Five things we learnt at Disabled Students' Conference 2016

Friday 25-03-2016 - 10:30

This week we’ve been in Manchester for our annual Disabled Students’ Conference. It’s been a busy affair, with delegates from all across the UK meeting for three days to discuss policy, participate in workshops and to elect their leadership for the next year. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what happened during this year’s Conference…

1. This Conference presents disabled students with a rare opportunity.

NUS Disabled Students’ Conference was formally opened by our outgoing Disabled Students’ Officer Maddy Kirkman, who urged delegates to “use conference”, mentioning that it is “one of the few spaces in the word where self-defining disabled people come together to take action.”

2. Conference doesn’t have a lot of time for IDS.

Following his sensational resignation from the Cabinet last week, Iain Duncan Smith’s name was the one being mentioned by most during the opening day of Conference. Not least because of the savage spending cuts to disabled people which he has presided over during the past six years in government.

We set up a light-hearted poll asking delegates for their opinions of the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. It was tight, but the results are in…

3. Our new Mental Health and Suicide Prevention handbook was launched.

Students at Disabled Students’ Conference were the first to get their hands on a copy of our brand new Mental Health and Suicide Prevention handbook, which was launched by Maddy Kirkman and the Disabled Students’ Campaign during a workshop on the topic.

The new resource is full of information about good practice happening within the movement around suicide prevention and is there to support SUs to improve their work in this area.

4. We had tonnes more speakers, workshops, caucuses and one great big group photo pleading to #SaveLord.

Across the three days, our delegates had the chance to explore different themes which affect disabled students on a daily basis. From experts Attitude is Everything advising on how to make students’ union social spaces and venues as accessible as possible, through to sessions tailored to support delegates looking to develop themselves as leaders.

Elsewhere, we looked at how the government’s changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) will impact students’ unions locally. In a similar vein, our Vice President (Welfare) Shelly Asquith also talked through the devastating welfare cuts facing disabled students before delegates discussed as a group what can be done to fight them and act in solidarity with other anti-cuts campaigns.

5. Your new leadership was elected.

Last but by no means least, delegates at this year’s Conference elected their next wave of leaders for the 2016 – 2017 term.

In an engaging and narrow election, James Elliot saw off competition from Bel Deol to be elected as the next NUS Disabled Students’ Officer.

There were seven candidates taking part in the election for NEC 2nd Place Representative, but it was Rachel O’Brien from the University of Birmingham who was elected.

There were also elections for Committee Places and Steering Committee which took place on the final day. The full results of these will be available on very shortly.

NUS Disabled Students’ Conference took place in Manchester between Tuesday 22 and Thursday 24 March and you can re-live all of the action via the #NUSDisabled16 hashtag. Our next Liberation Conference will be NUS Women Students’ Conference, which takes place in Solihul from Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 April 2016.


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