Student forced to drop out after their university was unable to fund a sign language interpreter
The Brighton student said: ‘It’s devastating. I’m trying to remain strong and positive and just try to fight it as best I can’
A deaf student at The University of Brighton has been forced to drop out of their course after the university miscalculated the cost of a sign language interpreter.
Chelsea Reinschmidt, an international student from the US studying a master’s in occupational therapy, has withdrawn from their course after being told last week that the university could not fund their access needs of a sign language interpreter.
Chelsea had already paid over £10,000 in flights, visa costs and accommodation. They said: “It’s devastating. I’m trying to remain strong and positive and just try to fight it as best I can.” They have submitted a formal complaint to the university.
According to the 2010 Equality Act, all universities are legally required to ensure that their courses are accessible for disabled students, including international students.
Chelsea had secured funding for sign language interpretation for her lectures and seminars through their US student loan, based on Brighton University’s calculation of the number of hours needed. But, after they had already moved and settled into the UK, the university realised it had miscalculated the total number because it failed to factor in that two interpreters were needed as well as take into account placements on the course. Chelsea’s student loan company then refused to add the new amount to their loan.
After the meeting, where Chelsea was told they either had to drop out or transfer to another subject because it couldn’t fund their access needs, they said: “When the meeting happened, I was shocked. I started crying and had to leave the room and literally broke down sobbing.
“This is a problem for home UK deaf students as well because the disabled students’ allowance limit is far less than what is required for the licensing requirements, and this is true of all the healthcare programs. It’s a system that is effectively preventing deaf people from becoming healthcare professionals.”
Chelsea was also told by the university that it could not support any peer fundraising to pay for the sign language interpreters needed to allow them to continue on the course.
Chelsea told Brighton and Hove News: “I got into several of the universities I applied for but unfortunately a few said they can’t fund interpreters for me. There were a lot of barriers and only the University of Brighton decided to accept me. They said they were very excited to have me as a student. I’d be the first deaf one in the program MSc occupational therapy at University of Brighton.”
Brighton University kept Chelsea registered on the course because of their visa arrangements and did offer a course transfer, but they have now officially dropped out of university.
A spokesperson for Brighton University said: “Almost one-third of our students have a registered disability and we provide support to them all, wherever in the world they come from. The costs of supporting students with disabilities can be significant and students from the UK can apply for up to £26,000 a year towards those costs via the government’s disability support allowance. Unfortunately, this scheme is not available to students from outside the UK, so we use our own funds to create an individual support package for each international student.
“We are clear where they must also be able to secure funding from elsewhere, including from their country of origin. This is something we discuss and agree during the application process to ensure students are fully aware of the requirements. The university appoints a learning disability co-ordinator to refine the support each student requires and they are involved in agreeing this prior to the start of a student’s course.
“We are currently working with an international student to understand why they haven’t been able to obtain the funding we agreed must come from their country of origin or other personal resources. The student has not been removed from their course and we will continue to support them through this process.”