Casting a lens on invisible disabilities – 05/11/19

Last year, Jenna Chapman, uea(su)’s Undergraduate Education officer made an effort to ensure all lectures at UEA were recorded. However, this service is opt in to record lectures, not opt out.

The fact lecturers aren’t mandated to record their lectures means only a small number of lectures are recorded and put on Blackboard. Recorded lectures would greatly help those with invisible disabilities. Currently students have to approach each of their lecturers to request that their lectures are recorded.

Third year student Danny Hayes stated: ‘Being able to record my lectures is enormously important to how I’m able to succeed at university, because it gives me something to refer back to and organise my thoughts for seminars and essays.’

Hayes further remarked: ‘Likewise my DSA software allows me to edit alongside these recordings and presentations so I’m able to organise myself much better, it’s something I think more lecturers should be using as it’s really helped me in the long term.’

Although having recorded lectures would greatly assist those at UEA with invisible disabilities, UEA doesn’t appear to have the right technology to do so – most lectures are recorded on personal devices and then uploaded a few days after the lecture.

The DSA stands for ‘Disabled Student Allowance’, a government run programme to provide students with software and other equipment to use at university. The allowance is available for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including those on full time and part time and those on unpaid sandwich courses. Those who are open and distance students are also eligible for the allowance too. The allowance is paid in addition to your student finance loans or grants. The DSA was set up to help support those with any form of impairment, mental health condition or learning difficulty to cover any study related expenses you might incur.

Student Roo Pitt came to UEA because of how good the support services were rumoured to be. Pitt stated: ‘Student support are fantastic at supporting me, but obviously I can only speak about my experience. If I ever have an issue they are more than happy to assist me.’

Ranstad are a company who work alongside student services to provide services to those with disabilities.

Pitt then remarked: ‘Ranstad are not so great as they are a little slow at providing support. However, student support is good at encouraging them to actually support us.

Anytime I’ve had issues with the support of my course, I’ve been able to go to the Support services for help.’ Pitt continued to tell me: ‘Lecturers are always willing to help but don’t always know how, therefore I feel I have to be proactive in seeing what works for me and helping my lecturers support me in the best way they can.’

On their website, Ranstad state ‘For the 1.3 million people in the UK with a disability (who are available for work) only half are employed, compared to 80% of non-disabled people. Providing practical assistance through Support Workers can improve their chances of establishing a fulfilling career.’

It is imperative students with invisible disabilities are provided with the services they need in order to be able to perform to the best of their ability whilst at university, such as lecture recordings and lecture slides.Unfortunately, UEA is still far from being fully accessible to those with invisible disabilities.

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