[BCAB] cuts to disabled student allowance - what to do about it

Nick.Adamson at generaldynamics.uk.com Nick.Adamson at generaldynamics.uk.com
Fri May 16 09:16:40 BST 2014


Hi All.
When I was a student, and granted I was doing a techy course, everyone on the course had a laptop or computer and there for I'd agree with the idea that getting a computer on its own probably should be outside the DSA remit. The argument that a blind person needs a computer/laptop with a higher spec isn't really true. Most of the screen readers for windows will run on a computer capable of running windows and most computers now are pretty darn powerful beasts, yep, even the cheaper end of the market.
When it comes to screen readers and access tech then IMO that's precisely what the DSA is for. Same for a scanner and OCR software, as graham says most students won't need this.

Access to library resources is an interesting one. Again because of the technical nature of my course scanning never really worked well. I got better results by being organised. The way I generally did it was to contact lecturers as soon as I could, almost always before the first lecture. I'd ask for the reading list and see if I could get an electronic copy of the books in question. This should be even easier nowadays but 14 years ago when I was at uni I contacted the publishers, and once or twice even the authors, to try to get a copy. Generally this worked well.

Agreed that diagrams are a problem and I actually found better results in booking a session with the lecturer in question to go through the diagrams as they had a much better understanding of the content compared to an assistant. I never found a lecturer unwilling to do this as long as they felt I was willing and trying hard.
I'm also not convinced that the argument that we need someone to carry are stuff for us is truly valid. I got a laptop case which was a rucksack and didn't have a problem carting it round along with my Guide dog.

In terms of non-medical assistance I did have a little need for this, For my first term at Uni I had an x student as a guide and to take notes until my laptop turned up. After the first term I didn't need this as I'd made friends on my course and generally new my way around the campus. If a lecture had been moved to a room I didn't know one of my mates would be more than happy to give a quick hand but this was no different from finding a new pub I'd not been to, as integral part of been a student as the lectures.

I know my experience will be different from others but I back the argument that says students should try to be as independent as possible, learning this sort of self-reliance at uni is good preparation for work.

In summary the DSA in some form is still a must but I do think it needs to change to encourage independence. In the end It should be used to give enough support that a disabled student is on a playing level field with their sighted mates and there for the outcome of the course comes down to skill and hard work.

Just my thoughts, hopefully I've included enough techy stuff to keep this on topic.
Thanks.
Nick.

Nick Adamson
Software Engineer
Engineering - Vehicle Systems 

General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited
Bryn Brithdir, Oakdale Business Park, Blackwood, South Wales, NP12 4AA
Telephone: 01495 236467 
Email: 
nick.adamson at generaldynamics.uk.com
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-----Original Message-----
From: Bcab [mailto:bcab-bounces at lists.bcab.org.uk] On Behalf Of Graham Page
Sent: Thursday, 15 May 2014 11:33
To: 'BCAB Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [BCAB] cuts to disabled student allowance - what to do about it

Hi Barry.

I think the argument about carrying equipment is rather tenuous.  I also do
question the need for note takers in many cases.  Part of being a student is
being able to take your own notes!  Lecturers do need to make their material
more accessible.  If they use complex graphs during lectures then they need
to be accesible to students and the lecturer should describe what a graph or
a diagram shows.

I do accept, however, that some people with dyslexia may need asistance
taking notes or perhaps they should be given useable notes by the lecturer.
The same applies to people with physical disabilities.

On the technological side, a visually impaired person will need a note
taking device.  Light weight laptops are generally more expensive than a
desk top PC.  Most sighted students would not have a scanner.  Library staff
may not have time to spend, say, a couple of hours with a student at a time
going through relevant books looking for chapters relating to information
that  a student requires.  once the student has selected material, with the
help of a librarian, that material would need to be scanned and presented in
an accessible way including explanation of graphs and diagrams.

I could go on, but the point is that the lack of consultation on this
proposed change is scary.

One of the things that RNIB does relatively well is campaigning and I trust
that RNIB is giving these proposed changes their full attention as in their
current form they must surely be disasterous for visually impaired students
as well as students with other disabilities.

Cheers

Graham
-----Original Message-----
From: Bcab [mailto:bcab-bounces at lists.bcab.org.uk] On Behalf Of Barry Hill
Sent: 14 May 2014 22:56
To: 'BCAB Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [BCAB] cuts to disabled student allowance - what to do about it

Some access equipment is still ridiculously expensive, such as magnification
kit.  Plus, even if some of it, such as laptops, are very affordable, a
visual impaired person on their own with a lot of access kit is a rather
venerable easy target.  Granted, a PA isn't there for protection, but it
could be argued that a visual impaired student would need someone to carry
their kit safely.

Also, having been a VI student myself, with the room and building changes
term after term, I never actually managed to independently get to lectures.

  Am I right in thinking that Mr Willetts is the Education Minister?  I'm
very cynical as to its effectiveness, but us all independently writing to
him could be a start.  After that, we could write to the Minister for
Disabilities and our own MP's.  Perhaps we could even write to  University
Bursars.

Cheers

Barry
-----Original Message-----
From: Bcab [mailto:bcab-bounces at lists.bcab.org.uk] On Behalf Of Graham Page
Sent: 14 May 2014 12:06 PM
To: 'BCAB Discussion List'
Subject: [BCAB] cuts to disabled student allowance - what to do about it

Hi all.

 

I realise of course that this list is about technology not politics, but
anyone who heard In Touch last night can't fail to be alarmed by the latest
proposed cuts to disabled students allowance.

 

I think the way in which the scheme is run does indeed need severe
modification.  Laptops are more commonly available than they used to be and
there is more help out there with technology and training.  We have a lot of
companies providing equipment and support to disabled students at the moment
at rather high prices, support isn't what it could be sometimes and yes I do
think that often lecturers could do more to make their material accessible.
Some are better than others of course.

 

Despite the need for some changes though, I do think cuts in reader support
and assistance with tasks such as finding material in the library could be
potentially disasterou.  Students in my opinion require the ability to scan
information themselves but they also need sighted help to do things like
correcting scanning errors and explaining graphs and diagrams.  David
Willetts should know that not all text books, or even the majority of them,
are available in an accessible format online.  This was, sadly, not really
discussed on in[-touch.

 

Do these cuts need to be approved by parliament?  is there any organised
campaign in existance looking at this issue?  David willetts says
universities should be able to foot the bill for this but that's totally
unreasonable in my view.  They can get lecturers to make coursework
available in accessible formats but making books accessible is more tricky.


 

I think  there's a bit of a credibility gap with Mr. Willetts.  When the
£9000 tuition fees cap was introduced he did say he envisages a situation
where universities charge different amounts but everyone apart from the
government knew that all of them would want to charge the same so they
wouldn't appear to offer inferior education.  I don't think therefore we can
take any ofhis assurances too seriously.

 

My question really then is what can we do to try and make the government
change their minds?

 

Regards

 

Graham

 

Graham Page

 

Mobile: 07753 607980

 

Fax:  0870 706 2773

 

Email: gpage at useit.plus.com

 

Skype: gabriel_mcbird

Twitter: @gabrielmcbird

 

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