Imogen attends a roundtable discussion on the experience of disabled students
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Imogen attends a roundtable discussion on the experience of disabled students

Imogen Steele

Our Marketing and Media Assistant, Imogen Steele, was recently invited to attend a roundtable discussion organised by Policy Connect and the HE Commission. Policy Connect is a cross-party think tank improving people’s lives by influencing policy. The event aimed to analyse the experience of disabled students at university.

Former students with disabilities and their representatives, attended to give evidence on their experiences of higher education. The roundtables will gather evidence as part of the Higher Education Commission’s Disabled Students Inquiry, which is being led by former Labour MP Lord David Blunkett, alongside Lord Norton of Louth and Kathryn Mitchell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby.

The inquiry is supported by a number of commissioners, including representatives from the National Union of Students, Disability Rights UK, and the National Association of Disability Practitioners.

Here is a brief account of the event from Imogen.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attended Policy Connect’s roundtable event held at the House of Lords, which was organised as part of the Higher Education Commission’s inquiry into the experience of disabled students.  As a disabled graduate, I welcome this inquiry as a much-needed opportunity to improve the provision of support for disabled students at University.

Whilst there have been improvements to equality legislation in recent decades, disabled students are often frustrated and let down by their university experience.   This inquiry, which is co-chaired by Lord David Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Education; Commission Chair Lord Norton; and Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby, Kathryn Mitchell, aims to advise government and the education sector on how to remove the barriers disabled students face and provide them with the support they need.

I sat on the roundtable with eight other student representatives discussing different aspects of university life, including ‘teaching and learning’ and ‘living and social’.  We identified some of the main challenges disabled students have to confront and highlighted good practices already instituted in some universities which allow for effective support.

During the event I emphasised the lack of practical support offered by university support staff and the poor planning of the accessible accommodation which was located all together in one place and thus counterintuitive to inclusion and equality.

It was very enlightening to hear other disabled students share their experience of university. This event severed as a great reminder to me of how varied and diverse disabilities are and the wide range of support needed to help students succeed. However, there were definitely some commonalities when it came to the obstacles we had faced during our studies.

The HE Commission will publicly report on its findings and recommendations in early 2020.

Imogen Steele, Marketing and Media Assistant at Bascule Disability Training

To read Imogen's recent blog about ways in which universities can improve the services they provide to students with disabilities, CLICK HERE