Perspectives: Students with disabilities at the University of Edinburgh

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Over 50 percent of students with disabilities at the University of Edinburgh say their learning adjustments are not being met, according to the latest student satisfaction figures from 2014/2015.

The Student reached out to the Edinburgh University Students Association Mental Health and Wellbeing Group to hear experiences and perspectives from students directly. The following is a sample of their responses, made anonymously.

If you have your own experience or perspective in this area, and would like to share, scroll to the bottom of this page and type it into the text box below.

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Have you experienced difficulties with disability support at the University of Edinburgh?

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Yes – they do not set up correct communication networks between academic class tutors, administration and Disability Service. I shouldn’t have to explain my disability’s effects every time I encounter a personal problem. It’s humiliating and makes me feel like a liar.”

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Yes.”

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From the perspective of having dyspraxia, I am happy with the support I receive. I get extra times in exams, with a computer and receive all my notes and deadlines ahead of time. I also receive all my learning adjustments. I am aware, however, that (in the case of the learning adjustments) this is not the case for everybody, which needs to be fixed.”

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I have been let down repeatedly- Edinburgh Uni pay lip service to equality legislation and pretend that they provide support for those with disabilities. All the reasonable adjustments I have been given should be provided to most students and in the case of my school mostly are provided. So when you actually look at my reasonable adjustments I maybe get 3 bullet points that actually impact my studies in real terms rather than the 2 pages of adjustments that the disability service is boasting.

I was shocked by the lack of communication between staff and departments on this issue. The lack of trust in students who question practices of proof readers and the overall negative reaction to even be challenging this issue at all. It’s shameful that Edinburgh University don’t have any system in place for a student with disabilities to challenge the already established process. All I can do is complain which wont affect my grade at the moment or if it all goes down the drain due to lack of support with my disabilities I can appeal which is very rarely considered. Even if bad practice is found I still may not get my work reconsidered. This is a violation of the promise made by an educational institution such as Edinburgh to provide fair education for all including those with disabilities.”

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I’ve had a decent experience accessing the Disability Service, being matched to a Mental Health Mentor and getting my Learning Profile put in place. What I will say is at times my personal tutor hasn’t been the least bit helpful (on one occasion he pressed me to “do better next semester” as though I could consciously choose to be unaffected by mental illness and to perform better academically) which has clearly been an issue for many. A personal tutor shouldn’t be the first person I’m encouraged to reach out to when I’m struggling and I don’t expect them to provide support, but they could signpost or at least have an inkling of who their tutees are.

For a couple years I was in the cycle of accessing student support and filing for special circumstances with no idea about the range of resources available to me or the possibility of a Learning Profile. Now that I have one I’d say 85% of the adjustments are consistently delivered – the most common one lacking is the posting of course materials and lectures in advance. 4th year.”

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I have been entitled to adjustments because of my disability throughout my degree, but these have rarely been enforced. I sought help from the mental health mentor service within the disability service in 2015. After an initial meeting which seemed fine, I was left high and dry with no support. 4th Year, Law”

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Yes.”

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I have. I received my diagnosis in my second year of uni, and the admin were bloody useless. I’m based at New College and no one knew anything. It didn’t help that they had a poster up that essentially ridiculed those with mental illness, which made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I’ve been advised to drop out of uni, look at different career goals, and even been told to not be so ‘ambitious’, which made my blood boil. The disability service were okay, but not brilliant.

I’ve had to fight for the last two years to get what I’m entitled. They haven’t been much help with claiming DSA, and I feel very much left in the dark. I’ve faced discrimination because of my disability, which no one took seriously. I took it to the New College admin and they essentially laughed it off, and I was told that it wasn’t discrimination. It’s upsetting and frustrating. I’m far away from my family, who act as my carers, and it’s unfair how disabled students in Edinburgh are treated.”

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Loads. I’ve nearly finished my degree now and four years later I am yet to have a a class with all my learning arrangements met, as laid out by the Student Disability Service. I’ve been put into classes which I have trouble physically accessing and I need to take a painkiller whenever I have a meeting in the SDS and the lift in the library is broken. Like the Student Disability Service is fabulous, but it is absolutely powerless in enforcing the things it sets out for students.”

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As a wheelchair user, the state of the pavements are a disgrace. Several times my wheels have got stuck in a pothole and I’ve had to be careful not to propel out of my wheelchair. The pavements are also too narrow in parts for the wheelchair and pedestrians at the same time. Although I am grateful able students are so considerate.

The state of the pavements have led directly to damaging my wheelchair to the stage I had to apply to the Discretionary Fund for help to replace it. Another issue is why aren’t all buildings accessible? I’ve never seen any Estates and Buildings plan to make all buildings accessible. Also some of the wheelchair toilets seem to be designed by someone who’s never been in a wheelchair and as such I have experienced all the following: doors that open the wrong way, sinks either too close or too far away, hand towels at the other end of the WC from the sink, no mirrors and the WC being used as storage room for cleaning materials as well as mops, buckets et al. Are disabled students going to be invited to discuss issues and suggest solutions to the University Review?”

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Do you have your own perspectives to share? Input a response of any length into the text box below and type your perspective into the box below and click submit. The electronic submissions are completely anonymous.

Images (from top): dun_deaghKaren Bryankaysgeogbyronv2

The Student Newspaper 2016