Ableism of autistic Exeter University student

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russellmarett
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#1
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#1
As an autistic person returning to university as a mature student, I was advised to create an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) to ensure I received the support I required. Since the establishment of this ILP, I have endured constant ableism at every level of the University in my attempt to study my Masters degree.

The University considers the simple existence of an ILP as their legal requirement under the Equality Act fulfilled. There is no requirement for tutors to know what is written in said ILP (indirect discrimination), or they may know what is written and simply ignore it (direct discrimination) according to the Wellbeing department. In essence, an ILP is just a veil that suggests that the University values your needs and challenges whether any support is actually given or not.

Negotiating life is a constant balance which does not always go to plan resulting in lost days of being able to study as autistic people need frequent periods of self-care, be it 1 day, or 1 week, to help reset ourselves. This challenge can result in deadlines not being met and extensions are required. When requesting an extension, the College of Social Sciences feels it is acceptable to state that I should appreciate there has been no need to get a sick note from the GP (due to covid pressure on the NHS) to justify an extension. As a "disabled" student, my "condition" is constant yet they believe it appropriate to suppress my autistic life as a pathologized issue which requires GP input at every turn.

Due to sound sensitivity issues, I had to stop attending online tutorials due to the severe pain that the audio was causing due to a combination of the software being used and the varying hardware of other participants. When it was brought to the tutor's attention that I was suffering pain akin to knives stabbing me in my ear constantly, which resulted in an anxiety attack during a tutorial, I was offered the bare minimum of an alternative assessment (participation within tutorials contributed to part of the overall mark for that module) yet I was informed that I would still have to LISTEN to the recordings of the tutorial. I was expected to still endure the pain that these tutorials were causing with no consideration for my wellbeing. When contacting the Wellbeing department regarding this issue, their only concern was to question the quality of my headphones rather than respect that, as an autistic person, I have sensory differences.

A common issue with autistic people is audio processing, which is their ability to hear and understand what is being said. As the lectures were pre-recorded podcasts, I questioned the Wellbeing department regarding the possibility of transcripts being made available as a reasonable adjustment but I was told that this was unlikely to be enacted. Fortunately, the pandemic (and only because of the pandemic) resulted in changes to study so that the University made it a requirement to provide transcripts in the new academic year. I was denied reasonable adjustments when I required them, and I am sure it would have been beneficial to many other students too, it is only the result of a global situation that allowed me to gain the access I needed due to the disadvantage I was placed in.

Under Section 20 (3) and (5) of the Equality Act 2010, it states: "The first requirement is a requirement, where a provision, criterion or practice of A's puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage."
"The third requirement is a requirement, where a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to provide the auxiliary aid."

The University failed in both parts to abide by the law. It was suggested that I should pay for my own software to transcribe any audio content I required rather than expect transcripts to be made available. As I am still yet to receive a formal diagnosis of being autistic due to the extortionate length of time of the NHS waiting list, I am ineligible for Disability Student Allowance to provide software that may assist me, however, the expectation to pay for my own reasonable adjustments is inappropriate.

With the rising popularity of other software as a result of the pandemic, the usual software was changed to one that offered subtitles. This provided an ability for me to follow what was being said within tutorials without the harm the sound would cause. Yet, another tutor felt it was appropriate, knowing my knowledge of these captions and need for them as per my ILP, to ask me how to turn them off. Essentially, I was asked how could she disable me to prevent my ability to learn in that tutorial.The University considers Autism as a medical issue, a "disorder". As a result, when I decided to have a break from my studies it is considered a medical interruption. Consequently, I can no longer return to studies until a GP says I am capable. I had the autonomy to start my studies, the autonomy to decide to have a break due to covid complications, yet I no longer have the autonomy to continue studying to finish my degree. Ironically, to get onto the path of a diagnosis so that I could receive an ILP in the first place, I had to educate the GP myself about autism and the autistic experience and I am now expected to rely on them to say I am capable to continue. No doubt, I will have to educate the GP again if the University continues to feel it appropriate to require third party input regarding my autistic life.

They recently stated that: "An up to date note from your GP or other medical professional involved in your care also enables us to check what support you may need for a successful return to study". I do not need a GP or other medical professional providing care for me - this suppression of a person who is classed as "disabled" is disgusting. I am fully capable of looking after myself and I do not warrant the intervention of the medical industry to be able to exist as an autistic being. Being autistic should not be a medical issue, it should follow a social model due to the construction of a world built for the dominant neurotypical people yet this university fails to treat us with respect and failures to reach equality. Their failure at this basic level prevents any consideration to reach a more superior notion of inclusivity.

To gain the support I need by declaring my "disability" and establishing an ILP, it is now being used against me with the refusal to allow me to continue my education without GP approval due to their pathologizing of my existence.

These issues are not isolated. The University's failure to respect their students with additional needs is inherent as it has been noted previously (https://www.disabilitynewsservice.co...nation-claims/) and their ignorance towards providing adequate support in their Wellbeing team for students has also been made apparent (https://thetab.com/uk/2020/11/26/exe...st-year-184268).

I have brought the issues I have experienced to the attention of the University but they refuse to engage in conversation. They refuse to acknowledge their treatment is wrong, they refuse to acknowledge that ableism exists and sweep the issues under the carpet. Rather than address the issues, they have hidden the review section on their Facebook page and continue to pretend nothing is wrong.

This university is inherently ableist and failing students who do not conform to their demands, their procedures, or their education style.
Last edited by russellmarett; 8 months ago
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username5839543
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#2
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#2
I don’t mean this in an offensive way and perhaps autism could hypothetically lead to some of the difficulties you are describing, but I don’t think I’ve ever met another person who because of autism was forced to take frequent 7 day breaks from their routine.
As far as I understand, although you would need to provide medical evidence in the form of a report or letter, you don’t have to have a formalised diagnosis of autism in order to be eligible for DSA.
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russellmarett
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#3
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#3
(Original post by Cancelled Alice)
I don’t mean this in an offensive way and perhaps autism could hypothetically lead to some of the difficulties you are describing, but I don’t think I’ve ever met another person who because of autism was forced to take frequent 7 day breaks from their routine.
As far as I understand, although you would need to provide medical evidence in the form of a report or letter, you don’t have to have a formalised diagnosis of autism in order to be eligible for DSA.
I never said frequent 7 day breaks were needed, but there can be times when autistic people have periods of shutdown and burnout which results in needing time out. I can have 1 or 2 periods per month where I typically need 1-4 days of easy days due to doing too much in life which cannot always be planned for.

According to Exeter University, I am not eligible for DSA without a formal diagnosis.
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Quack_Dragon
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#4
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#4
(Original post by Cancelled Alice)
I don’t mean this in an offensive way and perhaps autism could hypothetically lead to some of the difficulties you are describing, but I don’t think I’ve ever met another person who because of autism was forced to take frequent 7 day breaks from their routine.
As far as I understand, although you would need to provide medical evidence in the form of a report or letter, you don’t have to have a formalised diagnosis of autism in order to be eligible for DSA.
No this is legit. Some of us get rly burned out/overwhelmed/need time to recover very easily. I am like this too. I always used to allow myself 15 recovery days off a year. when I was at school and slightly less at university. I am sure that some people get even more exhausted than me
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Quack_Dragon
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#5
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#5
OP I am sorry, university is inherently very abelist. I find that (for autistic students) it's more a case of us trying and surviving there rather than thriving. I wish that I knew how to change it. From what you written, you clearly are autistic. Getting a diagnosis quickly is probably the only way to really get support, it is awful. I hate how it is used as a barrier. I am a mere undergraduate student at the moment so have no choice but to play to thier system. I have heard of people getting a diagnosis quicker through something called 'psychiatry UK'. Apparently if you use 'NHS right to chose' when asking the GP and get a referral to Psychiatry UK then they tend to have shorter waiting lists for diagnosis. I haven't done this myself but heard of people for whom it worked.
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Reality Check
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#6
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#6
(Original post by russellmarett)
As an autistic person returning to university as a mature student, I was advised to create an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) to ensure I received the support I required. Since the establishment of this ILP, I have endured constant ableism at every level of the University in my attempt to study my Masters degree.

The University considers the simple existence of an ILP as their legal requirement under the Equality Act fulfilled. There is no requirement for tutors to know what is written in said ILP (indirect discrimination), or they may know what is written and simply ignore it (direct discrimination) according to the Wellbeing department. In essence, an ILP is just a veil that suggests that the University values your needs and challenges whether any support is actually given or not.

Negotiating life is a constant balance which does not always go to plan resulting in lost days of being able to study as autistic people need frequent periods of self-care, be it 1 day, or 1 week, to help reset ourselves. This challenge can result in deadlines not being met and extensions are required. When requesting an extension, the College of Social Sciences feels it is acceptable to state that I should appreciate there has been no need to get a sick note from the GP (due to covid pressure on the NHS) to justify an extension. As a "disabled" student, my "condition" is constant yet they believe it appropriate to suppress my autistic life as a pathologized issue which requires GP input at every turn.

Due to sound sensitivity issues, I had to stop attending online tutorials due to the severe pain that the audio was causing due to a combination of the software being used and the varying hardware of other participants. When it was brought to the tutor's attention that I was suffering pain akin to knives stabbing me in my ear constantly, which resulted in an anxiety attack during a tutorial, I was offered the bare minimum of an alternative assessment (participation within tutorials contributed to part of the overall mark for that module) yet I was informed that I would still have to LISTEN to the recordings of the tutorial. I was expected to still endure the pain that these tutorials were causing with no consideration for my wellbeing. When contacting the Wellbeing department regarding this issue, their only concern was to question the quality of my headphones rather than respect that, as an autistic person, I have sensory differences.

A common issue with autistic people is audio processing, which is their ability to hear and understand what is being said. As the lectures were pre-recorded podcasts, I questioned the Wellbeing department regarding the possibility of transcripts being made available as a reasonable adjustment but I was told that this was unlikely to be enacted. Fortunately, the pandemic (and only because of the pandemic) resulted in changes to study so that the University made it a requirement to provide transcripts in the new academic year. I was denied reasonable adjustments when I required them, and I am sure it would have been beneficial to many other students too, it is only the result of a global situation that allowed me to gain the access I needed due to the disadvantage I was placed in.

Under Section 20 (3) and (5) of the Equality Act 2010, it states: "The first requirement is a requirement, where a provision, criterion or practice of A's puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage."
"The third requirement is a requirement, where a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to provide the auxiliary aid."

The University failed in both parts to abide by the law. It was suggested that I should pay for my own software to transcribe any audio content I required rather than expect transcripts to be made available. As I am still yet to receive a formal diagnosis of being autistic due to the extortionate length of time of the NHS waiting list, I am ineligible for Disability Student Allowance to provide software that may assist me, however, the expectation to pay for my own reasonable adjustments is inappropriate.

With the rising popularity of other software as a result of the pandemic, the usual software was changed to one that offered subtitles. This provided an ability for me to follow what was being said within tutorials without the harm the sound would cause. Yet, another tutor felt it was appropriate, knowing my knowledge of these captions and need for them as per my ILP, to ask me how to turn them off. Essentially, I was asked how could she disable me to prevent my ability to learn in that tutorial.The University considers Autism as a medical issue, a "disorder". As a result, when I decided to have a break from my studies it is considered a medical interruption. Consequently, I can no longer return to studies until a GP says I am capable. I had the autonomy to start my studies, the autonomy to decide to have a break due to covid complications, yet I no longer have the autonomy to continue studying to finish my degree. Ironically, to get onto the path of a diagnosis so that I could receive an ILP in the first place, I had to educate the GP myself about autism and the autistic experience and I am now expected to rely on them to say I am capable to continue. No doubt, I will have to educate the GP again if the University continues to feel it appropriate to require third party input regarding my autistic life.

They recently stated that: "An up to date note from your GP or other medical professional involved in your care also enables us to check what support you may need for a successful return to study". I do not need a GP or other medical professional providing care for me - this suppression of a person who is classed as "disabled" is disgusting. I am fully capable of looking after myself and I do not warrant the intervention of the medical industry to be able to exist as an autistic being. Being autistic should not be a medical issue, it should follow a social model due to the construction of a world built for the dominant neurotypical people yet this university fails to treat us with respect and failures to reach equality. Their failure at this basic level prevents any consideration to reach a more superior notion of inclusivity.

To gain the support I need by declaring my "disability" and establishing an ILP, it is now being used against me with the refusal to allow me to continue my education without GP approval due to their pathologizing of my existence.

These issues are not isolated. The University's failure to respect their students with additional needs is inherent as it has been noted previously (https://www.disabilitynewsservice.co...nation-claims/) and their ignorance towards providing adequate support in their Wellbeing team for students has also been made apparent (https://thetab.com/uk/2020/11/26/exe...st-year-184268).

I have brought the issues I have experienced to the attention of the University but they refuse to engage in conversation. They refuse to acknowledge their treatment is wrong, they refuse to acknowledge that ableism exists and sweep the issues under the carpet. Rather than address the issues, they have hidden the review section on their Facebook page and continue to pretend nothing is wrong.

This university is inherently ableist and failing students who do not conform to their demands, their procedures, or their education style.
Was this just a rant/outing of that University, or did you want people to comment?
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russellmarett
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#7
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#7
(Original post by Reality Check)
Was this just a rant/outing of that University, or did you want people to comment?
Primarily a rant/outing. A formal complaint has been made, and the Vice-Chancellor's office have been made aware, again. However, they simply try to diffuse the situation and they have used staff members to discuss my concerns and then they ignore said staff members and do not bother to continue the dialogue in the hope that the issue disappears.

Unfortunately, the only way to make change is to make the issue as prominent as possible and avoid it being swept under the carpet again.
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russellmarett
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#8
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#8
(Original post by Quack_Dragon)
OP I am sorry, university is inherently very abelist. I find that (for autistic students) it's more a case of us trying and surviving there rather than thriving. I wish that I knew how to change it. From what you written, you clearly are autistic. Getting a diagnosis quickly is probably the only way to really get support, it is awful. I hate how it is used as a barrier. I am a mere undergraduate student at the moment so have no choice but to play to thier system. I have heard of people getting a diagnosis quicker through something called 'psychiatry UK'. Apparently if you use 'NHS right to chose' when asking the GP and get a referral to Psychiatry UK then they tend to have shorter waiting lists for diagnosis. I haven't done this myself but heard of people for whom it worked.
Thank you. Yes I do find that I am primarily trying to fight to survive and keep to their expectations rather than thrive on my own terms.
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Reality Check
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#9
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#9
artful_lounger - I thought you might find this interesting.
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Anonymous #1
#10
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#10
Are you proven to be autistic
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Reality Check
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#11
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#11
(Original post by Anonymous)
Are you proven to be autistic
I don't think 'proven' is a very good way of looking at this - it's not some examination or legal procedure. Would you ask someone if they'd been 'proved' to be depressed, or anxious or something?
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sufys
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#12
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#12
(Original post by Reality Check)
I don't think 'proven' is a very good way of looking at this - it's not some examination or legal procedure. Would you ask someone if they'd been 'proved' to be depressed, or anxious or something?
Aren't those temporary though? Autism is lifelong. If it isn't proven then it isn't reasonable to provide anything extra to said individual... anyone can claim to be autistic.
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Reality Check
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#13
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#13
(Original post by sufys12)
Aren't those temporary though? Autism is lifelong. If it isn't proven then it isn't reasonable to provide anything extra to said individual... anyone can claim to be autistic.
Sorry, what things are 'only temporary'?
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russellmarett
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#14
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#14
(Original post by sufys12)
Aren't those temporary though? Autism is lifelong. If it isn't proven then it isn't reasonable to provide anything extra to said individual... anyone can claim to be autistic.
I have a "working diagnosis". I am going through the system but it's not usually one meeting and you're diagnosed.
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sufys
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#15
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#15
(Original post by Reality Check)
Sorry, what things are 'only temporary'?
I believe that anxiety and depression? Apologies if I am incorrect in this case. However I think that if someone can self identify with a syndrome/disorder, it makes the whole idea of the disorder meaningless...
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sufys
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#16
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#16
(Original post by russellmarett)
I have a "working diagnosis". I am going through the system but it's not usually one meeting and you're diagnosed.
However there's no guarantee that you will be diagnosed... I know that, I was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of 6.
Last edited by sufys12; 8 months ago
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Reality Check
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#17
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#17
(Original post by sufys12)
I believe that anxiety and depression? Apologies if I am incorrect in this case. However I think that if someone can self identify with a syndrome/disorder, it makes the whole idea of the disorder meaningless...
Oh, I see - yes
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russellmarett
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#18
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#18
(Original post by sufys12)
However there's no guarantee that you will be diagnosed... I know that, I was diagnosed in 2013 at the age of 6.
However, you do not know my experiences and that I have explored every aspect of my life, every "oddity" that made me a "weird" child, that a diagnosis is merely a formality. Whether or not I have had a formal diagnosis is irrelevant, I have enough evidence to work towards a diagnosis and justify the need for support.
IF, and it's a big if, I were not to be autistic, then I certainly have issues that warrant support anyway.
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artful_lounger
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#19
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#19
(Original post by Reality Check)
artful_lounger - I thought you might find this interesting.
Interesting although not unsurprising, it largely tallies with my experiences trying to navigate those same processes and admin departments (albeit for a different condition) when I was at Exeter. Unfortunate to see there has been no improvement since then.

Although the OP didn't get that far, I also found after I was approved to receive DSA and had my needs assessment, during which the assessor helpfully identified a number of pieces of equipment and software that would help me in recording lectures and then being able to go through them afterwards, they promptly stopped doing anything and I never received any of that equipment or software to support my studies anyway.

So perhaps even that won't be of much help if/when the OP does get a diagnosis and DSA...
Last edited by artful_lounger; 8 months ago
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Anonymous #1
#20
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#20
(Original post by Reality Check)
I don't think 'proven' is a very good way of looking at this - it's not some examination or legal procedure. Would you ask someone if they'd been 'proved' to be depressed, or anxious or something?
Yes i would, who wouldn't
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