The York Student Think Tank’s most recent policy paper has found that many disabled students feel that they are excluded from taking part in sports. The May 2013 paper focused on the problems that disabled students face when engaging in sport and how these problems can be addressed.
According to the report, participation rates of disabled students in sport are far lower than those amongst able bodied students. There is also a general lack of awareness amongst disabled students about what sporting opportunities are available to them.
Communication, from both YUSU and the University, in relation to these opportunities was criticised by the policy paper. The culture of the “Wednesday night social” was also highlighted as an issue, with some students feeling intimidated and thus limiting their participation within a club.
However the paper also highlighted the issue of demand. Disabled students may have been excluded from sport earlier in their lives, and thus their desire to take part in sport at university level is questionable.
Their central recommendation is the creation of a “Disabled Students Sport Network” (DSSN), which would act as a sister group to the Disabled Students’ Network but focusing solely on sport. The DSSN would raise awareness of sporting opportunities for disabled students and provide an easily accessible source of information on disabled people’s involvement in sport, with an emphasis on online information.
The DSSN would also function as a “go-between” between students and clubs, where a disabled student is unsure of whether their disability allows them to participate in the club. Leadership of the DSSN would be assumed by the York Sport President and the Participation Officer. During term time, the Disability Officer will also play an active role in the organisation.
Other recommendations include a dedicated page on the YUSU website for disability sport, additional funding for clubs promoting accessibility and YUSU support for non-drinking events.