Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 7

Submission from Disability Forward Ltd



  Disability Forward is a limited company, set up a year ago. We provide consultancy services to the public, private and voluntary sector on disability equality issues. Our consultants have a real breadth of expertise in the field of disability equality, and we seek to work supportively with partners to achieve positive change.

We really welcome the announcement of the select committee inquiry. We feel that with pending changes in equality legislation, and the ever changing economic, socio political and demographic situation it's vital that our university sector is performing to the highest standard, and meeting the highest expectations especially in terms of providing an educational service to disabled people.

Overall, we would like the inquiry to examine how well Universities have been performing on their implementation of the Disability Equality Duty, and the Code of Practice produced by the Disability Rights Commission for further and higher education providers.

Specific issues we would like the inquiry to examine:

We note that the inquiry intends to cover a range of issues in the following areas.

    — Admissions

    — The balance between teaching and research

    — Degree completion and classification

    — Mechanisms of student support and engagement

In relation to these areas we would wish to inquiry to pay due regard to the following issues


    1. Accessibility of admissions procedure, including forms and process2. More information for potential students about accessibility and support services for disabled students

    3. A guided visit for potential disabled students to explore the accessibility of the site before they apply

  Degree completion and classification

  Flexibility in degree completion for disability related reasons

Mechanisms of student support and engagement

  All higher education establishments are subject to the disability equality duty, yet many seem to not to have appropriately addressed their duty to involve disabled students. Often the involvement is done through the Students Union. This is fine, but it does not absolve Universities from their own legal duties. Disability Equality issues need to be addressed at all levels of the establishment, and therefore effective involvement is paramount.

In addition, we would like to see the inquiry examine:


  Again, the current Disability Equality Duty, and the forthcoming Single Equality Act, require Universities to have due regard to promoting disability equality in all their procurement activities. This ranges from procurement of ICT infrastructure,


Promotion of equality values in all procurement of services. The new Equality Bill will include specific requirements on how public bodies use their procurement mechanisms to promote equality, so it would be helpful to have an early debate.

Infrastructure planning—it's not enough for institutions to say that their buildings comply with Part M of the building regulations. It's important that proper access audits are undertaken and that those responsible for managing facilities and premises have appropriate training about how to ensure that an establishment is designed to be accessible and is maintained as such.

  Accessibility planning for all courses—there are many study areas that disabled people still find it very difficult to get access to eg medicine, science, technical degrees. This has to change.

  Perhaps a standards document or a code of practice should be produced to guide institutions on these matters?

January 2009

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