The Disability and Inclusion Awareness Society held a “Student Discussion Forum about Disability Rights at UCD” through Zoom on the 1st of October 2020.
Its purpose was to discuss issues of accessibility and gather student opinion on this matter. It was chaired by Scout Graves. The forum was attended by nine participants overall, three of whom were from the UCD Students’ Union: Hannah Bryson, Education Officer, Carla Gummerson, Graduate Officer, and Ruairi Power, Welfare Officer.
Participants detailed their issues of general accessibility and how online learning is very disorganised. Participants also brought up the difficulty of navigating Brightspace and browsing the UCD website, with one participant describing the website as a “circle of pages that redirect each other”. According to participants, this disorganisation can make it very difficult for those who are neurodivergent.
Participants also discussed their experience of having the accommodations prescribed for them ignored or violated by academic staff. According to several participants, If they complain to university administration or UCD Access and Lifelong Learning (ALL), who prescribe the accommodations for students with disabilities, ALL suggests that they advocate for themselves, and there are no consequences for professors who have violated the accommodation.
During an investigation into the supports offered to students with disabilities last year, Dr. Anna Kelly, Director of ALL, told The University Observer “ “Students are assured that we have an ‘open door’ policy, and they are strongly encouraged to contact us when they need information, assistance, guidance or supports...Following the student’s needs assessment, we contact the Module Coordinators each semester, outlining their responsibilities in supporting students with disabilities. Information is also sent regularly to all University staff and faculty, and we also provide ongoing training opportunities”. It was not stated in that correspondence whether these training opportunities were compulsory, if staff had come to ALL looking for specific training, or what the exact nature of the training was.
Students in the forum also revealed the difficulties of being a disabled international student. Proving that their disability affects them is very difficult as their medical records are not Irish and they are required to be diagnosed by an Irish doctor.
The DIAsoc hope to host more online forums in the future.