But disabled students also have a part to play in improving institutions’ behaviour, says LegalAware
How learning providers respond to disabled students could be, in future, quite a telling indicator of the quality of that learning provider, with the government’s white paper, “Putting students at the heart of higher education”, setting out a clear benchmark for what students should be able to expect.
The agenda for disabled law students under the government’s new framework is very much set by the law students. One way of getting involved is through the National Union of Students’ recently-launched petition calling for the establishment of a national advocacy service for disabled students (disabilities usually include long-term illnesses, mental-health conditions and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia). In fact, if you’d like to set up your own disabled students’ group, you can email them for advice: email@example.com.
Still, I also feel it is up to the individual learning provider to be pro-active in responding to what disabled law students aspire to. At the bare minimum, they can simply comply with the white paper. But learning providers which wish to add social value may wish to do more to understand what disabled students aspire to and are legally entitled to. Certainly, it would reflect well on them to do so.
A starting point is the UCAS website. For most, UCAS is synonymous with the application form you fill in to apply to get a place at university. I filled in one many years ago. However, the UCAS website is also a great resource of information. Talking about ‘rights’ of disabled students can sound very adversarial, but these rights are sadly not well advertised. These rights include the legal obligations of learning providers under the Equality Act (2010). These days, learning providers have disability co-ordinators, who are supposed to be a port of call for disabled students. The UCAS website advises that, “If you visit a college or university, it might be helpful to take with you a checklist of questions to ask members of staff and student.”
Disabled law students unfortunately are often not aware of certain financial entitlements. If you have a disability you may be entitled to claim extra financial help while studying (for more info, please see here). Sources of extra financial help for disabled students include types of student finance and benefits. These are paid on top of the standard student finance package and include:
To some extent, information itself is empowerment, and if you’re disabled you should be able to get soundings as to what’s available. This is to give you the confidence to enter professional life as a legal practitioner, as an academic, or something totally different, on completing your law degree.
LegalAware is the head of the BPP Legal Awareness Society, and a keen and devoted legal blogger.