Under previous plans, from next year universities and colleges would take on responsibility for providing any IT ‘peripherals’ (such as printers or scanners) or equivalent facilities, as well as any additional or adapted accommodation recommended. These elements have now been deferred to 2016/17.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills cited ‘concerns that some institutions are not yet in a position to deliver a fully accessible service to students’ which ‘may result in a negative impact for some students’ before stating that ‘deferring these proposed changes until 2016/17 will help give institutions the time to review the services they offer to disabled students and make appropriate improvements to meet their needs’.
The Department’s full statement is available here.
Commenting on the announcement, NUS’ Disabled Students’ Officer Maddy Kirkman said: ‘This is another step in the right direction and a further vindication of the campaign work by SUs and NUS, and our position that it is unacceptable to shift responsibility towards universities and colleges if they are unprepared and there is a risk students will not be adequately supported. We are pleased the Department is listening to these concerns.
‘We’re seeking urgent clarification from the Department to be clear what is changing for 2015/16. From what we have been able to establish the elements contained within the regulations are still going ahead at this time. Principally, this means there will still be a £200 contribution towards IT equipment. We know many universities and colleges plan to assist students with this cost, but for many this will mean finding funds they cannot afford and we will continue to campaign against this change in the coming weeks.
‘We should add there was a chance the regulations would be debated in the House of Commons but as time goes on it seems we may run out of parliamentary time ahead of the General Election. However, there is expected to a be a court hearing on the legality of the process in April and this may yet mean the changes are further delayed. We will be issuing a full briefing shortly on the state of play with the campaign and the actions SUs can take over the next couple of months.’
Today (Thursday 12 March), NUS is campaigning on the cost of living crisis. As part of this, we are calling for a permanent halt to the cuts to the DSA and for it to be reviewed so that access to higher education for disabled students is improved.
We urge students and students’ unions who feel they may be affected by proposals to the DSA to get in touch with Maddy Kirkman on Maddy.Kirkman@nus.org.uk. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is also welcoming comments and enquiries on the DSA proposals. These should be directed to email@example.com.