Plea for disabled student access

20th June 2003 at 01:00
FE colleges must transform their entire "built environments" to meet the needs of disabled students, a campaigner urged delegates.

Gareth Foulkes, education officer for the Disability Rights Commission, acknowledged significant improvements in the past decade. But there was still much to be done in terms of "changing the structures" of colleges, Mr Foulkes said.

Wales had "the highest proportion of disabled people in the UK", but, he said: "I have yet to see a chemistry laboratory here which is accessible to people with a disability."

He said it was futile for politicians and educators to speak of social inclusion if colleges lacked the funds to provide full disabled access.

Although there was increased pastoral and academic support, the real test remained physical access.

"The vast majority of disabled people don't have a physical impairment," said Mr Foulkes. "But as long as a college remains physically inaccessible, what chance does someone with a mental disability have?"

Colleges also needed to develop greater awareness of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, amended in 1999.

Since September last year, "service providers" have been obliged to make all "reasonable adjustments" for disabled people, said Mr Foulkes, but in practice this could lead to complex situations.

One partially-sighted catering student was barred from a kitchen placement because she was viewed as a health risk. But the restaurant could not be held responsible under the Act as it was not her "employer".

To prevent such disasters, colleges should liaise more closely with providers before a placement, said Mr Foulkes. Institutions now had an "anticipatory" duty to ensure that disabled students' needs were met. Sites should also be accessible.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now