One of the major issues that disabled students at Cambridge face is that their reasonable adjustments – the support they are legally entitled to in order to access their studies – are often inadequately or patchily implemented by some academic staff. From data collected in CUSU’s annual Big Cambridge Survey, less than half of disabled students felt that reasonable adjustments had always been adequately made for them.
There is little knowledge of the system, and a general feeling that academic staff at Cambridge – especially supervisors and lecturers – often don’t know what reasonable adjustments are, and so can fail to implement them adequately. In other cases, students have reported that staff sometimes treat reasonable adjustments as a set of optional recommendations, with insinuations made in emails or CamCORS reports that the student is not trying hard enough, or will struggle in exams due to their health issues. This needs to change.
After the success of the recent Intermission Guide launched by the Disabled Students’ Campaign, our next project for Easter term is a similar guide on issues surrounding reasonable adjustments and student support documents (SSDs).* The end goal of this guide is to provide accessible guidance where there has previously been none before. We wish to support and empower students in ensuring reasonable adjustments are adequately provided and monitored, and provide guidance on how to seek recourse if things go wrong.
In the meantime, we will also be in conversations with the Disability Resource Centre and the University to think up strategies for implementing supervisor training, and other shareable resources for supervisors – as we have a genuine belief that many are well-meaning, but poorly resourced. These resources, when we created, could be sent out with a student’s SSD and explain the document’s purpose, context, and importance.
To get involved, send your feedback on the issues of dissemination of Student Support Documents and implementation of reasonable adjustments to firstname.lastname@example.org by 9am on Monday 15th May.
Please note that unless otherwise stated, it will be assumed that you consent for your anonymised feedback to be included in our campaigning efforts.
* Student Support Documents are individual tailored documents detailing the support a student needs with their studies. They are issued by the Disability Resource Centre and are the property of the individual student.