experience and the highest standards our disability
services are leading the field
you've never needed it, you might not know it was there.
You might stumble in unawares, thinking it's social sciences
(next door). But for those who know, the distinctive whoosh
of the automatic doors means they're in one of the best
university disability centres in the country. Whether
student or staff, when they go back out onto red route,
they'll know the support is there for them to work or
study on an equal basis to the other thousands of students
or staff who walk past those doors none the wiser.
a reputation across the sector for excellence and highly
praised by all who use it, Leeds' disability services
are leading the field. The University has more students
with disabilities than any other HE institution
way above the national average but is distinguished
by more than just quantity.
is special in having a fully comprehensive service, of
the highest quality, rather than offering support primarily
to students with one particular disability as many institutions
do," said head of disability services Judith Russell
(pictured left with C&IT projects officer Gwil
Selwood). "We can ensure that any student
who wishes to come here to study can do so, without their
disability being a barrier."
purpose-built disability services centre in the centre
of campus designed from scratch with the full involvement
of the disability team is also unique within the
reception area alone reflects characteristic attention
to detail from noisy doors and tactile surfaces,
down to colour coded doors and strong colour contrasts
to define the parameters of the rooms.
higher education institutions are looking to Leeds to
get their own services online: Judith Russell is acting
as a consultant to four of the 29 HEIs funded by HEFCE
to establish disability support services.
success is certainly worth imitating. "In the last
five years we've grown from supporting just 90 students
to over 900," said Judith Russell. "Leeds is
now actively attracting students with disabilities because
of the support we can offer."
was a deciding factor for pharmacology student Amit Mehta
(pictured right). He looked at other universities
but Leeds came out on top: "Leeds' prospectus was
the only one which flagged up its disability support
and it was a generally popular university. I was so determined
to come here, I put Leeds courses as my top four choices."
well as being deaf, diabetic and visually impaired, Amit
Mehta needs blood transfusions every few weeks for sideroblastic
anaemia. The regular hospitalisation was causing him to
drop behind in his work, so disability services helped
him set up a more workable arrangement with his department:
he's now taking his final two years over three.
service at Leeds is so good, because it's a specialised
disability service. Not only are they quick to respond,
they also have the necessary experience of dealing with
people with different disabilities and different needs."
out as a drop-in office on red route, disability services
now offers a dazzling array of support, from note takers,
to IT software and specialist equipment. The centre even
includes a full RNIB transcription centre, producing texts
in Braille, on tape and CD Rom.
is one of only four UK universities to provide 24-hour
support from personal assistants, all trained by the service
and the students who will be using them. PAs at other
universities are self-employed, but at Leeds they're all
University employees, ensuring a consistent high quality
students are accepted for a course, their needs are assessed
and the service then helps them access the necessary allowances
and funding, and ensure that the support is in place for
when they first come to campus.
administrator Rosemarie Lees, this early support is crucial:
"Disability services ensured everything I needed
was in place from day one, so I could just get on with
my job on an equal basis to everyone else. It took the
pressure off coming into post I've worked in other
places where they didn't have the same specialist knowledge
and it was just a nightmare."
Lees runs the LINK project, working with disability services
and continuing education to raise the educational aspirations
of disabled adults. She knows how crucial the service
is, having used it first as a student, then as a member
of staff and now on behalf of the adults she works with.
want to help our students start off from an equal basis,
but it's more problematic as they've never believed university
could be for them. But the demand is there: in just four
months, we're already working with over 50 students, and
many of them will attend courses or even go on to a degree.
Showing them the support that's available gives them the
confidence to come here."
year old Shona Cormack (pictured left with personal
assistant Lucy Winder) remembers her first day only
too clearly: "It was awful, there were so many people,
and I didn't know anyone and no one knew me. I was really
glad to have the personal assistant to show me round."
coming to university, Shona who has cerebral palsy
had never been away from her parents for long.
Now in her second year, she appreciates the confidence
and independence that being at Leeds has given her.
been really positive, getting used to a new way of life,
sorting out problems for myself rather than turning to
my parents. I know now I can cope in the big wide world,
but it's felt really reassuring, knowing that the support
is there when I need it."
services not only help staff and students, they also offer
work placements to disabled adults who've been unemployed
for a while. Ann Cheesbrough (pictured right) came
on a placement as a receptionist at disability services.
The experience and support she received gave her the confidence
to apply for a full-time post. She got a job as a receptionist
in process, materials and environmental engineering ten
months ago and hasn't looked back since.
love my job: the staff are great, all really friendly,
and the students are no problem. I'm not seen as 'the
visually-impaired receptionist', just as Ann. I'm really
happy here, and wouldn't work anywhere else. End of story!"
the field doesn't stop plans for further initiatives,
such as a £2m programme to improve access to buildings
and specialist training sessions for teaching staff.
achieved a lot, but there's always more to be done,"
said Judith Russell.