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Disabled Students' Community Leader Update: October

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Disabled Students' Community Update: October

Freshers Fairs – 20 September- 22 September  

Prior to the Fresher’s fairs, I attended a planning meeting on 30th August 2022 with other Community Leaders where we discussed ideas for the event.  We decided to offer a prize draw to students if they left their email and identified with one or more of the communities which we considered an excellent way to capture data from students to build each community.  We also decided to advertise at the fair, for a general community mixer to be held the following week.  

The new academic year at LBSU opened with 3 freshers fairs held at City Campus and Headingley Campus.  I attended all 3 fairs along with other LBSU Officers and Community Leaders and felt that this was an excellent platform to promote the services of each individual Community Leader and the Students’ Union in general. It also gave me a fantastic opportunity to get to know the other LBSU officers and supporting staff as well.  The fairs also gave the students an opportunity to meet their various leaders and LBSU officers, engage with their communities and find out about support on offer.  

It was clear from the fairs that except for a few visible physically disabled students, that it was difficult to easily identify students who had hidden disabilities.  So there is clearly an identification issue, as well as the possibility that students have hidden disabilities. There is also still a stigma surrounding some mental disabilities and I would like to work to create an environment where the stigma is removed or reduced for students.  

However, I did support the other roles of Community Leaders especially the international community leader as most of the students who visited our stall were international students. In that respect, I learnt a great deal about the university students, where they were from, what they were studying and what their interests were.  

The prize draw did provide an excellent opportunity for the students who attended to join the various communities and also gave me the opportunity to identify from their record that they were wanting to be part of the disabled community.   

We also promoted our freshers mixer at the freshers fairs which took place at the Living Room on Thursday September 27 from 4 to 7pm at Headingley campus.   

Student Community Mixer on Tuesday 27 September  

It became clear during the mixer on Tuesday 27 September that accessibility to part of the university at Headingley can be a problem for some students and this has been followed up with the staff responsible for disabled students at LBU.  I will raise this again when I meet with key staff later in the term.   

Disabled Students' Community - Drop In Sessions 

I hosted 2 drop-in sessions for the disabled community at City Campus on Thursday 6th October 2022 and at Headingley Campus on Thursday 13th October from 2pm to 4pm. 

Once again, I realised that I was not readily recognisable as hosting a drop in session for the disabled community but did very much enjoy representing LBSU generally and again met a lot of students from all different communities and answered general questions about LBSU. I did recognise that the sessions would have been more successful if I could have shared the desk with another LBSU Officer or other Community Leader and believe this would be a good idea going forward. In addition, it would have also been a good idea to have put some sort of signage up showing that either I was the Disabled Community Leader or that the drop-in session was for the Disabled Community. 

During the drop in session at City Campus, I discovered that there are spare wheelchairs by the security desk and security are very happy to assist disabled visitors or students by accompanying them and pushing the chairs.  I could not find a similar set up at Headingley campus.  I also discovered that the library at City Campus is open 24 hours a day for all students including disabled students.   

Feedback from Disabled Students 

The feedback that I have received from the LBSU Disabled Community has made me understand that they have more barriers meeting other students and making friends and socialising generally due to transport issues and/or difficulties in being able to attend social events.  They have also raised accessibility to certain areas of the university as an issue and barrier and also issues such as the physical equipment at the university is not always completely usable or suitable to their conditions.  As such, I intend to raise these issues with staff that are responsible for reasonable adjustment plans.  It seems that if we can engage these students, we can interact with them better with online events and activities rather than only face-to-face sessions.  

Future Virtual Drop-in Sessions 

The drop-in sessions will continue virtually every Thursday from 2-4pm from Thursday 10th November 2022 until Thursday 15th December 2022 and 20 minute slots can be booked by emailing me Susan.Hirst@Leedsbeckett.ac.uk I am also available on email at all other times to answer queries or help with any issues.  

Objectives for 2022 - 2023 

The purpose of the Disabled Students’ Community Leader is to support the activity and views of all physically and mentally disabled students at LBU and to raise awareness of any issues that affect their lives. I also consider that the role also involves preventing and addressing mental health problems in students, especially men which is often overlooked.  

My role is very much to achieve a positive impact and influence on the disabled community and therefore the full aims of the objectives set out to reflect this. I have set out below some ways in which I have sought to meet my objectives for 2022-2023. 

  1. I have already arranged teams meetings and sought the input in other ways of LBSU officers to discuss objectives and share ideas.  I have amended my objectives to take on board this feedback and ideas.  

  1. I circulated the draft objectives in advance of my meetings with other  LBSU officers and as a result narrowed the objectives to 3 and explored different methods.  

  1. I Booked drop in sessions on Thursday afternoons between 2 and 4pm at City Campus and Headingley and the sessions will continue virtually going forwards. 

  1. I have asked for assistance from our Marketing Team with my 3 campaigns and generally. 

  1. I have arranged to attend meetings with LBU disability staff.  

  1. I am working on ideas for a buddy up campaign.  

Further Training Needs 2022 - 2023 

I have requested further training on student leadership in November 22 to March 23 and Campaigns and Advocacy courses in November 22 to assist with my role and these have kindly been approved now. I have also identified a need for specialist disability training.  I will report further in my next report on any training that I have undertaken and how that can positively impact on students’ lives.  

Further Collaboration with Mental Health Organisations - Links to External Bodies 

I am going to dedicate time in November to build links with external bodies in Leeds that support the disabled community and collaborate with mental health organisations especially and will report back in the next report on any developments. Some suggestions have included the disability hub at Leeds Council as well as different local charities.  

Please contact me if you have any questions, feedback or suggestions. 

Susan Hirst  

Disabled Community Leader 2022 – 2023