Scottish Parliament offers guidelines on how to better support disabled students

Published

Credit: Cary Bass-Deschenes

Thaïs Ramdani
Reporter

The way in which Scottish Universities support disabled students has been criticised by a report recently published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Through a series of meetings with a range of individuals from Disability Services and other Scottish Organisations, the Commission gathered information on the current experiences of students with disabilities within Universities across the country.

Lauren McDougall, Disability Equality officer of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), attended one of these sessions, submitting a list of eleven issues and concerns regarding the experiences of disabled students both within the University of Glasgow and elsewhere in Higher Education. Among these concerns were the delay in accessing the Disabled Students’ Allowance, the lack of accessible teaching spaces, the lack of engagement with student life, and the lack of adequate mental health support for students with disabilities.

Following these meetings, the EHRC set out a number of recommendations to Scottish Universities.

University staff are currently not required to take part in any equality and diversity training, though training is optional for all staff. The report outlines the need to “move from a voluntary to a mandatory position on rights-based equalities training” to ensure continuous development. In order to facilitate such a change, it is recommended that the newly appointed Commissioner for Fair Access, Professor Peter Scott, should occupy a co-ordinating role in “promoting understanding of a statutory rights-based approach, helping to implement change and monitoring outcomes.”

The need for better transparency and consistency in Scottish Universities has also been addressed within the report. Such changes, both in the application process and throughout students’ time at University, should be put forward “in order to ensure fairness and provide confidence.” The lack of clarity regarding the application process has been an issue particularly for students in need of additional support, as highlighted in the SRC’s own evidence report.

Lauren McDougall, the SRC’s Disability Equality Officer, stated that the Equality and Human Rights Committee’s report, if taken seriously, could have a significant impact on the way Universities support disabled students. She added: “We have a close working relationship with the Equality and Diversity Unit at the University and will be approaching them to discuss the implications of the report’s findings and how we can implement positive changes going forward.”

The full Equality and Human Rights Committee Report can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/S5_Equal_Opps/Reports/EHRiCS052017R01.pdf