2020 marks the anniversaries of critical legislation for the disabled community: 50th anniversary of the UK Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act and the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act. All combined, both acts have enhanced equitability and access for those with disabilities across the UK striving to protect and support the disabled community. However, despite this progress, there are still gaps within higher education that UK higher education institutions need to tackle in order to ensure full equity for its disabled students.
The UK’s Higher Education Policy Institute(HEPI) in its October 2020 report found that disabled students in the UK are struggling financially for accessibility accommodations, medical prescriptions, and the cost of medical devices, and the £200 charge for Disabled Students’ Allowance equipment. According to the Office of National Statistics, roughly 65% of disabled adults said COVID-19 related concerns were affecting their wellbeing, leading to an increase in stress and anxiety. Additionally, disabled adults are more likely than non-disabled students to report spending too much time alone, with 3% disabled adults reporting this in comparison to 20% of non-disabled adults. The report found that “31% of disabled people in the UK were living in poverty in 2017/18, in stark contrast to the 20% of non-disabled people living in poverty that year. Disabled people are much more likely to be economically inactive or unemployed, and more likely to be working part time rather than full time. There is a shortage of accessible housing in the UK, preventing many disabled people from living independently, and disabled people are more likely to experience health inequalities and major health conditions than other people”
Additionally, the National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP) recent report highlighted the varying effects COVID-19 has had on students. While some disabled students found remote learning and studying easier due to the lack of a commute and navigating physical constraints on a campus, others with hearing impairments have struggled with online lectures and lack of adequate captioning. Furthermore, “some students with social communication difficulties or autism have described struggling with the amount of multi-tasking required by online lectures and seminars, and students with mental health concerns are reporting high levels of anxiety and stress which are impacting on their ability to study.
Both studies and recent news reports only reinforce the urgent need to the address the variety of challenges students with disabilities have to contend with. Regardless of location, students with disabilities face unprecedented challenges and it is the role of those in higher education to ensure that these students don’t fall through the cracks.
With Symplicity Access, educational institutions can effectively help with all of the necessary services students with disabilities and learning difficulties need on a fully new level. With our user-friendly platform, universities are able to simplify the delivery of reasonable adjustments to disabled students for a better user experience, higher accountability, compliance and transparency across the institution plus increased operational efficiency and savings for the university. Additionally, through its intuitive, mobile-friendly student interface, it’s easy for disabled students to find how they can get the support they need. This allows for effective communication among students, teachers, staff, and family members to ensure that disabled students whose academic coursework has been impacted by COVID-19 can get the critical support they need to succeed academically and beyond.