Your Voice — Your Choice

Note: This is an older article, imported from DnA’s older blog.

In the age of ongoing austerity cuts, the protection of inclusive education and support for marginalised learners must remain at the forefront of equality and social justice campaigns. With this in mind we’d like to bring you up to date on some of the meetings Diversity & Ability have been having, in view of pushing the agenda on inclusive practice and widening participation for disabled and Neurodiverse learners throughout the UK. We invite you to lend your voice and share your stories with us to help secure and strengthen the DSA!

In January 2015 the Diversity & Ability team hit the ground running with meetings with BIS,the Equality Challenge Unit, and NUS National Disabled Students Officer Maddy Kirkman.

As many friends of Diversity & Ability will know, our very own Campaigns & Equality Director Adam Hyland once held the post of National Disabled Officer, so it was good to once again be in the fray with the NUS. As part of her mandate, Maddy Kirkman the current NUS Disabled Students Officer is working to improve the rights of disabled students and remove stigma surrounding “disabilities”. The impact the proposed cuts to the DSA will have on student choice and inclusion is thus vitally important to consider and campaign against, something DnA fully support the NUS in.

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), a think tank that research equality and diversity in universities, are providing much needed insight into the ramifications of the cuts. They are providing data that sheds light on how effective the DSA is in supporting disabled learners to access further education and the inclusivity that comes with that, in terms of removing financial barriers. We’re pleased to say that the number of diverse disabled learners reaching higher education and indeed employment has steadily risen over the last 15 years. It has created a legacy that clearly illustrates the positive impact good support can have on individuals, and is a testament to the enabling powers of the DSA! As a Social Enterprise, keeping this legacy alive will play a big role in future endeavors of Diversity and Ability.

In administering DSA finances BIS has the responsibility of outlining the changes ahead and holding SFE accountable for spending. Our meeting with them was to ensure that individualised support remains core to the proposed changes ahead, and that a culture of standardisation isn’t allowed to flourish under the guise of streamlining efficiency. BIS advised us that they are working to ensure the mandate of individualised support is not reversed or removed from the DSA Application process. We certainly hope this remains the case and will continue to lobby and support the NUS Disabled Students Campaign to ensure the DSA is progressive and protected.

What’s next in DnA’s Diary?

Next month we’re looking forward to a meeting with OFFA (Office for Fair Access), and will keep you up to date with any findings and musings.

It’s critical that despite the severity of Government Cuts, the celebration of diversity through adversity continues to be a success story for Higher Education and the Workplace! With this in mind we look forward to updating you shortly…

Atif Choudhury

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