‘The support is atrocious’: Report finds UCL is ‘failing’ its disabled students

‘I feel unwelcome and unheard’


A report by UCL Disabled Students' Network has accused UCL of institutional ableism and consistently failing its disabled students.

The report found that 67 per cent of all disabled students surveyed have experienced ableism during their time at UCL, and 58 per cent felt they had been made to feel unwelcome during their time at university.

Image may contain: Poster, Advertisement, Paper, Flyer, Brochure, Letter, Text, Word

An excerpt from the report summary

The report states that UCL Student Support and Welfare (SSW) has failed to provide services and lacks understanding of the laws around disability welfare.

Many students have reportedly "given up on receiving support" due to difficulties having their needs met by SSW, with 24 per cent of students feeling "dismissed".

One student said: "Throughout my whole university experience I've felt unwelcome and unheard."

Image may contain: Page, Label, Word, Text

The report goes on to suggest the SSW lacks understanding of the laws around disability and acts unprofessionally towards disabled students.

One student states: "You are made to fuss for little concessions which is dehumanising and you then magnetise your vulnerabilities of being disabled as a result of being forced to fight for each and every measure of support or adjustment."

The report concludes that "not only are SSW neglecting to make an effort to find out about any problems (regarding students’ disabilities), their behaviour is actively discouraging reporting issues."

One of the students who gave a testimony for the report told The London Tab: "I feel abandoned by the University disability services." The student, who is deaf and autistic, said that without his parents support, which included them taking a week off work and sleeping on his floor so that they could interpret for him, he almost certainly would have dropped out of UCL within the first week.

He feels that it might only be because UCL found out about him and his family planning to take legal action that UCL began to take his disability seriously.

One of the main issues raised in the report is accessibility for students with physical disabilities. The report raises issues around the lack of disabled toilets, the lack of accessibility to buildings, the lack of flat surfaces for wheelchair users on campus and a lack of accessible fire exits for wheelchair users.

Regarding accessibility one student explained that as a wheelchair user it is impossible to independently get to class in the IOE, you need to go up a set of stairs to reach the disabled access door. The student said: "I cannot get into and out of any classroom or lecture theatre within UCL's IOE independently – thus surely failing to meet the requirements outlaid in the 2010 equality act entirely […] I was told UCL were 'limited by what it can do as the IOE is grade-listed.'"

In addition to the report, students have taken to confession page UCLove to criticise UCL's treatment of disabled students. One post claims that a student who is disabled has been denied lecturecast, an adjustment which is provided for disabled students.

Image may contain: Page, Word, Document, Label, Text

Issues of accessibility were raised by the Disability Students Network five years ago and little has changed. In 2015 the UCL President and Provost promised to address and improve the situation of accessibility.

Another post on UCLove claims that UCL have been illegally failing to make rent adjustments for disabled students.

Image may contain: Page, Text

The Disabled Students' Officer for UCL commented on the post, saying that despite their own positive personal experience, UCL "do not provide the support needed" for all disabled students.

They say: "When I looked further into it, it turned out there were several government regulations on disabled students' rights that UCL were not following (like rent adjustments) until we at the DSN started calling them in on it."

The Tab UCL talked to Zohar, the Disabled Students Officer and one of the authors of the report. Zohar said: "For the past five years, the Disabled Students' Network has been working with UCL on the issues outlined in the report and this has resulted in very little change. We hope that with this report we are able to move forward and deliver positive outcomes for disabled students at UCL in partnership with the University, with an initial focus on interim measures outlined we have asked to be put in place by March and September."

The Tab talked to a UCL spokesperson who said "We are committed to fostering a welcoming and caring environment for all our students. Ensuring excellent student experience and academic outcomes for all disabled students is an absolute priority for us.

"The wellbeing of disabled students at UCL is of the utmost importance and we will be working with the group to make sure their concerns are addressed and the best possible support is put in place.

As for any specific allegations, UCL said: "We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. All allegations of this nature are taken very seriously and we will fully investigate any complaints which are reported to us."