With the Paralympics taking place this week, Eluceo thought it would be interesting to look at the best universities for students with disabilities.

Within the UK, disabled people are protected by the Equality Act 2010, which provides legal rights for disabled people in areas such as employment, education, and access to good, services and facilities. A person is defined as having a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment, and this impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to perform normal day-to-day activities.

Under this act, universities must make reasonable adjustments to their campuses for disabled students, for example ensuring that lecture halls, libraries, and halls of residences are more accessible by providing lifts, dropping kerbs, altering steps, and making sure better lighting and clear signage are provided where necessary.

Unfortunately, although universities may provide the basics, the Trailblazers’ Education Report found that one in ten disabled students will not have access to accommodation, cooking and dining facilities; 30% of inter-campus transport is not accessible to disabled students; one in four universities do not have rooms available for personal assistants; and that the UCAS clearing system disadvantages disabled students as it leaves them less than a month to choose their preferred course and university, as well as instigate access, accommodation and arrange care.

As a disabled student, prior to applying to university, you may wish to think about what type of university would suit your needs. For example, many universities are built on one campus, with accommodation, lecture theatres and leisure facilities all in one place; it may be easier to navigate such a university. Eluceo provides information on the type of setting of each university under University Guides. Also think about what you would like to study; you may wish to study Veterinary Science, but with a disability it may be more appropriate to study something without a practical element.

Universities should have a Disability Office and they support both your application and your time throughout university. Their assistance may involve screenings and assessments to find out what your needs are, for example wheelchair access in you halls of residence; a study skills service which may provide support regarding time management, organisation, or revision if students have a mental health issue or learning difficulty; examination arrangements such as extra time, readers/scribes, or exam papers in large fonts; arrangements in the library such as extended library loans; and assistive equipment such as alternative keyboards and mice. Their support will be undertaken in confidentiality.

British students are offered a Disabled Students’ Allowance to help them with their needs. Unfortunately, this allowance is not available to international students; some universities have separate funds for disabled students, although this is not widespread. Eluceo is currently looking into the funding available to international students with disabilities.

In the Summer of 2009, Trailblazers undertook an investigation into the universities with the best facilities for disabled students. They looked at fifteen issues including whether mobility issues were addressed, whether there were links with local care agencies, whether the university had specialist advisers, whether there was room in halls for personal assistants, whether inter-campus transport was accessible, and whether the surrounding area and town were accessible. Of the 69 universities examined, those that scored most highly were:

University of Aberdeen Essex University
University of Abertay Imperial College London
University of Birmingham University of Liverpool
Brunel University London School of Economics
City University Queen's University Belfast
Coventry University Royal Holloway, UoL
Durham University University of Surrey

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