I was recently looking across a couple of old links and found an article from 2010 reporting a study which revealed that more disabled students were dropping out of university. As somebody who had a disabled friend studying at university I know that the provision of support and services is an important issue. Often we can get wrapped up in a single mindset about things, so I decided this week to look at studying from a different perspective.
The aforementioned Guardian article centred on Rosie, a mature student at Durham University who had particular problems with tutors and provision of assistance for her deafness. According to the piece, at the time, it appears that Rosie was not alone. “Universities are still failing to adequately accommodate disabled students, leading to higher dropout rates and claims of discrimination. There are fears that the economic climate could make things even worse.” As this was written four years’ ago I am eager to know if times have changed.
Even though my own friend (Matthew) received solid support, help and advice from his university I often encouraged him to switch his studies to the Open University! For his postgraduate studies he heeded my persistent advice and moved across to the OU. He has never looked back. While drafting this article I decided to give Matthew a shout via e-mail and see how fondly he looks back at his university days.
“I really enjoyed my time at university and, to be honest, my disability was never a problem” he told me.
“In fact everywhere I’ve studied at has made sure my needs were catered for, without exception. Having the course books as PDF files helped as I could upload them to my laptop which meant no carrying around heavy text books.”
Matthew’s positive experience is encouraging and he’s not just talking about the OU, but in fact also commends his undergraduate university and says that they made sure he was well looked after. Specially-arranged tours of the library facilities, specific evacuation arrangements of the main buildings and a personally assigned “helper” for the first week enabled him to smoothly transition into university life. Distance learning with the Open University later enabled Matthew to continue his studies at a suitable pace and without the daily travelling.
“The online forum was always helpful, both for my own tutor group and keeping in touch with fellow students around the UK. I did spend a bit too long in the cafe forum at times though!”
For more information on the Open University’s Services for Disabled Students click here.
You can read previous posts from Surviving The OU by clicking here!
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