NFBUK wants to promote awareness of changes to Disabled Students Allowance and to campaign with blind and partially sighted students to ensure they have access to the standardised resources they require to participate in and complete higher education, without incurring costs related to their disability themselves.
Changes being implemented to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) from 2016 mean that higher education providers will be expected to take primary responsibility for most non-medical help in bands 1 and 2, and DSA will keep primary responsibility for funding sighted guides.
Bands 1 and 2 include readers, scribes and library support.
NFBUK feels strongly that blind and partially sighted students should all have access to standard resources and this should not vary according to the individual higher education institute.
Eligible DSA students assessed as requiring a computer to undertake their studies because of their disability will be expected to contribute the first £200 towards the cost of their computer. A charge that the NFBUK finds unreasonable as it further disadvantages people with a disability.
There is an impact on the retention of blind and partially sighted students in higher education if they feel there is insufficient support. A survey by Randstad July (2014) reported that “More than one in three students with a disability (34%) say they would definitely not have attended university without DSA support”. NFBUK is concerned that these changes will impact negatively on, and are in contradiction to, the widening participation agenda that higher education is meant to be encouraging.
None medical helpers working with students through the DSA will be required to complete a new Quality Assessment framework to update their skills. Although they have until 2018 to do this there is concern that students will lose very experienced helpers who don’t want to complete the assessment framework. NFBUK is concerned about loss of experienced helpers and the impact on students.
In summary NFBUK do not think it is reasonable that blind and partially sighted students should incur costs or be offered none standardised services and resources, and that they should also be given full information about what is available to them when they first apply to university.
NFBUK aims to:
- Increase awareness amongst blind and partially sighted students of higher education institutes obligations to provide support for disability and gain access to this support.
- Monitor, by working with higher education institutes and students, the level of support and provision available under Band 1 and Band 2 for blind and partially sighted students.
- Lobby the following for changes so that any costs incurred due to a disability are free for students:
- Department for Business Innovation and Skills and in particular Professor George Layer who is the chair of the steering group of the Disabled Sector Leadership Group and responsible for sharing good practice in inclusion of disabled students in higher education;
- Minister for Universities – Jo Johnson;
- Office for Fair Access (OFFA) for higher education.
If you would like to support our campaign on the DSA please contact Haleema Aslam by email firstname.lastname@example.org