University declared “institutionally disablist” by the SU Assembly

By Emma Lucia Felisi and Anna Marshall

After conducting research on accessibility, the Students with Disabilities Association has convinced the SU Assembly to unanimously declare Durham University a disablist institution.

SwDA found various failings suffered by disabled students, such as disability support being minimal and lack of compensation for those with disabilities often leading to living expenses becoming more expensive.

The Assembly resolved to demand the University create an action plan, “for tackling the culture of disablism faced by students of Durham.”

Jessica Madden, president of Students with Disabilities Association, has told Palatinate that:

“A lot of other universities will fund specific learning diagnosis, but as one of the world’s best universities, the fact that we don’t is appalling.

“They like the idea of inclusivity but they don’t like the parts of it which would actually make it a reality.”

“If students with disabilities come and look around on an offer day, Durham doesn’t tell students they would have to adapt buildings to make it accessible.

“Disability support is vastly underfunded too, which needs to be addressed at a higher level with commitments and funding from the senior University staff with a commitment to uniformity across departments, which is currently not the case.”

Reflecting on the motion’s success, Madden has said that:

“These are issues SwDA has been fighting for years, and have yet to be resolved. Many disabled students drop out as they don’t receive the support they need.”

One example was desks designed to be wheelchair accessible in the new Teaching and Learning Centre, were found to be screwed to the floor with immovable seats, making them unfit for accessibility purposes.

Additionally, planned pedestrian routes have initially included only stepped access, while requests for dropped kerbs have been denied.

SwDA found vari-ous failings suffered by disabled students

Students with long-term conditions are required to pay for evidence of their condition and prove their disability to staff.

Another difficulty is that students who are screened for specific learning difficulties are required to pay for a professional report, which can cost between £300-£600, in order to receive support from the university.

Unlike other universities, Durham offers no specific funding for this.

Within colleges, the practice of preventing students from leaving formal dinners has been criticised, as it forces students to disclose their disability or, in some cases, face a financial penalty.

Amelia McLoughlan, SU Welfare and Liberation Officer, highlighted that “historic cities have major issues with accessibility issues which disadvantage minority students.”

On the University, she said that “they like the idea of inclusivity but they don’t like the parts of it which would actually make it a reality. They can say they want inclusivity and wider participation, but those are empty words”

Palatinate contacted the University for comment on this issue before Christmas, but no response has been received.

Photograph by Tim Packer via Wikimedia Commons

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