Welcoming disabled students to your society
In line with our Equality and Diversity Policy (https://www.susu.org/about/equality-and-diversity), we believe that all students deserve the same opportunity to engage in student groups, regardless of any impairment.
What is a disability?
There are two main models of disability, the medical model and the social model. We aim to follow the social model, which was created by disabled people.
The social model of disability
- It makes a clear definition between an impairment and the disability
- The ‘impairment’ is the medical condition (e.g. a hearing impairment)
- The ‘disability’ is the effect that society has on the person due to their impairment (e.g. a setting disables a person with a hearing impairment by not providing an induction loop)
- Disability is a social state; it’s how society is set up that disables a person, rather than their impairment
- An increase in inclusion can occur if society makes small adaptations to the environment
- Society can reduce the disability of a person
You can find out more information about the different models here.
What impairments are out there?
The main impairment groups are:
- Visual impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Learning disability
- Mental health condition (find out more here)
- Physical impairment
There are so many different impairments that there can be no simple and steadfast approach to ensuring your group is inclusive to everyone.
Potential barriers for disabled students to join a student groups
- Their own perceptions
- The perceptions of others
- Physical barriers
- Lack of provision
- Not wanting to "put others out"
Group activities vary a great deal, meaning that some groups will find that there are no or very few barriers to inclusion, whilst other groups may find that there may are some obvious ones.
Making your group inclusive to disabled students
Here are some recommendations and suggestions.
- Every member should do a medical questionnaire for your group every year (make sure you include a box for any additional info/extra needs). If anyone identifies their impairment, have a chat with them and work out together the best way you can support them, then write it down so you both are clear. This information will need to be shared with relevant people within your group; you both need to decide who you are going to share the information with and to what extent. (This information should be handled appropriately as outlined in your Privacy Notice.)
- You may want to promote what you are doing to be an inclusive club. This may be via your website, Facebook page and/or your Groups Hub page (e.g. a blurb and photos of changes you have made to increase accessibility).
- You will probably need to amend your risk assessment to include any special adaptations you are making (e.g. you may decide to give a hearing impaired person a ‘buddy’ who will catch the attention of the person when there is relevant audio cues). Specific health and safety risks should be treated on a case by case basis. Risk assessments should not implement blanket policies that restrict all people with disabilities or assume that they are a greater risk, since disabilities vary so widely. If you need any extra advice, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Disabled people may be particularly vulnerable. Please read our guide on Safeguarding here.
- You can see more tips on making your activities more inclusive here.
When you are approached by a disabled student who requires additional support
You may find that even the general changes you make will not be sufficient for all students. In these cases:
- Start simple. Talk to the disabled person and find out what the barrier/s to participation may be. Work with the person and use your imagination to see if you can overcome it.
- If neither of you can think of a solution, talk to your National Governing Body (if there is one) and/or any organisations that specifically work with people with a particular impairment. They may be able to advise you of a piece of equipment or a different method the person can use or give you inclusion tips.
- Consider which option may be best (this will depend on the individual impairment and type of group you are, you may wish to try a couple out and see what’s best)
- Mainstream Participation: Disabled person trains/competes/practices/joins in fully with the Group. Minimum changes may need to be made to the group (e.g. communication style / meetings or activities always accessible).
- Integrated Participation: Disabled and non-disabled people participating in your activity with some adaptations to rules, equipment and/or facilities (e.g. a person who is visually impaired may be able to participate if the ball you play with was a different colour).
- Partial Participation: Disabled person trains/joins in with Group but for some elements may participate with an external group e.g. a wheelchair user may train with your club but compete with an external club.
- Disability Specific Participation: A sub-section of your group solely for that particular disability group.
- Finally, if you have exhausted all options and you can’t find a solution to include them in your group, do your best to help them find a local group they can participate in (they have built up the confidence to approach you, but they may not have the confidence to continue the search on their own). Your group may want to create links with this local group (e.g. have joint meetings/competitions, or your members may be able to help out).
What can SUSU do to support your group?
- Facilities – if you believe any large pieces of Union or University owned equipment or facilities are barriers to participation for a disabled athlete talk to your rep and ask them to bring the issue to the committee they sit on. The committee will then look into whether anything can be changed.
- Equipment – Groups can ask SUSU for funding support at certain times throughout the year
- Training courses – Groups can ask SUSU for funding support at certain times throughout the year
More information on applying for funding can be found here.
Other useful websites