4 things that hinder accessibility in schools and universities

Providing equal access to education opportunities is a central component of much government policy with aim of providing fair and equal access to education and subsequent employment opportunities. For many disabled students however, the physical design, arrangement and obstacles offered by the education system, and often its buildings, can cause unfair discrimination to those wishing to benefit from the same educational benefits.

Pippa Stacey is a disability writer and recent graduate from University of York. She shares her experience of her time as a disabled student with us and suggests ways that the experience could be improved for those wishing to study.

Despite constant improvement in recent years, the education system is far from perfect when it comes to accessibility. I know there are so many things which could be spoken about, but I hope to outline the most important. Fixing these things is will not make the education system accessible to everyone, but it can ensure you’re on the right path.

Documents that cannot be edited

I saw this so much, especially during my undergraduate degree. It’s engrained from the days of photocopying textbooks. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but do you have it in an alternative format?

If you have a student who’s visually impaired, being able to increase the text size makes a document accessible. I’ve had so many things blown up to A3, with that being the accessible option. Yet this means I have so much paper, the document is too grainy to read, and is often still too small to read.

Thinking that everyone should be taught the same

You teach how you teach, but is this excluding some of your students? We all learn differently, with this often been mistaken for an inability.

You might have students who really struggle within a classroom environment. They are often labelled as disruptive or unable to learn. Yet with some adjustments are able to thrive and learn at their own pace.

The building 

Physical access is key. Whether this is having lifts in place or having a quiet space for those with sensory processing difficulties. However, a lift doesn’t always solve the problem.

When I used a wheelchair, I quickly realised that the ‘accessible’ route was almost always longer. I had detours outside, some of which were awful during the cold winter months. To avoid one step, it could take me 5 minutes. This might not seem like much, but it makes a big difference when you already experience pain and fatigue, with cold weather exasperating symptoms. Not only that, the social implications meant not being with friends or constantly being late to the conversation. This can easily lead to isolation.

Misconceptions of disability

Disabled students can face discrimination before they’ve entered the classroom. The public perception of disabled people isn’t exactly a positive one. So much so, you might unknowing expect less from them. You’ve judge their ability on the fact their disabled.

Yes, I’ve had to work harder to achieve within education. But that’s been down to the believe that I could. Make sure you don’t limit your disabled students.

Pippa Stacey is a chronically ill writer based in Yorkshire, England.

She currently splits her time between communications consultancy in the charity sector, blogging and freelance writing, speaking and presenting, and creating books and eBooks.

Halfway through her undergraduate degree at the University of York, Pippa acquired a debilitating chronic illness. This completely changed her busy, active way of life and it took a huge amount of time and effort to really find her feet and begin to feel like herself again.

Leave a Comment