The British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) welcomes the Department for Education’s continued commitment to support disabled and neurodiverse students in higher education through the provision of Disabled Student Allowances (DSA).
However, the plans to tender the provision of assistive technology equipment and training, have led to uncertainty about the future of DSA and the wider industry that supports disabled students.
The sector body is calling on government to ensure there is thorough consultation with industry stakeholders, higher education providers and students.
Antony Ruck, Chair of BATA said: “BATA is continuing its campaign to promote the rights of the users of assistive technology and to ensure the needs of the student are kept at the centre of any decision making.
“Any efforts by DfE to simplify, streamline and expedite the process of providing disabled students with assistive technology to enable them to study to the best of their abilities are broadly welcomed by our members.”
“The current policy of ‘student choice’ with regard to equipment supply and training should be preserved. The DfE must also consider the impact of the reduction in the number of companies supplying equipment and training that is implicit in the current proposal.
“The decision to consolidate both equipment and training means that the expertise of standalone training companies and institutions’ in-house teams may be lost to students. BATA urges the DfE to carefully analyse the consequences of this decision to ensure the best outcome for students.”
The government has been committed to supporting the small, innovative companies that have built the UK’s world leading assistive technology industry. Britain’s DSA system is the envy of many countries in the way it allows disabled students to reach their full potential in higher education at the same time as fostering the development of small, specialist suppliers.
BATA is urging DfE to continue supporting small and medium sized British businesses and reflected this support in the criteria used for award of supply contracts.
The industry body believes it would not be in students’ interests to limit their choice of technology or reduce the quality of the support they receive.
BATA will continue to work with DfE to provide expertise and support to ensure the DSA system continues to provide the best possible outcomes for students.