How ablism stopped me learning how to teach against ablism

Here’s my contribution to Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014.


How ablism stopped me learning how to teach against ablism

I started training to be a teacher. After a few weeks, I quit the course because of ablism (or disablism - they seem to mean the same thing.)

The ablism involved telling me to adjust my attitude. Which is ironic, since this course is offered by the University where I work, a University which boasts of its excellence in Equality and Diversity. The course included at least one class about E&D. By the time that class was scheduled, I'd left. I'd faced so much ablism in the course design and delivery that it wasn't accessible for me.

Alarm bells didn't seem to ring for anybody except me when, on my way to a Welcome Event in October, I got ridiculously lost. Weeks in advance, I'd emailed that I'd be there in my wheelchair. The response was a map of the campus (the map I've seen many times during the 12 years I've been part of this University, mostly before my disability started to bite) with little arrows to mark accessible doors. I got a casual remark that there's an accessible door 'at the back of the building.' No explanation of how a manual wheelchair can reach the back of this building or how, once I'd found that door, I was to reach the training room without walking up stairs.

A long saga of wheeling around inside the building, keeping my polite smile pinned on as best I could, while fending off the over-helping by people who had no idea where the training room might be but who wanted to push my wheelchair anyway. People who wanted to pat me while holding a lift-call button pressed. What is it about wheelchairs that shouts 'Pat her! Tell her not to worry! She's helpless and can't press a lift-call button that's been installed low enough for people like her!'

After several emergency toilet visits and several phone calls to beg for release from a corridor I'd become locked into, I made it to the last few minutes of the Welcome Event. Which turned out to be in a room where I'd attended many classes before I became disabled.

I hadn't been told that the University's Disability Service employs staff to help people like me. Alarm bells didn't seem to ring for anybody except me when I asked for the classes to be recorded. The response then was that I'd be welcome to bring audio recording equipment (dream on: my income is very low) or bring a laptop for note-taking (dream on: my hands don't obey my brain that fast.) Oh well, you'll have to do without. 'See how you get on.'

At some point, maybe during the Welcome Event or maybe at the Introduction Event a few weeks later, somebody from the Disability Service appeared with a Smart Pen to record the class. http://friendly-crips.livejournal.com/185180.html Nobody had told me about that technology. It had been agreed about me, without me.

So I said polite thanks, used the Smart Pen, realised how good it is, and asked the Disability Service to provide one of those for every class during the course. Nothing more was said until another few weeks had gone by. Then I was told that the Smart Pen couldn't be made available unless I registered myself as a Disabled Student. That couldn't be done until I'd provided medical evidence of my disability. Apparently a wheelchair and my stack of disability-benefit claims weren't enough evidence.

By this time it was clear that ablism had made chunks of the training inaccessible to me. But I womanfully kept attending. I tried to be polite when I got condescending remarks about how 'it must feel frustrating in the interim period' with no improvements being promised. When I got a condescending offer to 'defer' my teaching qualification for a year, with no mention of how the training would be improved during that year.

Oh and did I mention toilets? This really brought out the ablism. Due to disability, I need frequent, prompt access to a suitable toilet. The training room is 10 minutes' journey (by manual wheelchair) from a suitable toilet. 10 minutes during which I'd need to wheel along a corridor, open a heavy door, use a lift to travel 2 floors down, then wheel along another 2 corridors. I'd have to queue for the lift and/or the toilet, keep my polite smile pinned on, and hope to avoid a mop situation before doing the whole journey in reverse.

'I don't mind if you miss a few minutes of the class!' Tell you what: *I* mind. I joined this training course because I wanted to learn how to teach. Two 10-minute journeys, plus perhaps another 10 minutes in the toilet, several times during each class, would add up to more than 'a few minutes' missed. If you think that journey to the toilet and back would be trivial, try doing it in a manual wheelchair with bladder urgency.

'We can't change to a different training room so far into the course, because rooms are already booked!' Tell you what: that change should have been made when I first mentioned my disability. I should have been invited to meet somebody from the Disability Service. Instead I got that invitation after the training course was underway, I'd missed days of paid work to attend classes, and I was being invited to 'defer' for a year.

I never made it to the Disability Service. When I asked for wheelchair-friendly directions to get there, I got a standard set of instructions for walking there and another for driving there by car (due to disability, I don't drive.) After many requests for an explanation of how I was supposed to reach the Disability Service, I realised that worry and anger about the ablism were keeping me awake at night. So I quit the course and refused to pay a penny for it.
I can see multiple sides of this, but I would always say to anyone going to do ANY course at uni, go to disability services AS soon as you know you want to do a course. We cannot eliminate all the disablism, but we can sometimes pre-empt it by making specific recommendations to do things like put you in an easy to access room AND have an accessible toilet nearby. We could make sure you got access to tech maybe via loanpool or funding for tech (via DSA etc) and knew what support was available. Where optimal support wasn't possible we'd be able to say "Ok I know you don't like X, but would Y be better than nothing"

The medical evidence thing is difficult, we don't ask for it cos we're nosy, we ask because technically we need to prove that people are legitimately disabled as per Equality Act 2010 definition and aren't "injured" or very rare but does happen "faking it". I know of 2 definite fakes in my 6 years and a possible third - fakers are VERY convincing, one faker I actually found out by accident as I came across them outside of work and realised they were the same person (unusual name). Technically anyone could show up in a wheelchair and we wouldn't know if genuine or not. 90+% of impairments are invisible or not obvious. So to ensure we 1) treat all disabled students equally and 2) ensure we're not favouring a non-disabled person over a disabled person we ask everyone for 'reasonable' medical evidence. This is fairly standard across the UK. The evidence does not usually have to be detailed as to impact of impairment (although that can be useful), we do technically accept "This person has a disability as per Equality Act 2010" style evidence from any legitimate doctor in the UK.

It is worth noting if you take an Equality Act 2010 complaint legally you will also have to prove your disability and it is up to the court on basis of evidence to determine if you are disabled before the complaint is looked at unless you have I think blindness, MS, Cancer and HIV (which you'd still need a doctor proof).

I don't want to minimise what you've said here cos I absolutely agree with you, but it may well be that the people running the course had no clout. We cannot get timetables changed after the start of term - I think cos of the cascade effect on other bookings and how precarious it is even with the pre-registered known disabled students. I personally think it should be reasonable to TRY changing the timetable with known problematic rooms, but we don't yet have any test cases for a disabled student complaining that we didn't and any legal entity saying "It is reasonable or not reasonable for a room change to be made" so we can't give definitive "If you DON'T do this, you are at RISK" which is sadly how many HEIs operate.

I know where possible I like to see my students in person and talk about stuff. We have a set of directions to our place and if I even suspect someone has mobility issues I will ask how they are getting to us e.g. blue badge parking (we don't have enough, Effing Estates won't fix this, trust me we've tried), I recommend taxis for people where possible as we're a bit of a walk from main campus till our new building is sorted etc... If accessing us in person is difficult my colleagues can do phone appointments (I don't, cos I'm deaf and textrelay is horrid) but we feel phones and email only support is really inferior cos we miss stuff we can SEE and observe and it is much less successful.

Sadly, maddeningly, frustratingly at my place the main thing which changes stuff is formal complaints. These DO work. Universities HATE complaints but once we've had a complaint against a dept we can point to other depts and say "X got a complaint, Y happened, Z was the fallout, DO as we say or else you'll be at risk of same". Suddenly high up people notice and stuff gets done....
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, esp the part about 'absolutely agree.' You probably don't happen to know that I've history with this Univ's Disability Service. When I became a student there, 11 years or so ago, my incurable disease had just been diagnosed. It wasn't yet visible to anybody but me. So I walked into the Disability Service reception, and had this conversation.

Me: Hello, I'm a new postgrad student and I have multiple sclerosis.
Receptionist: How long have you had dyslexia?
Me: I don't have dyslexia. I have multiple sclerosis.
Receptionist: What kinds of help do you need for your dyslexia?

I walked out. Got my MSc and my PhD at this Univ, never being invited to register as a Disabled Student, not even when I requested (and was given) a thesis-deadline extension for my PhD. For that, I needed (and easily got) a letter from my neurologist. For my PhD viva I needed (and easily got) 'accommodations' including wheelchair access and toilet access.

So when, a few years after finishing my PhD, I started teacher training and stated that I'd attend by wheelchair, it didn't occur to me that I'd be classed as a new student of interest to the Disability Service. Evidently it didn't occur to them either. Even after meeting me in class (the day they provided the Smart Pen) it doesn't seem to have occurred to them to invite me for an assessment. That invitation didn't come until the teacher training course was well underway. Then... you know the rest. It was my fault for having the wrong attitude.
:/

Know the "your fault" "attitude" "you did it wrong" thing all too well. Hadn't realised that was the same disability service and history :/ I do know not all disability services are any good - I know we TRY to be good but almost certainly don't 100% succeed.

One issue I do have with studes who have a history is we currently have NO way of telling if a stude does a new course cos our info systems are SO shit. I now email all my finalists with "If you do a new course, EMAIL me pls!" And we can't actually get archived files cos of FAIL...

Thankfully we have a separate dyslexia/SpLD service which does mean faff with joint keyworking but also means people with physical/sensory impairments and health conditions get ppl who have a bit more experience (we also have a separate mental health and ASD team).
I teach E&D to teachers , support staff and employers and also have a role in learner support for my organisation.

Under the Single Equality act someone with a progressive condition or with certain other diagnoses ( cancer is the main one) is covered from the date of diagnosis and is exempt from the criteria of long term ( over 1 year) and substantial impact on day to day activities.

It is perfectly lawful to treat disabled students more favourably than non disabled students; This is specified in the act. A non disabled person cannot bring complaint or action on the grounds that they are being treated less favourably than a disabled person.

NOTE; This does not apply to the other protected characteristics,disability is the only protected characteristic which carries the additional duty of reasonable adjustment.

There is no requirement under the act for proof to be shown in order for reasonable adjustments to be made; Proof is only required in the case of financial benefits such as disabled learner's allowance. The Skills Funding Agency do not require proof beyond a signed and dated declaration which should not focus on diagnosis but on impact on learning.

Proof may also be required in the case of a legal challenge.


I'm challenging an exam board at the moment because they are requesting proof of disability in the form of a consultant's letter when all that is required in this particular case is the learner's signed statement on the learner support form.

And of course further and higher learning institutions must give students multiple opportunities to disclose.

Your Uni may have a different policy but it's open to challenge.

There is evidence to suggest that students not declaring a disability ( especially mental health issues) is much more prevalent than students falsely declaring a disability in order, for example, to get extra time during exams.

Sorry to butt in but this stuff is important.


Edited at 2014-05-03 10:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, I am aware of the favourable treatment clause in the DDA/EA, we use it a lot cos we get a LOT of "It's not faaaaaair if we do X for disabled students" from academics although I believe there is a subordinate clause to it that it's not blanket entitlement for favourability but if to do otherwise would result in substantial disadvantage (nice words we use a lot too) but I would need to reswot my reference guidance from EHRC and indeed reread the act. I think there might be something a bit similar for trans I read somewhere but was never able to refind it so that could be a brainfart on mypart.

The medical evidence proof thing is difficult, cos what we do at my place is pretty much what every HEI I know of does, we've discussed it on mailing lists as anti-social model but it is fairly standard. The SpLD students fare even worse, they need post-16 diagnostic assessment or for ADHD/dyspraxia a medical update which is even more unfair and barriered...

I'd be very interested in the outcome of your challenge to the exam board cos I don't like the medical evidence requirement, most of my colleagues and ppl I know in the sector very much see it as a "necessary evil". I've not heard of anyone officially challenging our policy but we have had our receptionist screamed at (which isn't OK no matter what) by someone with a visible impairment so my boss hauled out of a meeting to "deal with the scary shouting student" decided as no exams involved to deal with that person "without" proof which was mostly just timetabling and lift passes I think (if capacity restricted in lifts they're prioritised for disabled people and goods use).

I should also say the faker thing is very very rare, and not something I assume, I really do reckon it's under 5 cases in 5 years and we have 3,000+ students on our 'registered' books. I hate it when someone can't get evidence of something obvious and we do try very hard to help students spannered by that hurdle as much as possible/

I agree disclosure is massively under done rather than over done. We don't even do anticipatory duty stuff well which we can do, even with old buildings which aren't very wheelchair accessible we could do SO much more and make it clear what we need a wheelchair user to do so they get first dibs on accessible rooms etc... But we have no control on that, we can merely "advise" and we're one of many voices shouting at academics telling them to do stuff. Copyright infringement is deemed more important for example! >:(

In an ideal world, most students would not need to disclose because most things would be anticipatorily done, all classrooms and buildings would be fully accessible with appropriate nearby toilets. There would be regular breaks in classes. Notes from the session available for everyone. Subtitles on audio material and description of visual material etc with only a few things needing doing as "special cases" as it were. Sadly even the easy stuff isn't done well.

Not annoyed at butting in. I agree this stuff is important. I can only work within guidance we get from EHRC and similar statutory bodies and what is "common practice" in the sector. I would be surprised if there were many if any HEIs in the UK who did not ask for medical evidence of disability or SpLD before implementing support so if your legal challenge is successful please try to get it a public publication cos that could change a whole sector.

One thing we are spannered by is lack of clear interpretation of the law. Often we can say "We think X is reasonable cos of our interpretation" but until someone sues and gets precedent on that then they're like "you and who's judge" as it were. We know a lot of cases are settled and confidentially locked down. We were delighted that Rosie Watson in Durham's case went public, that was a very useful "carrot carrot recommendation carrot - oh and here's the potential stick *wave newspaper articles at people*".
Yep many FE/HE institutions have the same kind of policy you do but there's nothing in the legislation or the guidance requiring it, and, if you think about it, there couldn't be otherwise other businesses could request proof before making reasonable adjustments

We have decided to use the signed declaration approach and trained all of our team from point of first contact to not ask for diagnosis but to phrase the question as " do you have any disability or other needs which may require any additional support or adaptations and, if so , how can we best help you to access learning ( the call taker then gives a few examples such as additional time, a supporter, scribe, lighting, tech etc).

On principle all of our buildings and rooms are fully accessible ( including hearing loops in most rooms and portable loops in all venues so they can be set up as required)

If the box is ticked on the initial contact record a learner support plan is completed the tutor is given that information and access arrangements are made before the first class.

Because people often don't disclose at that point the question is asked again at interview and again with the offer letter and again at the first session and at any point in the course where the tutor feels that it's appropriate.

Thing is that the whole proof thing is so medical model that it makes my brain ache and, if that proof is requested in the form of a letter from a doctor, also assumes that disability=illness;

For fee remission we ask for proof of any benefits... that's standard
For residency status we ask for passport or ID, that's also standard.
The only medical evidence we ever request is a fit note where someone has been absent due to ill health.


Getting proof of disability isn't free! a doctor's letter or a full diagnostic assessment for, for example dyslexia has a fee attached as well as the impact on time and inconvenience for the learner; asking for proof therefore automatically places a learner at a disadvantage by imposing an additional requirement and often a financial burden.

The only time we require any proof at all beyond a signed declaration, is with parking; The disabled spaces are for blue badge holders, students or staff need to display the badge in the windscreen or, for example in the case of a student we have currently who is not disabled under the terms of the act but is recovering from an accident,one of our permits which is site specific.

I'm not yet mounting legal challenge with the exam board, I've just written to them quoting the legislation and asking them to review their policy; I'll keep you posted!

As to what's reasonable; I remind our organisation that the cost test is predicated on the entire budget of the organisation; I also remind them of the " get out" clause, which is that other learner's learning must not be negatively impacted ( I use that to get 1-1 workers where a tutor's time would be likely to be disproportionately required to support a learner... our latest example is a learner with active mental health issues where there was a negative impact on other learners)

I won't go into the Trans stuff here because it would be derailing, but guidance is that from the point where someone has disclosed their intention to gender reassign they are covered and our policy is that from that point all records are held in the gender which the student self identifies as.

Edited at 2014-05-04 09:37 am (UTC)
On the one hand, I know what you describe is the way things currently have to be at universities.

On the other hand, the way things have to be is actually pretty ablist, when I stop and think about it. Who decides what student needs are "regular" and which require "special supports?" I mean, chairs are provided to everyone as accommodations for those who need to sit in chairs and do not bring their own, light switches are placed in all classrooms to accommodate people who use sight. At one point in my education, to the point of absurdity, I had to provide a note from my physician, typed on letterhead, granting me permission to sit on the floor during lectures.

Why can't all courses ask about access needs as part of the general registration process and provide a link to the disability services office at the outset? Why aren't all non-accessible entrances not marked clearly with signs indicating alternate accessible entrances? Why doesn't every building on campus have accessible directions posted on the main website? For that matter, why are there accessible bathrooms only on certain floors? Sure, I know, it takes time and money to retrofit bathrooms, but there's a lot of ablist history behind why they weren't made accessible in the first place.

Medical documentation is also a big problem for people who have undiagnosed conditions. That was me through all of college. Ironically, I served on the school accessibility committee but could not access disability services myself because I did not yet have a diagnosis. When I did get a diagnosis and showed up to medical school, I was told it was too many years old. Luckily I needed a medical diagnosis, covered by insurance, and not an evaluation for learning disabilities, which is not typically covered by insurance and can be financially out of reach for many students in the US. The need for repeated evaluations, often expensive ones, is ablist too, since non-disabled students don't need to submit to them to access an education.

The fact that we're stuck with disability services working the way it currently works, doesn't make it OK. It's just the lesser evil compared to not having any chance to get access needs met at all.
We wouldn't require medical evidence for a student to sit on the floor, and we don't really put an age limit on it unless it's an SpLD which we don't like but is a standard that the funding bodies for disability support seem to rely on and somewhere got decided as a thing.

We also don't necessarily require a diagnosis. Most of our MH students these days do not have a diagnosis but evidence from a medic saying "Has had this impact for more than 12 months or in recurrent episodes for more than 12 months ergo disability under Equality Act 2010". We have even managed to get students with one single episode of psychosis defined as "disabled" and got access to funded academic mentoring support etc.

Some places do put a time limit on evidence. We don't as long as it is 'credible' and we do often sit down and talk our way through evidence in a "Can we possibly take this?" and when we can't we try to explain why and how they can fix it and give studes a letter for their GP explaining what we need and why.

Medical letters can cost £25+ but SpLD diagnostic assessments can cost £300+.

I think there might be a bit of the law which says we don't have to pay for the cost of diagnosis for the student, that is their responsibility... Must recheck that, cos that might be why we have to ask for proof for some things.
(just commenting on the costs at the moment as I'm a bit too tired to comment otherwise :^)

Here in the US, a single doctor's visit (for a specialist, to get a letter for accommodations) without insurance could be about $300-500 (with insurance like mine it's about $25, fortunately). I think testing for learning disabilities are somewhere around $5000 (and as you said, rarely covered by insurance). Unfortunately the latter is out of range of almost everyone, so even if they have evidence from an IEP (primary and secondary school personal education plan), they still often can't get services. It sucks.
re: fakers
What I don't get is why it really matters to stop fakers. I mean, I get a room alone, a computer, and I used to get double time. None of those would help a typical person.

Double time I got because I thought I might need it, but realized I didn't need it because I was usually done *faster* than my peers (I read very quickly). All of my profs make a big effort to allot enough time to finish their exams, so only a disabled student would run out of time without extra time. And if you've answered all the questions and checked your answers, extra time doesn't help.

Room alone helps me because I get overloaded by a room full of anxious people, and because my best ways of reducing anxiety are by stimming in an obvious and potentially distracting manner. If I didn't get anxious so easily, or coped with anxiety by deep breaths or something unobtrusive like that, a room alone would make no difference to my performance. (I'm not sure room alone actually affects my grade at all - but it definitely impacts on how exhausted and stressed-out I feel after the exam.)

A computer helps me because writing too much makes my arm ache, which makes me word things tersely to lessen the pain, and then I don't explain my thoughts properly and end up missing out on marks. If writing enough to complete several short answer questions didn't cause me pain, then I'd be writing the exact same thing longhand that I write on the computer. No benefit there.

So, if my accommodations wouldn't actually help a non-disabled faker, why did I have to get medical documentation? Why couldn't I just say I needed them, and get them? I seriously doubt there are hordes of people wanting accommodations that would make no difference to their actual grade. And if a few people are dumb enough to get accommodations they don't need, who cares?
Re: fakers
In an ideal world it wouldn't matter about "fakers". But we don't live in an ideal world and one issue is "scale" and "scaleability".

One major issue we have is persuading academics to agree to make adjustments or to spend "extra" time and resources to meet "disabled students' needs".

Cos universities are NOT anticipatory and using inclusive design (a legal requirement under UK disability law) some of the things we ask for, for "disabled students" requires additional work, time, resources, effort. Sometimes because individual academics are already overworked and undervalued (and often shat on by internal politics) it can be a real challenge for us to persuade them to comply with our recommendations of adjustments for disabled students at all, nevermind if they felt we weren't justified in our requests.

Research shows that extra time in a well designed exam ONLY benefits people who have specific learning difficulties like dyslexia OR those with disabilities. Students without "disabilities" don't benefit at all. We say this A LOT to academics (I don't have the citation to hand, else I'd use it).

In the UK we have a standard amount of extra time which is 25% (15 mins extra per hour of exam) and most students can't/don't get more unless there's a good reason e.g. visually impaired student using Braille or a student using a scribe to dictate their answers to. We discuss this carefully with students and make sure if their extra extra time is not agreed that they know why and that we have tried to help them in other ways like exam strategy and so on. We try to keep giving people open doors and options.

We have massive constraints on rooms during exam time which is a 5 week period (up from 4 weeks in the past).
  • There's the regular exam rooms for up to 20,000 students (our entire student cohort is 30,000 students and I'm making a guess 1/3 don't have exams)

  • Then extra-time and other disability accommodation venues which in our case is "extra time" "extra time and rest breaks" and "extra time and use of a PC" for several hundred students


  • Both of these sets of exams are managed by central exams who have the power to stop all building work (we have 3 major capital builds on main campus at the moment) and mark "be quiet" signs and have staffing for invigilators etc. Central exams have to schedule around 300+ departmental timing requests and whatever they do, someone (lots of someone's) aren't happy.

    Then for students whose accommodations cannot be handled centrally e.g. they need use of a PC AND rest breaks (and or extra time) OR rooms on their own or with smaller number of students this goes to the academic departments who have to find rooms they control and invigilators and arrange all of this. One department think a single engineering discipline (civil, electrical, mechanical, materials - all separate departments) had 56 students with "separate room sits". Some of those 56 could share with one or two other students, some really can't or shouldn't. There are over 300 departments across the university, not all have 56 students doing separate exam sits, but some do, and that doesn't correlate to how much space they have which they are allowed to book out (given that central exams have booked out loads already). Many university disability services are talking on mailing lists about how they simply don't have enough rooms to meet all the documented students' needs and this is causing real trouble.

    Departmental sits are really dodgy for things like quality of invigilators or noise levels cos they can't or won't signpost as much "SHUT UP!" stuff as the regular exam venues and it's down to the department to do that (again with limited staff).

    Even the fairly standard centrally managed accommodations the rooms for disabled students' accommodations are booked out for longer 25% or 50% longer, meaning they have to ensure there's enough staff for longer AND they can't use that room for as many exams. They have terrible trouble with booked invigilators simply not turning up, so have to book 30% over capacity to account for the high numbers who don't turn up on the day/time.
    Re: fakers
    And LJ's eaten 50% of my comment....

    You say it's only a few fakers, but it isn't. It's well into double figures demanding departmental sits from an already overloaded system.

    We get the same in disability, the month before exams we'll get 50-100 students coming to us demanding exam accommodations. Some will be genuine but only come at exams time which is stressful for us cos we're handling the students who responsibly disclosed and worked with us sooner who often have glitches at exam times too. These late-comers often haven't given us the chance to help them properly and given there's only 4-5 of us in my team and I only have 2 hands, ethically I support those who've helped us to help them first. In restricted time, e.g. 4 days before an exam, there's almost nothing I can do for someone suddenly disclosing. It's horrid to hear a student actually struggling ALL year but saying "but I decided not to see you" cos there could have been so much more I helped them access. It's also about fairness. Central exams work 15hr days in the month before exams, I think it's unfair to ask them to suddenly fit in these 50-100 extra students which will make their days 18hrs long (they're not well paid, and they don't get the time back cos there's no opportunity to do so. If universities resourced support properly that might be less of an issue, but staffing in UK universities is horribly tight and worsening!

    Do we see "exam accommodations" as a means to an end, or the end itself? I see exam accommodations as horribly crude attempts to level an unlevel playing field and in an ideal world they would be less needed. All students could be offered use of a PC if they wanted (happens in some unis in USA/Canada, but my place can't resource it) and extra time could be built into all exams (although where this has been done, some students feel they need extra extra time)... But how do you resource every student having a room of their own unless you do the exam over the virtual learning environment which won't work for assistive technology and the potential for cheating does exist... Some things will always be resource/time/money-expensive and be something non-disabled students see as desirable too.

    Also exam accommodations may not be the answer. I had a stude asking for 50% extra time but her impairment doesn't justify it. I've spent time checking that and then finding out why she wants it. It has highlighted a wider problem that she's having and that we've started to help her with. I could have given her 50% extra time and we'd not have done her any favours as her "slowness" with a thing would remain and slow her down for life and in workplace etc. Now she knows ways of speeding up and working more effectively and quickly.

    It's not just exams advance notice and nuance applies to. Many of the students we see say they need "wheelchair accessible rooms" I know properly wheelchair accessible rooms are very limited. I take time to find out from students if they are using their wheelchair full-time, can transfer or not, or can and are happy to walk a few steps. If a student wishes to transfer to a classroom chair that's a different timetabling thing (some rooms are horrid for students transferring cos horrid chairs) to someone staying in their chair, or using a massive power chair or even happy to walk 5 steps once inside... I have students who are "listed" as wheelchair users who only use their wheelchairs 1 day a year... In a constrained environment it's my ethical duty to ensure the student with MOST need gets the most suitable room and then let timetabling know about the stude who can/will walk 2-5 steps... that way each gets their needs met.

    In an ideal world with exams we wouldn't have so many of the damned things but that's a wider thing we're pushing, ever so slowly. And we have to play nice, cos if we don't, we'll get kicked out of our jobs cos politics.
    A very powerful summation of a frankly appalling failure to make reasonable adjustments!
    I spent most of yesterday writing that article and I'm delighted that you and others are discussing the issues. Sadly I decided not to follow up with a legal challenge. At first, that was because I was getting invoiced for the course fee. But a sensible person in the Finance Office got permission to overturn the invoice. After that, I'm still not starting a legal challenge because that could take a lot of energy. (Spoons, if you like that jargon.) I need energy for building up my self-employed teaching work.

    Meanwhile you, and the other people who've commented here, are professionals with good attitudes. Thank you.