As Disabled Students’ Rep, I want to explain why the current approach by Hallam creates an unfair and uneven level of opportunity for the many disabled students at SHU. Disabled students are some of the most vulnerable during this crisis, some having underlying health conditions who are now ‘shielding’, many who struggle with mental health and wellbeing, and even some who have had to leave their homes.
The new adjustments which are being offered to all students as a result of coronavirus creates an uneven divide between disabled and non-disabled students. All disabled students are offered ‘learning contracts’ by the university which allow for reasonable adjustments to assessments, extended library loans, and other adjustments to help give disabled students a fair and equal university experience. Disabled students already have access to extensions and uncapped resits, so they are not being given any additional provisions or support as a result of COVID-19, as they were all available to them prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Many have outstanding work from Semester 1 due in July, so extending deadlines due to COVID is causing students to worry about many assessments in the reassessment period.
Students with disabilities have specific learning needs and many are not familiar with online teaching and struggling to adapt to the new changes to assessments and learning. These changes are impacting disabled students more significantly than the wider student population: having a routine, access to facilities and resources are integral to many disabled students’ success at university.
Hallam needs to offer much more additional flexibility around deadlines and guidance to disabled students, to put them on an even footing with the rest of the student population. The issue surrounding the reassessment period and outstanding assessments for Semester 1 needs to be addressed, and an extension of the reassessment deadline should be considered a priority.
Many students who before would not have been considered disabled are now suffering from worsened mental health and difficult circumstances during the pandemic. This is why we need a real safety net for all students.
Introducing the Hallam Safety Net would benefit disabled students and non-disabled students who cannot perform to their usual level and would allow them to achieve a grade which is reflective of their true potential. However, much more support and help needs to be provided to disabled students at this time, on top of the help we are already fighting to receive for all.
Disabled Students’ Rep
Sheffield Hallam Students' Union