University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Disabled Students Not Receiving Necessary Adjustments

Abi Summers

ByAbi Summers

May 13, 2024

Student-led campaign group Access Sussex hosted a demonstration 1 May in Library Square to raise awareness for their fight for an accessible University of Sussex campus. The group published an open letter to the University prior to the demonstration that accused the University of not adhering to their promises of reasonable adjustments for disabled students. The letter demanded improvements in the awareness of reasonable adjustments, as some disabilities may prevent students from asking for help directly. It also called for a shift in the attitudes disabled students face, as many are targeted for having “unfair advantages” as a result of their adjustments. Lastly, the letter proposed that all reasonable adjustments must be offered to all students who qualify as disabled which can be aided through staff training and accountability. 

Disabled higher education students are legally required to have adjustments made for them under the 2010 Equalities Act which prevents direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment and victimisation. GOV.UK states that direct discrimination under the Act includes actions such as rejecting a student because of their disability. However, indirect discrimination can appear in the form of non-accessible application forms or exams, and students being unable to access certain areas on campus due to their disability. 

The University’s Student Hub lists the adjustments made to prevent these types of discrimination which include exam concessions, such as doing the exam in another room, having a support worker, and being able to start the exam one hour earlier. For assignment submissions, the University promises to remove late penalties, and provide alternative assessments such as distance exams or take away papers. For graded in-class presentations and group projects, they offer online solutions such as Skype presentations, or allowing students to email their group, instead of discussions in-person. 

However, Access Sussex argues in their open letter that these adjustments are not being adhered to, stating that they are often “breached, ignored or poorly managed.” They also call attention to the fact that students have to go through a frustrating process of being directed to multiple members of staff before they reach a disability advisor or any form of support. 

Moreover, students require a formal diagnosis, doctor’s note, or learning difference test result before they can even begin contacting staff to get the necessary adjustments, a process which can take more than 18 months. While the University does provide ADHD and dyslexia testing, this is not a formal diagnosis, and can also have long wait times. 

Lyds Knowles, one of the current Disabled Students’ Officers behind the open letter, spoke to The Badger regarding the demonstration, stating “we’ve been working on this campaign for the past few months, and have brought it to attention now as the Library is packed with students stressed about their May deadlines.” She emphasised that “reasonable adjustments aren’t just for disabled students; there are many students who might not see themselves as disabled who are also affected by these policies.” One example of this includes students who suffer with anxiety who “might need an adjustment that they don’t have to speak in class, but currently they would have to advocate for themselves to let professors know. It would be better if there’s a system to inform faculty of reasonable adjustments.” 

The Sussex 2025 framework sets out aims to “transform the University so that our campus community has a fully inclusive experience.” They plan to make this happen by being “accessible, caring and flexible in everything we do.” Access Sussex and their campaign draws attention to the fact that the internal system issues must be addressed in order to meet this goal. 

Sign the Access Sussex open letter using the QR code. 

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