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Disabled students feel at a disadvantage due to inconsistent lecture recordings and academic support

Disabled students at the University of Edinburgh say that they may be at a disadvantage in assessments if they do not receive equal access to lecture recordings.

Not all lectures at the University of Edinburgh are currently recorded as standard.

Some courses cite “sensitive issues” as the reason for lectures not being recorded.

This poses issues for students who are not able to attend lectures or need to revisit lecture recordings because of their disabilities.

Wardah, who studies Arabic and Politics, described to The Student the process she has had to undergo to receive recordings: “For one of my courses I contacted the lecturer as they had made the decision not to record lectures; they then decided to provide me with private access to the lectures on OneDrive. 

“For another one of my courses, lecture recordings are only available till the end of the week, and are only uploaded 24 hours after the lecture takes place which gives me only a 24 hour window to catch up for the Thursday lecture.” 

Wardah said she has been able to access lecture recordings for all of her courses.

A student studying Politics, who didn’t wish to be named, described her experience to The Student: “I often don’t feel able to attend lectures in person and even when I do, I find it helpful to be able to watch lecture recordings back. I’m really lucky that I’ve managed to receive lecture recordings for my courses but I’ve really had to fight for it and it’s so tiring.”

Wardah also described her frustration in having to advocate for herself, saying: “A lot of the difficulty of being a disabled student is having to advocate for yourself. This adds extra pressure and more workload to students who are already struggling more than the average student. Self-advocacy is not something that the university takes into account enough. When I was contacting my lecturer to see if I could get access to lecture recordings, I remember wishing that the university had created a channel for this so that I didn’t have to plead my case to a potentially unsympathetic professor. 

“I think there need to be better channels for support so that self-advocacy isn’t the norm. I also think the university needs to consider making lecture recordings mandatory, although as I understand it there are legal complications. Still, after the pandemic, we have seen that an accessible education is possible! I would also appreciate it if the university could open a dialogue with disabled students about adjusting to pre-pandemic modes of study and provide more support specifically in that area. It’s a big step up for a lot of us.”

The anonymous student agreed, saying that she feels she suffers from anxiety because of always having to “justify” herself to the university.

This has effects on the wider academic life of disabled students, with both Wardah and the anonymous student telling The Student that they feel somewhat disadvantaged in assessments and classes because of this inaccessibility and inconsistency. 

Wardah said: “As someone who has to budget my energy, I tend to reserve energy for tutorials and seminars which require more participation from me. This means that being able to do lectures at home is hugely helpful for me. But when I don’t have good access to lecture recordings (or livestreams), I end up using energy on attending lectures which prevents me from contributing as well to my other tasks, having energy to do household work, and  socialise/partake in hobbies.

“When I have coursework I need to budget more energy to completing them and less energy to lectures and classwork, making it easier to fall behind. This isn’t a major problem for courses where lectures are made available but for the course where I can only access lectures until the end of the week, I find that I don’t have enough energy or time to complete them which adds to the pressure that every student feels.”

When asked if she feels supported by the University of Edinburgh, Wardah said: “I feel supported by my mentor because she has a worldview that challenges ableism, but besides that, no. I don’t feel as though I can easily reach out to the disability service or other members of staff, partially because self-advocacy can be so draining and because I don’t know how understanding they will be.”

The anonymous student said, “I don’t know if I would be able to finish university without the support I currently receive but it’s really not good enough. I think I’m at a disadvantage because of this, both because of it and also because of the extra stress and anxiety it has caused me.”

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson said: “The University aims to help all students maximise their academic potential and ensure that teaching environments are accessible to all. Specialised staff in our Disability and Learning Support Service work with students to make adjustments that will support them throughout their teaching and learning.

“The University seeks to provide recordings of lectures for students to revisit and review. Around 400 teaching spaces are now equipped with recording facilities, including all large lecture theatres.

“We recognise that not every lecture can be recorded and we have a range of adjustments in place, including an option to allow students to record lectures on their own device or to provide them with a copy of the slides.”

File:Old College, University of Edinburgh (24923171570).jpg” by LWYang from USA is licensed under CC BY 2.0.