Support for Disabled Students in Higher Education: A Move Towards Inclusion

Support for Disabled Students in Higher Education: A Move Towards Inclusion

John Reaney (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK), Andrea Gorra (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK) and Hanim Hassan (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-183-2.ch010

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In this chapter we provide an insight into how disabled students are supported at a large higher education institution in the United Kingdom (UK), using Leeds Metropolitan University as a case study. We discuss how a higher education institution the size of Leeds Metropolitan University can make adjustments for disabled students and we outline some of the adjustments currently in place as the university strives to be inclusive to all students, including those with disabilities.

The chapter begins by introducing two models of disability – the medical and social model – which are commonly used to theorise about disability. We then introduce a third term, inclusion, by which we mean the equitable participation of diverse students in higher education (see also HEA, 2010). Following this, we offer some background to the legislative framework relevant to the area of higher education in the context of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The legislative landscape regarding the provision of education to disabled students has changed significantly over the past twenty years and in this chapter we draw attention to the most relevant points. This includes a critical review of the United Kingdom’s current funding model.

We consider how the complex legislative framework has been interpreted by the higher education sector as well as the practical steps that have been implemented at Leeds Metropolitan University to conform to legislative requirements. We then provide some background information to the university as well as a detailed outline of the structure of the disability services provided by Leeds Metropolitan University to allow the reader to make a comparison to their own experience.

Following this we highlight a number of issues and controversies around the concept of inclusion, disabled learners’ identity and the current funding model for disabled students. We discuss whether higher education institutions can be fully inclusive in terms of their provision and we consider the dichotomy between the concept of inclusion and the current individual funding model operated by the current funding bodies.

Finally, we argue that inclusivity should be built into a university’s service provision which would mean that adjustments would not need to be made specifically for every disabled student’s needs. But instead the university is adjusted to meet the needs of all students, including those with disabilities.

We conclude by looking to the future and offering a view to a possible solution to achieve the aim of providing an inclusive university to disabled students.

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