October Blog - Disabilities Officer

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I’m Zoe your disabilities officer. If you have been reading my officer reports, you’ll know parts of what myself and my committee have been doing. This blog just goes into a bit more detail of what I’ve been up to and whats been happening with your feedback.

I have also written a previous blog in August which you can read here, on the Students' Union website.

This past month I have been working a lot on issues brought to my attention by students. I collected feedback from students about their concerns and questions about returning to campus with both online and face to face teaching.

The main concerns that were brought up were: attendance monitoring; how timetabling was going to work; masks on campus; and getting around campus safely.

To discuss these concerns and questions I had meetings with the VP Education. The first concern we addressed was attendance and how it was going to be monitored. Attendance monitoring has had an upgrade since last year and is now done online. A concern many students had was, if they were clinically vulnerable due to health conditions and they did not wish to attend face to face sessions, would they be penalised for this? We discussed that if a student is comfortable then they should attend face to face sessions where they can, but if they are vulnerable and would prefer not to be on campus, then they can email wellbeing, their tutors and the lecturer to explain this. In some instances, if enough students do not wish to attend a face to face session that is not mandatory, then lecturers can switch these to online sessions.

Another concern that was raised was - in face to face sessions making sure deaf and hard of hearing students could understand the lecturer. To try and address this concern I have had meetings with wellbeing and the VP Education to discuss the universities mask policy and how we can be inclusive of deaf or hard of hearing students whilst keeping everyone on campus safe and following guidelines. One idea was to use see through masks as well as visors. Another idea was to use a live caption service. These ideas are still in the pipelines as we are monitoring progress as the year progresses.

A question I got from a student was how is timetabling going to work for lectures, I raised this question in my meeting with the VP Education who told me that any face to face sessions that are timetabled should be staggered. The sessions/lectures should last 45 minutes giving students plenty of time to exit before another lecture which should begin on the hour. This means the academic day had to get longer (9am-8pm) to account for all the staggering.

Another thing raised to me by a student was how the one-way systems work with lifts, as well as how different campus looks, therefore making it confusing to get around. To try to answer these, I had a meeting with the VP Wellbeing and Community to discuss how some of the one-way systems work and if these included the Arts and Sports Bridges, which they don’t. We also discussed any concerns we had around the accessibility of campus, whilst keeping to guidelines. This led to myself and the Invisible Disabilities Lead having a meeting with the Head of Estates to discuss the accessibility of campus with all the Covid measures that have been put in place. This meeting addressed a lot of concerns we had. These where things like: accessing and exiting buildings; the number of people allowed in lifts; and other small but still vital things, like hazard tape on the lip of the ramps on the new campus tipis, to make people aware of the uneven surface. We also discussed the new lay out and the way we move around all University buildings, which have had to be changed due to COVID. This gave us an idea to upload the building plans that show the layout with one-way systems and routes onto Navigate Me, so that students can see the one-way systems in buildings.

As we have had meetings with Estates before about accessibility in our Accessibility Report (as mentioned in Augusts Blog), we also got a little update that Estates have now purchased some benches, so we got an insight into where those benches are eventually going to be placed on campus - which is very exciting.

Something else that is very exciting is that we now have a full committee!!

If you would like to make a suggestion or have an issue, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

If you would like to be a part of the Disabilities Campaigns Network Group, you can sign up for free through the Students' Union online shop here. If you sign up, you will be invited to take part in focus groups and surveys. You will also receive emails about any events and campaigns that are going to take place.