This week has made me realise how prevalent disability discrimination really is in 2022.
Throughout the last year of my daughters college course, she was constantly told that she was not allowed to return the following year, but we never really received an explanation as to why. Half way thorough her last academic year, she received her ADHD diagnosis.
You can read my blog about my daughters ADHD diagnosis here and her birth story here.
Around 6 weeks ago, we received her enrolment forms and appointment to re-enrol for the next year. My daughter was so happy, clearly something had changed and she hadn’t wanted to attend another college so the fact that she had been invited back had come with joy and happiness. .
We filled in the forms and just over a week ago, she attended her pre-arranged enrolment appointment. Regrettably, I didn’t attend with her as she felt confident in being able to go herself as she was meeting some college friends there.
Half way through her enrolment, they pulled her into a side room and in no uncertain terms was advised that she wasn’t allowed to go back. She was heartbroken, devastated and couldn’t understand why this had happened.
She later received a voicemail from the head apologising, he stated it was a ‘clerical error‘ and that was it.
I tried to call the college when I left work, however, they had already closed. I decided to write a very stern complaint email and I copied in the college governors. Under no circumstances did I feel that it was okay for them to tell her she couldn’t go back, then invite her back to enrol, just to tell her she couldn’t return. again. So many mixed messages.
The head called me the next morning, it was explained to me that several students had been told they couldn’t return, however, they had also received new enrolment packs and appointments. When I asked for reasons as to why these students couldn’t return, he initially stated it was due to funding.
I had done my research and as my daughter has an EHCP (Educational health care plan) which means the government currently fund the college £6000 to educate her alone, I had found that I could request an early review of her EHCP and request further funding from the government if required. When I informed him of my knowledge of this, he then retracted his claims that this was purely about funding by then advising that it was to do with OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education here in the UK). He stated that if students fail the course the college can get into trouble for this.
It made me realise that regardless of a students abilities or disabilities, our education system is flawed with discrimination as they’re more interested in funding and pass rates. It was made clear with all certainty that she could do the course she wanted to do, but they wanted to palm her off to another college instead, another college that was either too far away, or too large for her and she would find it overwhelming. She chose this college as they are the closest to our home and the building is a lot smaller and a lot less overwhelming.
As part of my daughters EHCP, I can take the college to the high court if I feel that they are not meeting the needs of my daughter as set out in her EHCP due to the additional funding the government pay them to provide appropriate educational measures for her. I will just add, that I do not see or receive this funding, the government pay this directly to the college for students with special educational needs as part of the disability rights act and the students legal right to an education regardless of their disabilities.
Included in my complaint, I requested that the college send me all evidence of measures they had put in place for my daughter over the last year whilst she had been a student so that I could review it and seek legal advice if they hadn’t adhered to the guidance and measures set out for my daughter.
After a long conversation with the head, he begrudgingly agreed to another enrolment appointment this week for a level 2 beauty therapy course.
I never did receive evidence of the measures they had in place for her EHCP to evidence that they had met the requirements the government had laid out for her.
In all honesty, nor did I chase it up, my daughter was elated that I had fought for her to enrol again and I made the decision to not rock the boat any further.
We attended her second enrolment appointment this week, I made sure that I attended with her as I wanted to be there to protect her should any more issues arise.
I’m so glad that I did, the college were nothing short of patronising and condescending. We arrived to be greeted with 3 ladies sat around a table. From the onset they were clearly there to discourage her, they instantly overwhelmed my daughter with sample exam papers, showing large scientific words that neither of us had ever heard of demanding that she must learn them all within the next 3 weeks.
After a few minutes, one of the ladies took my daughter to look around the salon while the other two stayed to speak with me. They interrogated me, asking whether I felt she was capable of the course.
No matter what answers I gave to put in measures at home to support her, they came back with a contradiction. One of my daughters struggles is with her attention to read and understand words, I offered to pay for a reader that would verbalise the words on page so that she could read along, they came back advising that she’s not allowed to use it in class. I felt defeated. Although, I have since found out there are government grants for university students for such software, so why is this different in college?
In all honesty, I know my daughter well, she’d struggled last year with a health and social course as it was 100% classroom based, my daughter has always been more artistic and creative as opposed to being purely academic, I answered honestly with this and felt that with a beauty course, she would be able to demonstrate her creativity and artistic flair with 50% of her course being based in the classroom and the other 50% being based in the salon with real paying clients.
They continued to probe me asking whether I felt she can complete the course. The worst part came when they questioned my parenting, one of the ladies outright asked said “We’re all parents, we wouldn’t want our children to fail. Don’t you think you’re the one setting your daughter up to fail by encouraging her to do something she can’t do?“.
At this point I was flabbergasted, upset and ended up in tears, this also upset my daughter, who I could see was already becoming upset by the initial interrogation anyway.
Am I wrong in saying that I would be setting my daughter up to fail if I was to be the one holding her back from the things she wanted to try, regardless of the overall outcome purely based on the views they had on my daughters ability?.
I’m a firm believer in that we have more regret in life for the things we don’t try than those we do try and don’t succeed at.
My daughter ended up walking out of the meeting, too upset to continue. However, we did manage to get her enrolled onto the course.
In all honesty, after our experiences, I would have much preferred my daughter to attend another college. The archaic, bigotry views they hold concern me. However, this is what she wants, this is her choice and I will always support her. The way they spoke and patronised us was nothing short of unprofessional and discriminatory.
It’s made me wonder how often people with disabilities and learning difficulties experience this type of discrimination? We are supposed to be in 2022, we are supposed to have laws in place to protect people with disabilities.
If my daughter experienced this in a few hours, what does she experience on a daily basis at college when I’m not there?
If I feel upset and frustrated by this experience as a neuro-typical person, how does my daughter feel? How do others feel? How often does this happen? How are people supposed to succeed if they’re constantly being told they’re going to fail by their peers?
As an educating body, are schools and colleges solely focussed on funding and pass rates as opposed to the educational rights and needs of a student? Surely, with the right support and guidance while learning, a student would be more likely to pass?
Whilst I realise my daughter has additional needs, she is human, she has the dream to succeed, she has aspirations.
She used to ask me “why can’t I be normal like everyone else?“. I used to tell her that there is no such thing as normal, each and every one of us are different. Now I question this, now I understand why she asked when she gets treat so differently. Now I understand this when everyone else thinks she’s going to fail.
Nobody should be treat less favourably based on their abilities and this needs to change. It breaks my heart that I can’t see what she has to endure on a daily basis so that I can fight for her. It breaks my heart that this is potentially affecting others around the world.
The big question is, why does discrimination still exist in today’s world when we have no place for it?
Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below, we’d love to hear from anyone who has directly or indirectly experienced some form of discrimination.
I’ve included a few disability discrimination resource links from the Amazon store below that you may find beneficial.
https://amzn.to/3d3j1RE – Disability Discrimination in Employment by Spencer Keen
https://amzn.to/3L72g4x – DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION LAW – FOURTH EDITION by John M. Wright
https://amzn.to/3TYxnUb – Special Educational Needs and Disability Discrimination in Schools: A Legal Hand by Sarah Hannett
https://amzn.to/3BwTee9 – Blackstone’s Guide to the Disability Discrimination Legislation by Karon Monaghan
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