Written by the Disabled Students' Network
The Disabled Students Network (DSN) is an autonomous collective which aims to represent students at UCL who are disabled. During November and December 2019 we conducted a survey of Disabled Students’ experience at UCL as a result of more and more students coming to us with worrying reports about their treatment at UCL.
We hoped that if students and staff could hear the testimonies that we hear, and see the statistics, that they may understand that the situation needs to change. After many years of internal lobbying and not being heard, we still hope that #UCLcares about its disabled students.
Ten years after the passing of the Equality Act 2010, the testimonies from the survey reveal systematic ways in which UCL is not providing equal access to education. 67% of disabled students surveyed stated that they had experienced ableism at UCL and 58% of disabled students stated that they had been made to feel unwelcome at UCL due to their disability.
In our report, we explain what UCL’s responsibilities are, and by presenting the testimonies we received we show in what ways students are not being given equal access, who is responsible in each instance, and how to create change. These are institutional failings and therefore need to be tackled with university-wide changes, the details of which are explored in the report’s recommendations.
The report also provides UCL with examples of positive steps to take and the benefits of doing so, sharing a number of useful tools such as building on UCL’s own resources and examples of best-practice from other universities.
Perhaps the most convincing argument for change, however, is the moral one. Our survey results show there are many dedicated and empathic individuals working at UCL, who believe in equal access and want to do everything they can to provide disabled students with the best opportunities to succeed. But they do not have the institutional backing to do so right now.
Zohar Mendzelevski-Steinberg, Students’ Union UCL Disabled Students’ Officer, writes:
For the past five years, the Disabled Students’ Network (DSN) has been working with UCL on the issues outlined in this report and this has resulted in very little real change. We hope that with this report we are able to move forward and deliver positive outcomes for disabled students at UCL in partnership with the university, with an initial focus on starting on the interim measures outlined we have asked to be put in place by March and September.
UCL prides itself on being a progressive institution, the first to admit students regardless of religion, the first to make higher education accessible to a broad section of society, and the first to welcome women on equal terms with men. Using hashtags like #UCLCares the university makes its commitment toward student wellbeing clear. For these reasons we believe that UCL will not stand for this unequal access but rather take significant steps to create change.
In the report we list a series of interim steps for UCL to take in order to make their disability services preventative, accountable, collaborative and transparent.
Will you make this commitment to your disabled students UCL?