Susan Grasekamp is the Scottish Disability Equality Forum's chief executive. Here she discusses how schools are failing disabled pupils
Does it really matter that local authorities and schools haven’t developed accessibility strategies? Surely, every effort is being made to meet disabled pupils’ access requirements in this day and age?
The Scottish Disability Equality Forum knows from our work supporting Scotland’s Access Panels that good practice exists in some areas. Unfortunately, our research highlighted poor practice that resulted in disabled children travelling to distant schools, accepting reduced activities and enduring hardship.
We can’t, therefore, rely on localised good practice. Nor can we rely on equalities legislation. Quite why schools are excluded from the duty to make reasonable adjustments to their buildings is lost in the mists of time. Let’s not fool ourselves that it will change any time soon.
Quite why schools are excluded from the duty to make reasonable adjustments to their buildings is lost in the mists of time
Above all, resolving this problem requires a change in mindset. Schools can’t continue to preach the generic message of equality whilst ignoring the steps, heavy doors or lack of equipment that bar access to disabled pupils.
Local Access Panelmembers can help. Their members’ experiences as disabled people doesn’t just mean that they can offer support in reviewing accessibility. It also enables them to instil the message of inclusion in tomorrow’s architects, planners and politicians as they work together with pupils.
Fundamentally, however, it’s about the enforcement of law. Parents are required to ensure that their children are educated and this is rigorously enforced. Education providers are required to create a strategy to address disabled children’s needs but this is not enforced. It’s time that the law, and disabled children’s needs, were taken more seriously.