Disabled students’ campaign

What is the Disabled Students’ Campaign?

The Disabled Students’ Campaign within NUS-USI is a self-organising, autonomous liberation campaign for disabled students. It has its own part-time elected Disabled Students’ Officer, Disabled Students’ Committee and conference.

The conference is open to disabled students on a self-determining basis. The motions passed at our conference become the policy of the Disabled Students’ Campaign and form the basis of the work we engage in for the following year. The NUS-USI disabled students’ campaign and officer position has only recently been embedded in NUS-USI constitution.

A social model of disability

NUS-USI believes in a social model of disability. We believe that disability is caused by barriers and discrimination – not because of our individual impairments. It says that, if access adjustments are made, a person becomes non-disabled.

The alternative model, the medical model of disability (also known as the individual model of disability), argues that impairments cause disability. We don’t accept this – we feel that if adjustments are made we are able to participate in the same way as anyone else.

The social model of disability is at the centre of all the work that the NUS-USI Disabled Students’ Campaign does.


The Government has responded to the social model of disability by introducing a vast amount of legislation, most of it with the specific aim of ensuring that disabled people are able to participate in all aspects of society, including education.

Hidden disabilities

The Disabled Students’ Campaign is frequently misunderstood. Many students believe we only represent wheelchair users, or those with sensory impairments. Many students have disabilities that cannot be seen – examples include dyslexia, mental ill health and/or autism.

The Disabled Students’ Campaign exists to ensure that all disabled students are represented, whether their impairment is seen or unseen. We work hard to raise awareness of all disabilities and encourage access for all students.

Our campaign

We believe that, as disabled students, we know best about what is right for us. We have suffered at the hands of an inaccessible world, we have suffered discrimination and oppression consistently and we know that our liberation should be achieved by us.

We welcome non-disabled people who support our broad aims and objectives, particularly carers and family members who have an understanding of disability and its effects.

But we believe that we have a right to represent ourselves. We have been patronised by society, charities and ‘well-meaning’ people, and find it offensive and discriminatory. Those working to achieve liberation for disabled people (both on a wider level and also in individual colleges and universities) should themselves be disabled.

Here are some practical things that disabled students’ officers have done in colleges and universities across the country:

– set up disabled students’ groups

– set up disabled sports clubs

– worked with their institutions to improve access

– got involved in national disability policies

– lobbied their local council to improve access

– improved the accessibility of their students’ union

– got hundreds of disabled students involved in their union

– improved the facilities of bars and clubs on campus

– achieved funding from disability organisations to work on access

– run successful campaigns

– acted on behalf of disabled students in appeals

– ensured that disability is represented (and therefore worked towards equal opportunities) on the SU executive

– provided student-led training on disability to SU and institution staff

– represented their institution nationally at NUS-USI Disabled Students’ Conference

Useful contacts

Mencap NI

In Northern Ireland Mencap works alongside and represents the interests of people with a learning disability and their families.

  • We deliver a wide range of practical support services, transforming the lives of children, young people, men and women with a learning disability and their families.
  • We help people with a learning disability to speak out about the things that are important to them and enhance the skills and capacity of our local membership network.
  • We challenge attitudes and assumptions about learning disability and involve people from different backgrounds and communities in our work.

A: Segal House, 4 Annadale Avenue, Belfast, BT7 3JH

T: 028 9069 1351

Minding your head

Minding Your Head has information on how to protect your mental and emotional wellbeing and the issues that can affect it, eg anxiety or depression. It also contains information on the local services that can offer help and support.

w: http://mindingyourhead.info/

Eating disorders NI

Eating Disorders Association NI offers support and advice to people who are affected by Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder. They are based in Bryson House, 28 Bedford Street, Belfast and our centre is open Monday to Friday, 9 – 5 but they also offer a 24 hour telephone support service for those who need us at any time.

They hold support groups on the 2nd and last Tuesday of each month, where people who have personal experience of eating disorders volunteer their time to offer support to sufferers.

T: 028 9023 5959 e: edani@btconnect.com A: Eating Disorders Association N.Ireland, 28 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7EF


Niamh, (the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health), is the largest and longest established independent charity focusing on mental health and wellbeing services in Northern Ireland. Niamh is structured as a group consisting of four elements, Compass, Beacon, Inspire and Carecall.

T: 02890328474

A: 80 University Street, Belfast BT7 1HE

Equality commission NI (Disabled people in education

Northern Ireland has a number of anti-discrimination laws that protect people in education. Education providers also have duties placed upon them by SENDO (Special Educational Needs and Disability Order 2005) and other legislation.

T: 028 90 500 600

A: Equality House 7-9 Shaftesbury Square Belfast, BT2 7DP

e: information@equalityni.org