Today, the BBC is reporting that many Disabled Students are still waiting for grants. Only 6,507 out of 19,006 approved applications from disabled undergraduate and postgraduate students have been fulfilled, leaving 12,499 students without their entitled assistance.
12,499 students is approximately equivalent to 1.5 times the size of Royal Holloway’s entire student population. Thousands of students are struggling without necessary equipment or support required to facilitate their studies. Staggeringly, the organisation responsible for administering support for disabled students has already identified a recognised need to provide additional facilities for these 12,499 students and has failed to deliver over four months from the start of the academic year.
Many have sat exams without the technology enabling them to perform at their best, whilst others have been forced to subsidise their equipment themselves, in hope of reimbursement at some unidentified future date. All are studying at an unfair and significant disadvantage.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have all the equipment and human support to which I am entitled. Yet that still isn’t enough. My recent challenges include access to reasonably complex technical diagrams and PDF lecture slides produced by a LaTeX compiler. In one module I’m currently approximately ten days behind which would certainly be the full four weeks if I hadn’t managed to find an exceptionally generous support worker who is prepared to work more hours than I can pay her for.
I shudder at the thought of the unnecessary stress the vast majority of new disabled students are being subjected to due to such gross incompetence and blatant dereliction of duty by the Student Loans Company. This behaviour is indeed truly shocking undoubtedly unacceptable in a society supposedly as inclusive as ours. I sincerely hope all those who are presiding over this scandal are at the very least, seriously considering their continued involvement. I’m also astounded at the government’s continued silence over this issue, in an election year. I’ve no doubt that my already prolonged academic career would have been haulted long ago without the provision of a laptop. Should those politicians in opposition be seeking our votes, an immediate apology, public enquiry and some sort of emergency equipment loan scheme might persuade me.