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MP attends roundtable with visually impaired students

Students highlighted issues with access to resources and support to the minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation

21 May 2019 by Andrew McClean

Chris Skidmore MP took part in a roundtable discussion at the University of Birmingham with 13 students who are living with vision impairment.

The minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation was told about their experiences at university and accessing the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

Students explained to Mr Skidmore that they would not have been able to attend their course if they did not have the support of the allowance and urged the minister to consider several issues with DSA.

They said that DSA assessors lack the knowledge and skill set to assess students with vision impairment, and highlighted issues with access to resources and support such as delays in receiving equipment and restrictions in purchasing accessible mainstream equipment.

Mr Skidmore said: “After listening to their stories, concerns and difficulties I am keen to do more as these issues are a key priority around access and participation to higher education.”

“I want students who are visually impaired to have access to higher education and they should not have these barriers in place,” he added.

The event was hosted by the University of Birmingham’s Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) and the Thomas Pocklington Trust.

It was attended by: the head of the Disability Inclusion and Special Needs department and co-director of VICTAR, Professor Graeme Douglas; policy manager of children and young people at the Thomas Pocklington Trust, Tara Chattaway; and University of Birmingham fellow of the School of Education, Rachel Hewett.

Business management student at the University of Birmingham, Eddy Eyad, who is visually impaired, said: “I felt the discussion was very important because vision impairment does not get the spotlight it deserves and it affects many students. It was great to be given a platform to voice our opinions and it could be the beginnings of an opportunity to push our concerns forward for some good outcomes.”

The roundtable follows the launch of the Our Right to Study report in January, which was produced by VICTAR and the Thomas Pocklington Trust.

It highlights the issues faced by students with vision impairment in England when accessing and using DSA.

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