Did you know that students who are deaf or have hearing loss are entitled to a range of support whilst studying at Birmingham City University? This may include reasonable adjustments on their course, as well as practical support, funded by Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs). DSAs are grants to help disabled students cover extra costs incurred whilst studying, due to their disability. So, for example, if a student needs a notetaker, a British Sign Language interpreter or support with English language, this can be funded via their DSAs. The University has a Personal Assistance Scheme to provide this human support. This means the student doesn’t have to worry about recruiting, managing and paying support workers, as the Disability Support Team and our partners, Unitemps, handles all this for them.

Equipment can also be funded via DSAs, such augmented stethoscopes for health students, radio aid systems and laptops with assistive software.

One of the Disability Support Team’s most important roles is to guide and advise colleagues on supporting deaf students appropriately. Simple things can make a big difference to whether a teaching session is inclusive or not, such as:

  • Remembering not to write on the white board, facing away from the students, whilst talking
  • Repeating questions from the group so that everyone can fully engage
  • Making sure handouts are available in advance of teaching sessions

A 3rd social work student here at BCU, Nairi Gallant, shared her experiences of being a student with us:

IMG_0261Nairi, did you get enough support and encouragement when you were planning to come to university?

I came on an open day at City South and was lucky to meet Paul Kent a disability advisor who can use BSL. That really encouraged me to apply to BCU and he gave me great advice about applying for DSA which I was nervous about. I was applying before UCAS developed interpreted/subtitled videos so my Mum had some support too from ‘phoning the disability services herself to ask about the process. From start to finish it was always Paul we spoke to and that was great to have continuity and Deaf awareness. The only thing is that the university doesn’t have a Deaf society like some others, it would have been nice to have a ‘Deaf meet up’ as I was the only Deaf student on my campus. The disability services website also has details about who to contact.

What are your tips for other deaf people planning on coming to university?

Make sure you consider all your options when you go to your DSA interview. My assessor was very knowledgeable but not all are. Think about the support you have had in school or college and how it will need to be adapted for larger university lectures.

Make contact with disability services as soon as possible. The more they know about you the more support they can put in place before you arrive! Similarly keep in contact while you’re studying – they can help you resolve issues around subtitles, power points etc.

Don’t be nervous! BCU is a multi-campus university so you may be the only Deaf person in your accommodation or even on your campus. But there are other Deaf students around and Birmingham has a large Deaf community. Check out Deaf pub and other socialisers around Birmingham.

How would you describe your university experience?

I have loved the course I’ve chosen to study and that’s been the most important thing to me. My time has been a roller coaster but I have made good friends who have supported me and learned about communication along the way, we’ve had a laugh! I’ve had good support from disability services to resolve issues that have popped up to do with accessing my course. I’ve particularly loved the placement opportunities I’ve had through my course!

The best thing about university is gaining independence. I didn’t realise how reliant I was on my mum and dad for communication and support until I left home. I’ve learned to manage finance, to communicate with everyone around me – my lip reading skills have really improved! I’ve had to work with interpreters and be responsible for my own understanding.

I am the first Deaf student to take my course (so I’ve been told!). This means that sometimes simple things like subtitles and transcripts weren’t always in place. It can be frustrating at times as I’d always taken it for granted before. It’s been a learning curve for my lecturers!

What difference, if any, do you think your disability support has made to your time at university?

Recently I’ve started using a wheelchair and disability services have been fantastic at helping me apply for extra support from DSA and liaising with my lecturers. But before that their input has given me less to worry about. The support for students going on placement is fantastic! Everything I needed was put in place and was really smooth. It’s scary beginning a placement in a new place and knowing that I have an up-to-date, detailed support plan to fall back on has given me more confidence.

What plans are you making for after graduation? What sort of setting do you want to work in, and what do you think the challenges will be?

I’ve studied Social Work but I don’t want to work in statutory services. I love working 1:1 with young people and am keen to carry on doing this, maybe in a school setting. I also want to go back to university in the future to do a research masters and carry out research linked to child sexual exploitation.

More information about the support available for disabled students can be found at http://www.bcu.ac.uk/student-info/student-services/health-and-wellbeing/disability-support/overview or contact the Disability Support Team at disability@bcu.ac.uk. You can also follow the BCU Disability Support Team on Twitter at @Dis_Connect

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