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Supporting students with disability: a staff and student approach

Judy and Maddy discuss the support offered to students in the Archaeology department.

16 April 2015

Judy Medrington is Academic Administrator and Disabilities Co-ordinator for UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Maddy Riley is a second year undergraduate and Student Disabilities Representative, as part of the Society of Archaeology Students.

Together they both work to support students with disabilities at the IOA through a variety of pastoral care activities.

Judy

Could you expand on some of the activities you have organised which promote inclusivity/supporting disability?

There is no formal 'job description' for this role but the title is something we introduced about 10 years ago in order to make it clear that, as a Department, we wish to ensure that anyone who needs additional support receives it and is referred on as appropriate.

As part of our departmental Induction in the first week of each session I talk to all new students and encourage them to let us know of any disabilities of which they wish us to be aware, and to come forward if they would like to be tested for dyslexia.

Other aspects of what I do are closely linked to my role tracking student progress, taking an overview of all pastoral care issues in the department, as a DEOLO, and as Exams Liaison Officer and Secretary to our Extenuating Circumstances Committee. I also cover disability issues on the departmental Staff/Student Consultative Committee.

I keep a departmental record of those with disabilities and work closely with our departmental Safety Officer who ensures that PEEPs (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans) are created for those who need them and that other provision is made as necessary. Similarly, the Archaeology Library is always ready to made appropriate arrangements for those with particular needs. I receive all reports from UCL Disability Services, hold them centrally, and forward copies to the relevant tutors.  I also liaise with the other DEOLOs in the department when appropriate.

The nature of archaeology is very inclusive, with its emphasis on teamwork, particularly in the field. Students go on two field projects in their first year, which means we make it a priority to ensure that all students are able to get involved, whatever their circumstances.

Students can approach me, my colleagues Nicola, Charlotte and Lisa, or the Student Disabilities Rep for support at any point. I have an Open Door policy and ensure students are able to contact me straight away whenever they have any issues – this accessibility means that they have a point of contact throughout their time at UCL. Students are of course also supported by their Personal Tutors, Year Tutors and the Departmental Tutor, but their availability is naturally limited by their other commitments.

How do you keep yourself informed about the support available to students with disabilities?

Over time, I have established contacts with the many central sources of support, such as Student Support and Wellbeing, Student Psychological Services, Disability Services, Library, our Faculty Tutors and the Student Mediator. It’s meant I’ve built a network of really helpful colleagues who can offer advice and guidance.

What advice would you give to colleagues who want to be better informed?

Speak with people, perhaps someone involved in providing pastoral care within your department and find out what’s available. Then seek guidance from central UCL colleagues mentioned above about other potential sources of support.

Finding out what type of support you need to provide is important and if this can be done in advance it is easier to set up the relevant processes. For example, as archaeology involves practical work, knowledge of how to go about making necessary changes is vital in making the process as smooth as possible.

Maddy

How do students benefit from the support offered by you and the department?

Students are introduced to support offered by the Institute very early on. As Disabilities Rep, I send an email to all new students before they start with details of the support they get as well as my personal contact details so that they can approach me for advice and with queries whenever they need to. It’s important that they know it’s as a friend and not just as a rep.

I’ve also done some training on disabilities support which means I can offer confidential advice on support available both within the department and outside.

How do you benefit?

A huge part of the satisfaction is knowing that I’ve helped my fellow students in a real way. Whether it’s offering advice or representing them at staff or departmental committees it's been a chance to positively influence the way students are supported during their time at UCL.

The role has been great in allowing me to be part of the wider Society of Archaeology Students – the Institute feels like a community because we all talk to each other and make sure everyone is heard. Through the staff-student committee and other forums we’re able to have our say and voice our opinions.

What feedback have you received from students about the support you offer?

Maddy: Really positive – I know students here feel like their opinion is valued and that the support they have is an important part of that.

Judy: Our website shows some of the comments made by students who have studied here and they are always complimentary about the consistent support that they have received.