the disability adviser, course leader, and health & safety officer at Wolverhampton University, I was much happier because they were much more helpful and straightforward. This was when I found out about having a Needs Assessment; I didn't know about this before, and was only informed by Wolverhampton University.
After attending an Assessment Centre in Hereford I was provided with equipment that I would need for the course such as a computer and the specific technical applications. Unfortunately by this time, I couldn't start the course that year as id missed too much. So in January, I went back to college to do a short course as advised by the course leader at university. I was annoyed about the whole situation at BCU, but glad it had been sorted out in the end even though I had been delayed by a year.
Once I started at Wolverhampton, my first year was at the Wolverhampton Science Park, which was great for accessibility. The only thing was it was a distance away from the main site so id need to get another taxi booked if I needed to go to the library, SU, etc, as the inter-campus bus wasn't accessible meaning I couldn't go with my friends.
In the following years my course was moved to a building next to the main site which was much easier except the building I was based in was older than science park so some areas were not accessible but these were offices not classrooms so if I needed to speak to any staff whose office I couldn't reach I'd just ask reception to notify them, or go with a friend.
There was also a very steep area outside to get to another building where I had classes which was a bit scary. Crossing the road to the main site was also a bit difficult as it was very busy and the crossing time at the lights was quite short.
One issue I had at university was that a trip was organised to an art gallery by the School of A & D, but transport arranged was not accessible, so I couldn't go. Another time, the lift was out of order for some time, preventing me attending a lecture room, this continued for 3 weeks and I asked for the class should be relocated but was told my note taker can attend even if I can't which I didn't think was too fair!
The main site, library, IT labs, canteen, Student Union, surrounding area, shops, cafes, etc I found to be easy to get around and didn't really have any problems. The disability advisers, student enabling centre, and support workers were all very good. I had no problems with arranging support whenever I needed it, and the couple of times that a note taker couldn't arrive on time (traffic) then someone else would be sent ASAP.
Judith Merry is a student at Keele University
I started having a look at Universities when I started my first year of A Levels. Of course I still wasn't sure what subject I wanted to study but along the lines of history or politics. When choosing a University the most important decision is know what you want to study. Then look at the Universities that suit your subject/course best.
My mum checked with a few different Universities in the very beginning to see how much experience they each had with disabled students, how many they already had or have had. Also what the procedure is for admissions for disabled students. Standard answer she got was that every University has and must have a disability officer, that they were the one to contact.
Over the 1st year of A Levels and the summer before my A2s, I just looked over different University prospectus; Keele, Nottingham, Birmingham, EAU, Hull and others.
On every University webpage there was information on what 'support services' they offered, including disability services. Some had individual forms to be filled out detailing your requirements. I called the main ones I was looking at and asked what there grounds were like, buildings, accommodation, what educational support they provided, if they provided any personal support. From talking to other people who had already been to Uni, some said that some Uni's provided a 'Buddy system' that paired either same year students or 2nd, 3rd yrs at support around the Uni, not necessarily personal, but someone that you could know upon arrival at Uni.
I had a Transition Worker appointed to me when I was 17 by my local Social Services to help with the transition from children to adult services.
I came into contact with Social Services at 16, when the DLA was being transferred from my parents to me, children services were contacted at the same time. Because it was also suggested that I be put forward for a pilot for young people to be put on Direct Payments at 16. In order to do the Direct Payments I had to be assigned a care worker from children services.
The Transition Worker I had was very good and extremely proactive. She helped me research Universities and came with me to visit my chosen one, Keele University. I had a separate 'open day' organised for me where I met the Disability Adviser (DA), a representative from each of my chosen subjects, American Studies & International Relations. I was also shown around the campus, the main buildings, and an example of a disabled room.
The DA told me more what was available to me at Keele. I mentioned about advertising for carers at the Union Job Centre (which I had been told by a cousin already attending the Uni) and she said it was worth a try. There were note-takers available to me, done through an outsourced agency.
Only once I knew that I had been accepted to study, American Studies & International Studies at Keele University, which was by mid-August when the results come out, that I could start getting things organised
This, however doesn't leave enough time to get everything done I have learnt.
I was giving information about the DSA and how to go about it by my transition worker. There is information available on the LEA website and gov.org, but you have to trawl through a lot of information.
To get the DSA there is a long process to go through.You have to show proof of your condition to the LEA first, in form of a medical note or proof that you receive DLA.The LEA then decides if you need to get a 'needs assessment' done, this is if you need support to enable you to have a full education. The 'needs assessment' is done at one of the National Network of Access Centres across the country; they provide independent advice about study support.
Mine was at the Open Uni Assessment Centre which was at the Oxford & Cherwell college in Oxford. So they assessed what assistance that I would need to support my education. E.g. a computer, note-takers and support for the library.
Once done, I received a letter saying how much my DSA grant would be, this then has to be approved the student support, once they do then I could start the student loan processThe DSA goes straight to the University; upon receiving it they can then start ordering the equipment for me.
I had one meeting with Keele to sort out all the accommodation I would need. My transition worker came with me and she helped organise a local OT to come to the meeting to, so the OT would know that I would need a toilet frame, shower seat & electric bed. These were all on loan from the local services.
I met with the housekeeper of the halls I would be staying in to look at 2/3 rooms for choice. In a building that was the most accessible.The uni maintenance was also invited along, to measure what height I would need the shower seat, tv shelf, desk and mirror at and if any furniture needed moving. It was also decided, once I had chosen my room, which doors needed to be made automatic in the building and if any changes needed to be made to the kitchen I would be using.