You may never have heard about us – in fact doing a Google Search for NADP brings up a host of interesting options such as a complex biochemical protein, the National Anti-Doping Panel, Novel and Dangerous Pathogens and something to do with teeth!
But we are actually the National Association of Disability Practitioners - a professional organisation that has members working with disabled students across post-16 education.
Since the advent of the Disability Discrimination Act in 1995, followed by the Equality Act 2010, we have seen a huge increase in the numbers of disabled students reaching University, which is a Really Good Thing. The fight for a level playing field in education has been led by our disabled students aided by our members where appropriate. In fact, going back to the Google definitions, describing our members as dangerous pathogens with teeth might actually be accurate and a compliment!
Our aim is to level the playing field as much as we can, remove as many barriers as we can and make sure that to the best of our ability, our students succeed in their studies and go on to have an amazing career and life. We do this in a number of ways - many of us work in universities or colleges; some of us work outside of institutions; and others work to assess the support needs of students as they head to universities and colleges. Altogether, we ensure that students get independent assessments of their support needs and the right amount of support when, and where they need it. Those of us in universities and colleges also work hard to remove barriers and bring about cultural change in our institutions, to enable them to become as accessible as possible.
The (Disabled) Student Journey
In an ideal nutshell, the general student journey can be summed up as:
1. Decide what course
2. Check out a set of universities
4. Get accepted
6. Have a great time
7. Do some studying
9. Move onto further study or a great career
This may not be the case for all students, of course, as unexpected things happen along this journey but the majority of disabled students find their journey is a winding lane filled with hills and valleys.
Not only do disabled students have to choose the course they want to study, some have to take into account how accessible it is for them. A blind student may love History but choose another subject because they are concerned about the number of books they will have to access. Our members can offer support, advice and potential solutions.
Our members will also help disabled students navigate the complex world of Disabled Students’ Allowances – a grant available to contribute towards the costs of study-related support for those students who are eligible. And if they aren’t eligible, then our members will do their utmost to provide the same levels of support in a different way.
What about a university away from home? Is the accommodation accessible by wheelchair? How far it is to travel? How will they get there? They may have to think about personal care support and dealing with Universal Credit.
Finally arrival! But more negotiations - disclosing disabilities and challenges to friends and lecturers. A Deaf student may have to teach their friends about the difficulty of communicating in noisy pubs and cafes; a student with fatigue may need to disclose the reality of exhaustion when all they really want to do is make new friends.
Our members can’t solve all of life’s problems but they can help with making sure that the student feels supported and their study related needs are met – even this sometimes takes a lot of effort and persuasion despite the fact that this is a legal requirement.
Each year brings new challenges to disabled students - increased work load, study placements, field trips and exams but our members are there to advise and support the students. If they can’t determine a way forward, they consult the wider NADP community for ideas using our email helpline or by chatting at workshops and conferences.
Graduation! Our disabled students often graduate at the same time as their friends but, sometimes, our members have helped them negotiate for some extra time. They just graduate a little later.
All of these extra things are just what disabled students do – they always have done. Aided by our members these students develop and increase their independence and a lot of additional skills that are not always recognised.
Disabled students have to be great at time management; they have to be able to manage others; plan their work and play; develop resilience and strength; learn how to recognise their limits and ask for help when necessary. Some have developed these skills throughout their life; others are near the start of their journey developing these skills when they arrive at university.
NADP members are there to help disabled students navigate through the strange world of mitigating circumstances, examination accommodations and study interruptions. They are there to support, challenge and pick up the pieces on occasion.
NADP members are also amongst those who cheer the loudest at graduation ceremonies!