Disabilities Department Begins

30 November 2013

Sarina Murray and Jess Evans have been elected as the student union’s first disability officers, following the September student elections. Murray and Evans started their new roles at the end of the mid-semester break, and after winning both the by-election for 2013 and election for 2014, will serve until the end of next year.

The launch of the department follows the Special General Meeting held in March this year, which passed a motion to begin a student union Disability department. Previous to this, the university’s Disability Liason Unit (DLU) was the main organisation on campus to assist students with a disability. Murray says that while the DLU was able to assist students with education needs, other areas such as mental health and academic disadvantage were not included.

“What the Disability department here will really be able to do is put [a voice] in the hands of students with a disability,” Murray told Farrago. She said that the department aims to combat “social alienation and isolation that can spring from visible or invisible disabilities”.

Evans said that she plans to address some of the issues that students face with strict course requirements, particularly postgraduate level, courses that do not allow students to study part time. She also told Farrago she hopes to establish a grant program to allow students with a disability to have greater access to technology that can assist learning. Both officers spoke of their desire to create a greater level of awareness of students with a disability and the services on offer.

Evans also noted the need for “awareness of how long it might take someone in a wheelchair to get to class or an awareness of the fact that people have mental conditions”.

Murray told Farrago that the department would aim to negotiate further funding for students with disabilities. “We can tell the university that these services need more money thrown at them, more psychologists, more psychiatrists, people really trained up,” she said.

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