University of Strathclyde

In November 2010, Working group II, in charge of writing and editing a series of handbooks for teaching and non-teaching staff working with students with disabilities, visited Strathclyde University in Glasgow. Our hosts introduced the university’s strategy and policies for meeting the educational needs of students with disabilities as well as the day-to-day operations of student services offices during our four-day visit. Underneath is a summary of site visit activities.

The main legislative act that governed services for students with disabilities in the United Kingdom had been the Disability Equality Scheme, which mandated, ‘legal duty on all public sector organizations to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people' since 2006. Public sector organizations covered by the Scheme include hospitals, schools and colleges, National Health Service trusts, police forces, and central and local government. On October 1st, 2010, the Disability and Equality Act (the Equality Act 2010) replaced the Disability Equality Scheme, which gave us an opportunity to learn how the University was updating its policies and activities to align with this new legislation.

The breadth of services for students, faculty, and administrative staff available at Strathclyde University designed to make higher education accessible from the point of registration throughout the program until graduation is impressive. Student Experience and Enhancement Services (SEES) coordinates the work of numerous offices to make this possible for all students. These offices include Admissions and Student Lifecycle, Disability, Student Counseling, Student Health, and the Center for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement (CAPLE; which has a career development arm). Strathclyde University along with four other Scottish institutions of higher education implemented The Teachability Project between 1999 and 2006. The main goal of the project was to assist teaching staff in developing skills to make their courses and programs accessible. An extension of that project is the current initiative, a Post-graduate Certificate in Advanced Academic Studies with an optional module in Developing an Accessible Curriculum for Disabled Students. Also impressive was the University’s Equality Impact Assessment Program, a comprehensive and extensive evaluation of potential discriminatory practices on all protected characteristics named in the Equality Act 2010. The evaluation process includes admissions, lecture schedules and religious obligations, informational pamphlets, as well academic requirements which have to be justified by linking them with competencies. The full program of the site visit is available by clicking on this link.

We want to thank each person who took the time to present his or her work to us: George Gordon, Laura-Anne Bull, Ann Duncan, Kathryn Fisher, Crystal Drury, Chris McKenzie, Caroline Breslin, Aileen Wilson, Audrey McCulloch, Jan Smith, and Debbie Willison. We were moved and inspired by the dedication and the passion of the Strathclyde University Student Union representatives: Mr. Charandeep Singh, Vice President for Equality and Diversity, and Ms. Caroline Ingram, Student Adviser.  Our agenda had planned for a meeting with a few students with disabilities however most of the student body was occupied preparing for national student-protests against increases in tuition fees taking place in London. We would also like to express our solidarity with their cause.

Finally, our outmost gratitude to the very personal care our host and organizer, dr. Christine Sinclair, extended. It was impossible to feel away from home with such level of engagement and attention to details.