DEBATE: Has the time come for a sabbatical Disabled Students’ Officer? YES

Elsa Maishman 26 January 2016

Student life can be difficult, when both academic and social demands are factored in, but try adding disability to the mix. Try, for example, being unable to predict the exact state your health will be in a week from now, and therefore being unable to guarantee handing in a complete essay, or being well enough to attend lectures. Try worrying about making sure that appropriate exam arrangements will be in place to allow you to both attend the venue in question and complete the exam in a way which fairly showcases your abilities.

The needs of disabled students are rarely met, or publicised adequately. Not every college consistently refers students to the Disability Resource Centre, not every student with a chronic condition is encouraged to apply for the appropriate financial support to enable them to obtain specialist equipment and support. There is no structural support for those intermitting, and even simple, helpful options, such as putting lectures online, are seemingly difficult to achieve.

The Disabled Students’ Campaign, by its own admission, is unable to operate at full capacity in its representation of students with a disability, because students are hardly equipped to run a campaign of this nature, disability or otherwise. In this context, perhaps it is reasonable to suggest the creation of a CUSU sabbatical role for the DSO.

At a time when funding is being cut across the board for those with disabilities, is it entirely unreasonable to suggest that CUSU should cough up for what amounts to a greater level of inclusion? Lived experience and expertise carry considerable weight when it comes to representation, and it cannot be denied that there is a need for improved understanding, tolerance, and provision. This does not necessarily have to be forever. If we had a full-time sabbatical officer to target the structural inequality faced by disabled students in Cambridge, perhaps in a few years this will be a bill which CUSU no longer needs to foot.


The 'No' side of this debate is argued by Cornelius Roemer. Click here to find out more about the the referendum.