About Us

Disabled Students’ Allowances in England are under threat. This blog brings together news, research, evidence and testimony that supports DSAs to help those seeking to protect disabled students’ right to higher education.

The blog is convened by Dr Sarah Lewthwaite, an independent academic researcher. Sarah previously researched student experience as a research associate at King’s College London. Her PhD focussed on disabled students’ experiences of disability and technology in higher education. Prior to her postgraduate studies, Sarah’s career included working as a note-taker at the University of Nottingham, supporting disabled undergraduate and postgraduate students in class. In total, Sarah has over 10 years experience researching and supporting disabled students’ access to higher education.

2 comments:

  1. Hyi Sarah
    I am also a KCL PHD student in receipt of DSA. I often describe myself as a DSA serial claimant as I am in my 10th year of claiming the grant to complete a Graduate Diploma in Law, MA in Ethics and Law in Healthcare Practice and now in my 6th year of completing my PHD – looking at the design of social care qualifications and seeing whether they are fit for purpose for disabled people employing their own PAs.
    ALLFIE has a meeting at LSE with disabled students officers from London universities who are interested in carrying on with the DSA campaign work – this is because NUS has stopped campaigning which is a real problem especially when things are up in the air…
    1) regulations need to be debated now Labour have prayed against them
    2) two legal challenges are still being pursued on the lawfulness of DSA guidance and consultation process
    3) more draft guidance maybe coming out – a Government delaying tactic
    SO there is still plenty of opportunity over the next 2 months to keep pressure on Government to withdraw the guidance…

    It be fantastic if we can meet face-to-face – you are more than welcome to attend the LSE meeting on Thurs evening – happy to email over the details separately. If you can that be great – we could meet about 1 hour before.

    Do contact me on simone.aspis@allfie.org.uk and tel 0207 737 6030

    thanks Simone Aspis

  2. Is anyone challenging the introduction of the £200 contribution towards computers? I was disappointed to note that BIS indicated that they intended to introduce this as computer ownership is common place and so students might be expected to already own computers to go to University. I believe this initial explanation of their justification has created a smoke screen for universities as it is based on a flawed assumption. In actuality most universities (the Open University being the notable exception) do the opposite and actively market that students don’t need a computer to come to University. Universities advertise and communicate that as part of the fees paid students will have access to extensive computer facilities across campuses. They actively tell students in admissions literature that they DO NOT NEED a computer as facilities and services, free at the point of use, are available to all. So when a Needs Assessment report, which actively requires the assessor to consider the suitability of such facilities and software on campuses, goes on to recommend a computer as a direct result of disability which makes the universal computer facilities at a campus unsuitable(for example to be able to run particular accessible software) the assessors are in fact identifying that the services offered by Universities are unsuitable due to disability; meaning that the responsibility to consider reasonable adjustments is the responsibility of the University.

    It is clearly an anticipatory duty to address this as the number of students with DSA computers is well known to Universities. The responsibility for the adjustment to University computer facilities is the University’s. Therefore the £200 costs should be being met by Universities not individual students. The funding above the £200 from the government is creating a smokescreen around accountability. I am concerned that the language of BIS is allowing Universities to disown any responsibility for this reasonable adjustment. Essentially a non-disabled student at University need not spend any money on a computer, as advised by Universities themselves; but a handful of disabled students are being asked to pay £200 towards computers to compensate for a service actually offered by their Universities. I contacted 9 Universities to check (including Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford, Leeds, Sheffield) who all told me as a prospective student I would not need a computer as they provided those services and facilities; and yet as a disabled student at these universities should I be recommended a computer for disability related reasons alone would have to pay £200 towards it because BIS has not spotted or acknowledged that what they are doing is funding a reasonable adjustment which is the responsibility of any University (especially those that are telling students they don’t need a computer because this is included in their fees in the form of computers around the campus.)
    I hope that enough individual students put this together and challenge it; I hoped some had raised this with you as I know you are working with students to review this area. As BIS have signalled the intention that responsibility for reasonable adjustments should move over time from central government to Universities it is vital that from the earliest instances Universities are challenged to identify and respond to their responsibilities on an individual basis; as the inferences in this instance from BIS disguise that Universities have to consider their responsibility to disabled students.
    If you are progressing any challenges to this then please let me know!

    Thanks Aletheia

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