Liberation Conference Policy - Accessibility


You can download the full set of submissions on this topic here.

What is the issue conference is looking at?


Which Students’ Unions have been involved in proposing?
Dudley College of Technology Students' Union
Liverpool John Moore's Students Union
University of Huddersfield Students' Union
University of Manchester Students' Union

What’s the issue and how does it affect students?
We’ve received four policy proposals which cover topics around campus accessibility.
Liverpool John Moore's Students Unions’ proposal is a helpful starting point for debate as it discusses campus accessibility in general. It argues that campuses need to be fully inclusive to enhance the student experience and learning environment. Gender-neutral toilets, prayer spaces, postgraduate rooms, and neurodiverse spaces should be standard at all universities. The central argument is that students should not have to leave campuses because they cannot find appropriate spaces to support their learning.
Dudley College Students’ Union is also helpful as it looks at support for disabled students, but with a focus on disability awareness. It’s also a policy from an FE college so is helpful for this debate in showing FE – specific issues to do with disabled students’ access to learning. It discusses the issues facing disabled students including the impact of the covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
Each of the other policy areas cover specific areas of accessibility for students.
Manchester SU focus on event accessibility information and in particular by students’ unions, societies and sports clubs. The proposal says that the duty to find this information, isn’t on the disabled person: it constitutes a reasonable adjustment and providing information about events run is on organisers.
Huddersfield SU’s focus is on housing. It notes that reasonable adjustments should be made to student housing to accommodate disabled students’ needs, but these are either not put in place or applied inconsistently. Its’ central argument is that amidst a student housing crisis, with limited accommodation choices, it is critical that disabled students aren’t abandoned.

What changes would we like to see in society to change this?
Both Dudley College SU and JMSU discuss the need for society and places of study being more understanding of disabled students’ needs. JMSU say specifically that disabled students must be supported in every aspect of their learning and spaces should be inclusive of their needs. Dudley College calls for more disability awareness training and for students to more actively challenge discrimination.
Manchester SU’s proposal seeks to make the publication of accessibility information by SUs, societies and sports clubs (e.g., Athletic Unions) to be mandatory. It should be noted for the purpose of debate that NUS does not have the power to compel SUs to do this – as they are independent organisations, so if this proposal were to pass the effect would be to support student activists, officers and NUS to work with SUs to mandate for themselves the publication of this information.
Similarly, Huddersfield SU also call for more accessibility information, but on student housing. They call for a nationwide approach to minimum standards for accessible accommodation, with universities transparently displaying this information on the UCAS website.

Debate guide
What are the distinct areas that conference will need to debate specifically and vote on as amendments?
It is considered that whilst there are distinct areas within the proposals, they are all within the same topic and each of the proposals adds to the other. We suggest the workshop sessions use the above and discussion from the workshop to build this up into a full policy.

Impact Assessment

How does it impact FE students / Apprentices?
Dudley College SU’s submission discusses some of the impacts on FE students. Most of the proposals are from HE unions so it’s recommended at the conference FE voices are heard in particular. There is no mention of apprenticeships although there are similar issues for disabled apprentices. Again, it’s recommended that apprentice views are heard in the conference/via the National Society of Apprentices.
How does it impact on International Students, Postgraduate Students, Part Time and Mature Students?
Most of the proposals discuss that there are similar impacts for all disabled students. In particular though it is noted that International students are not eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance.

How does it impact on black, disabled, LGBT+, trans and women students?
This policy area has an impact across all liberation caucuses but particularly the Disabled Students’ caucus and their voices should be centred within any discussion and debate.

Does this apply across the UK or specifically in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
Across the UK