Attending, and encouraging your staff to attend, the training sessions run by the Disability Resource Centre will help you support your disabled students. The Disability Development Consultant can also provide bespoke sessions tailored to the specific requirements of those attending.
Key Support Areas
- Consult students before they come up to ascertain their support requirements
- Offer students the opportunity to come up a few days early so that they can have longer to familiarise themselves with the new surroundings and be introduced to department and university facilities, such as the library
- Ensure that the student knows what options and support (practical and financial) are open to him/her and refer them to the Disability Resource Centre for specialist advice
- Discuss any social support requirements
- Check that a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) is in place, if required, through liaison with the student and the DRC
In and around the college and department
- Ensure that, where possible, physical adaptations are made to rooms and the college and departmental environment. For University buildings, Estates Management can provide advice. Check the current Access Guide information for your college or department, and let the DRC know of any updates.
- Ensure that signs and labels are clear and easy to read. This would mean using a sans serif font on an off-white background, consistent with the University style guidelines (see in particular pages 21-23). Locations to consider for clear signage would be, for example, in the buttery, on notice boards, in the library, and on pigeon-holes.
- Ensure the website meets accessibility standards.
- Implement suggestions made in other parts of the Supporting Disabled Students webpages on the DRC website, including Teaching Disabled Students.
- Directors of Studies liaise with colleagues in the college and department to ensure support is implemented and effectiveness is monitored.
Avoiding Difficulties in the College environment
- Arrange at least daily contact by a member of College staff during periods when a student with a long-term illness is unable to leave their room
- Ensure a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) is in place and that those responsible are aware of the actions required
- Act on any concerns promptly
- Prioritise larger rooms for disabled students; additional disability equipment, storing large volumes of transcribed materials, and difficulties with organisational strategies are all helped by this
- Ask bedders not to move things around, as this can be difficult to manage for students who have left things in a location that is suitable for them, or have anxiety about others in the room
- Most disabled students benefit from an en-suite bathroom, either because personal care is a longer process, or for other access reasons
- Once a room has been made accessible to a disabled student, or when a student has anxiety, it may be appropriate or even preferred that the student stay in the same room for the duration of their course. In these cases, this would be deemed a reasonable adjustment and the College should, where possible, enable the students' friends to live near them, if they wish to.
Food and Drink in College
Ensure menu items are clearly labelled and that menus are available online, which is likely to be a more accessible format
Alert colleagues in the Buttery/Hall that certain students may not be able to carry a tray and may need to sit in a specific location
Ensure allergy information is shared with relevant members of catering staff
- Consider timing of lectures and practicals and the potential difficulties and time required to get between sites
- Disseminate information on support required as appropriate, e.g. circulate the Student Support Document to relevant teaching staff
- Arrange for handouts in advance, if requested
The built environment
Cambridge has its challenges: ancient buildings that are difficult to adapt, narrow streets and pavements, cobblestones, traffic, and cyclists on the footpath are all potential barriers for disabled students. Cambridge has its advantages: flatness, pedestrian areas and a non-stop programme of new building and refurbishment throughout the University and colleges that gives the opportunity to provide the highest standards of physical access.
How you can help
- Bear in mind that many disabled students don't cycle, so may need longer to get between places.
- Be aware of how a poor working environment makes life difficult for disabled people and compromises everybody's health and safety - so try and get obstructions in your office moved
- Don't assume that because you work in an old building there's nothing you can do at all - for University buildings, advice is available from Estates Management
- The law requires that new buildings, extensions, or refurbishment projects must take into account the needs of disabled people. The law also requires that there be strategies in place to work around any currently inaccessible rooms (for example, moving the location of a lecture to an accessible venue)
- Make use of the University Access Guide
- Be aware of the access provisions under the Equality Act (2010) and see the Law and Sector Guidance page for more information about Equality legislation
Some disabled students, including those with Asperger syndrome and those who have reduced energy levels or who are unable to drink alcohol, may require additional support in building relationships with their peers.
- Consider encouraging the organisation of events for which alcohol is not the focus
- Get feedback from students about what sorts of events would be enjoyable and liaise with those appropriate to organise the events
- With consent from the student, choose College Parents (or similar) who may be prepared to be involved more extensively, perhaps for a longer time frame
- Continue 'Get to Know You' events into the first term
- Be aware that disabled students are more prone to being bullied than non-disabled students, and have a strategy for monitoring and, where possible, avoiding this
Independent Living Support
The Disability Resource Centre has information on independent living. Contact one of our Disability Advisers (details available on the Contact Us page).