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C+: Four in five disabled students struggle with academic work

Cherwell Investigations found that 82% of self-identified disabled students find university work more difficult due to their disability

A poll by Cherwell’s Investigations team can reveal that 82 per cent of students that identify as having a disability find it harder to complete their academic work each week. Many students cited social stigma and a lack of understanding among tutors and staff as contributing to their work’s extra difficulty.
Some students—especially without formal diagnoses of disability—were worried that they would not be taken seriously by their tutors when asking for extensions or flexibility. Other students reported feeling explicitly discriminated against, both by their tutors and fellow students.
Tutors’ attitudes apparently vary considerably between colleges, suggesting a lack of consistent support throughout the collegiate system. In general, the survey found that students wished their tutors were more aware of how specific disabilities affect students, and that some work deadlines could be adapted to fit specific needs.
Many students felt as though ‘invisible’ disabilities, including mental health problems, learning disabilities and other mental disabilities, needed more awareness from the University. Students felt as though the stress of high workloads on these conditions was less well-known by their tutors.
In a statement to C+, Gillian Hamnet, head of Student Welfare and Support Services said: “We are keen to provide support, where needed, to help disabled students succeed in their studies. The central Disability Advisory Service works with disability contacts in colleges and departments to ensure that appropriate support is in place.
“We consider each student’s individual circumstances to provide the resources they need to study, and currently support around 3,000 students at Oxford who have declared a disability. We also help students to apply for the Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA) or other relevant funding, and can recommend support such as adjustments to accommodation or alternative arrangements for examinations.”
88 per cent of students said that the Disabled Students Allowance paid for all or part of the resources needed to help study.
Lectures were frequently described as inaccessible locations for disabled students. Despite some lectures being recorded, the opt-in process for lecture capture has resulted in variations between different courses, Cherwell learned.
Dr Peggy McCready, Director of Academic IT, said: “More and more lectures are being recorded for all students to use. Lecture capture is freely available at the point of use and is an opt-in service where departments are encouraged to capture their lectures in the interest of supporting student learning.”

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