Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Working with the University regarding accommodation

As I am already Disability Support Officer at University, I have been working with students to try and make the University a more accepting and diverse place for students.

One case I had recently was a girl that was being denied accommodation due to the fact she is a part time student, and part time students are required to pay council tax and the buildings for accommodation are not registered for students like this.

The student came to me and was extremely upset and struggling to even cope to stay at University. So I took her case to the head of accommodation and wrote a very long letter with snippets of the law in to back up my case and to my surprise, the response I got was a very nice one, she thanked me for challenging them and agreed to meet with me about the issue.

I met with accommodation and we discussed the case and went over some things and it was a success, we agreed that accommodation would do whatever they could to house the student, no matter the implications which was great! I was so happy and the student was so thrilled.

It is honestly the most amazing feeling helping someone especially when you see them really low. I hope that this continues with accommodation and they are a bit more accepting when it comes to students in need.

The second thing I worked on with Accommodation was the allowance of support dogs in the university halls. A student came to me with her case which was that she has Aspergers and her dog is her support dog. Support dogs are a very new thing to the UK but they are a growing thing so I really wanted to take on the case and hope that accommodation will adapt because it will be something the encounter more and more.

The student was already in halls and then requested to have her dog but was denied. When I questioned accommodation about this, they admitted that it was purely down to the fact that they had never had a case like this before and wasn't sure how to handle it. Also a couple of the housemates had said that they didn't want to live with a dog and it was too far into term for people to be rehoused.

When I spoke to the student, they were very good and agreed that it was too late for her now, but she was okay with that, and she also was more than happy to just be an advocate for this case and hope that because she has brought it to the attention of UCA that she can help other students. And thank goodness she did.

When I met with Alice I explained the situation and also explained how support dogs were becoming a very common thing and I could almost guarantee that more students applying will be asking to have pets with them. I asked what they would do if a student applied that was blind and needed a guide dog and she told me she had actually never had a student with a dog apply before so they hadn't fully set up a plan. But they agreed that they needed one and that it would be the same set up for support animals. We also suggested that they change their UCA Accommodation FAQ questions on the website because under 'Can I bring a pet' It just said 'No. Only guide dogs'. This has now been changed:

The accommodation team have also said that they are willing to work with me on changing the terms and agreements to accommodation so that new students can read and see if they are eligible for a support animal on campus.
I also suggested that they should give an option on the application forms that students can tick a box that says "would you be willing to live with an animal" this way, students can be housed appropriately and there should be no complaints. As well as giving information on the correct training that the animals need to have before they come to university so that if a student has an animal they want to bring, they have the right amount of time to have their animal trained before they come to university. 

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