Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 13:03 UK

University sites 'fail disabled'

Disabled student
Disabled students need better information online, the report says

Some UK universities are failing to provide accessible accommodation or facilities to disabled students, an investigation has found.

A report by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign suggests one in 10 disabled students were not be able to live or eat on university sites.

About 40% of the 78 institutions surveyed did not have rooms for carers, resulting in students living at home.

Universities UK says disabled students benefit from a wide range of support.

The report, by the charity's Trailblazers nationwide network of 16-30 year olds, questioned universities across the UK.

Almost all said they could provide support in lectures or seminars for students with mobility difficulties.

But only four universities said that every one of their buildings had a fully accessible toilet for disabled students.

Some 40% of universities said they did not provide a particular prospectus aimed at students with disabilities

Most, but not all, universities, said they ran a disability equality scheme.

Clearing 'difficulties'

Universities were asked to answer 15 questions on whether they provided certain facilities which disabled students might reasonably require.

Answers were provided by either the student union or a university disability advice unit.

Both Brunel University in Uxbridge and Coventry University in the West Midlands were able to answer "yes" to most questions, and achieved scores of 94%.

Don't be put off by people saying you can't do a course because of disability

The University of Bedfordshire came out lowest, with 33% of questions answered positively.

Oxford and Cambridge were excluded from the survey. The institutions have 69 colleges between them, and their answers would disproportionately affect the overall results.

The researchers were also critical of the clearing system - where students who do not achieve the grades they need for their degree offers can search for an alternative place.

The clearing system only gives disabled students one month to find a course and research whether it suited their needs, they said.

They also ranked the websites of the top 100 universities in the UK on how much information they provided for students with disabilities.

One in 10 of these did not provide any information searched for, the report found, but 12 out of 100 were given a maximum rating of five.

'Significant improvements'

The report says: "Trailblazers recommend choosing a university based on what you think is the best course for you.

"Don't be put off by people saying you can't do a course because of disability.

"Most subjects can be studied by anyone if you have the qualifications, skills and dedication. Therefore, extensive research into potential courses is key to a happy university experience."

Under the Disability Discrimination Act, which came into force in 2005, universities must make reasonable changes to their premises to make them more accessible to disabled students .

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "This report acknowledges the wide range of support offered by universities for disabled students.

"The statistics in the report show that initiatives introduced by universities have led to significant improvements in facilitating access to university and offering support while studying.

"Universities recognise that there is always room for improvement and this is an ongoing process. They are continually monitoring provision in order to improve the support they can offer.

"The recommendations and tips for students in this report are useful."

A spokesperson for the University of Bedfordshire said: "The University welcomes people from diverse backgrounds and we are constantly looking to improve facilities at all of our five campuses.

"This includes a £74m investment to rebuild the main Luton campus, including a new campus centre, and there are several highly-qualified staff dealing with the special needs of the students."

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