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

David Griffith d.griffith at btinternet.com
Fri May 16 13:37:49 BST 2014


Dear Richard 

Resourceful people will tend to overcome barriers but see Peter White's
biography  for an alternative experience of trying to complete a Law degree
without assistance  and he eventually dropped out of Southampton I think.
Interestingly though he shares your keenness for women to read to him!

When I was doing my Masters some other Law LLM student  claimed that my
assistive technology gave me an advantage over then, and was part of the
reason I was getting superior marks. The argument was that because I was
able to listen to a long chapter on Employment Law on say implied contracts
I assimilated this better than them. I  regarded this as nonsense and belied
the reality of my fighting to stay awake during some of these. I well
remember my son giving me  a kick whilst I was  snoring on the floor whilst
Jaws was babbling out stuff on Immigration Law through a pair of headphones.


On top of this I did  a considerable amount of my own scanning using an
admittedly high tech camera system. This meant I had to put extra effort in
before I could even get to the stage where a sighted student could simply
pick up a book and start reading it. I also  had to do nearly all my own
proofing as support workers were rarely up to this.

The reality then is that I had to work harder to get the same results. Like
you I recorded lectures and noted them afterwards.  This effectively more
than doubled the time I had to devote to assimilating lectures. As you say
you end up knowing your stuff but at considerably extra effort. If I had
been at proficient  braille I would have been much more efficient  note
taking during lectures.

To compete then you need energy drive , commitment and possibly extra
skills. The nature of some disabilities means this is not always available.
The sad fact is that whilst I tried to advise younger blind students
undertaking LLBs at my University many of them were not as resourceful and
tended to get defeated at the barriers they were experiencing. I do not know
if they were eventually successful but I am convinced that they would not
have achieved graduation without considerable extra support. Given that the
majority of this support was simply about getting them onto a level playing
field with  sighted students I think this support was valid.

David Griffith
-----Original Message-----
From: Bcab [mailto:bcab-bounces at lists.bcab.org.uk] On Behalf Of Richard
Godfrey-McKay
Sent: 16 May 2014 12:53
To: 'BCAB Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [BCAB] cuts to disabled student allowance - what to do about it

Hope this isn't getting too off-topic!
 
When I took my degree and Law society finals in the early 70s, there were no
PC's, and no DSA.  

I Got volunteer readers to tape textbooks, as there were hardly any
up-to-date Braille books.  
I taped lectures and noted them in the evenings.

I put up notices in the women's colleges requesting volunteers who read on a
rotor basis.  It was a great way to get to know other students well.  

  It took a lot of time, but you really knew your stuff adopting this
process.

Richard

Richard Godfrey-McKay

Telephone: 01738-445 880

Mobile: 07791 452 593

 


-----Original Message-----
From: Bcab [mailto:bcab-bounces at lists.bcab.org.uk] On Behalf Of
Nick.Adamson at generaldynamics.uk.com
Sent: 16 May 2014 09:17
To: bcab at lists.bcab.org.uk
Subject: Re: [BCAB] cuts to disabled student allowance - what to do about it

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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