Reasonable Adjustments and Student Support Documents – Send us your feedback

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 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.

Reasonable Adjustments and Student Support Documents – Send us your feedback

3 thoughts on “Reasonable Adjustments and Student Support Documents – Send us your feedback

  1. I have hypermobility-attributed back pain.

    I think my SSD document maybe needed to be shared around my department (engineering) more. I often experienced really bad back pain in labs and often tried to look around for a slightly more supportive chair (though there wasn’t always one available, and given the size of the engineering department this would not be hard to make available) than the silly chairs they used, only to be interrogated by a lab technician on one occasion about why I felt I should have a better chair than everyone else.

    I’m not sure my supervisors would have known where to find me a better chair for supervisions so that maybe was a barrier.

    Also I just doubt most of them ever saw my SSD.

    1. I feel you on this! I also have hypermobility and although my back pain isn’t the main way it affects me, I do find seating to be a big issue. Our lecture rooms have very uncomfortable chairs and I often find sitting in lectures (particularly if I’m there for a couple of hours consecutively) causes my pain to flare up, but I don’t know who to ask for a better one. The same’s happened in supervisions, though when I did ask one supervisor about it and pointed out that my SSD does say I need ergonomic seating, he endeavoured to find one for me — after expressing surprise that I had an SSD, because no one had told him.

      Most, but not all, of my supervisors were given it so it’s kind of hard to know whether I need to double check or not. One of my papers is a borrowed paper from another department, which seems to have contributed to the miscommunication, but because all my supervisors at the start of the year seemed to have seen it I just assumed the others had, and it caused a couple of issues when it turned out they didn’t. Also, I’m reasonably public about my health problems so I’m happy to say that I need adjustments, but I do have anxiety so I’m worried about how they’ll react and I know some people are more private about it, too.

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