Disabled Students’ Campaign

What is the Disabled Students’ Campaign?

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

The conference is open to disabled students and those that choose to define as having a disability. This includes but is not limited to: physical impairments, mental health conditions, neurodiversity, visual impairments, D/deaf and hard of hearing, learning difficulties and chronic illnesses.

Disabled Students’ Conference is open to disabled students on a self-determining basis. The motions that get passed at this conference become the policy of the Disabled Students’ Campaign. These motions form the basis of work engaged in the following year for the NUS-USI Disabled Students Campaign.

It is important to note that the NUS-USI Disabled Students’ Campaign has recently been embedded in the NUS-USI constitution, but work is currently ongoing to ensure that as an organisation we can provide the best level of support and representation to those students who define within this remit.

The NUS-USI Disabled Students’ Campaign tries to liaise as much as possible with other Disabled Students’ Officers on a national level to make sure as nations we provide the best level of support

The Social Model of Disability

Every disability is important. No matter how you much or how little you choose to define. As part of the Disabled Students’ Campaign this year, there is a very strong focus on vanquishing the stigma that currently exists in society with regards to this. NUS-USI believes in a social model of disability. Disability is caused by barriers and discrimination – not because of our individual impairments. It says that, if access adjustments are made, a person is given the same opportunities as those that don’t define as disabled.

The campaign this year attempts to focus highly on full inclusion, providing acceptable levels of accessibility to all, and getting rid of the stereotype that people cannot be disabled if their disability is not visible. A person should not be ever considered by themselves or others as ‘not disabled enough’.

The alternative model, the medical model of disability (also known as the individual model of disability), argues that impairments cause disability. We at NUS-USI do not accept this – we feel that if adjustments are made, if there is equality then a disabled person is 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. We feel at NUS-USI it is our responsibility to ensure that the rights of disabled students are fought for. If there are any issues with this legislation that leads to any group of people being disadvantaged or not supported, we aim to highlight and draw attention. We aim to fight and campaign for change, and make sure that disabled people are continuously supported. We aim to educate and introduce policy that will ensure disabled people feel valued within their communities.

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 continue to do so. We know that liberation must be achieved and should be achieved for us. It is not our responsibility to fix the problem, but it is our responsibility to make everyone aware that inequality is an issue. Without this awareness, we will continue to suffer.

The campaign works closely with any mental health campaigns running in NUS-USI. As the Disabled Students’ Campaign, we focus on ensuring accessibility across other related campaigns so that are values are respected, and we are included.

But, we believe we have the right to represent ourselves. We have been patronised by society, charities and ‘well-meaning’ people. We find this patronisation both offensive and discriminatory.

The Disabled Students’ Campaign is all about liberation, it is about achieving change. We welcome anyone to get involved that has a passion and respect for the disabled students’ community.

  • The Disabled Students’ Campaign is NOT about tolerance, it is about equality.
  • The Disabled Students’ Campaign is NOT about acceptance, it is about recognition.
  • The Disabled Students’ Campaign is NOT about disability, it is about ability.
  • The Disabled Students’ Campaign is NOT about what we can’t do, it’s about what we can.
  • The Disabled Students’ Campaign is NOT about what conditions we have, it is about who we are.
  • My disability is not my weakness, it is who I am.

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’ Conferences

Useful Contacts

NUS-USI Disabled Students’ Officer: Richard Moorhead

Emergency services (Police, ambulance service, fire and rescue service, coastguard) – 999 or 112

Lifeline (24 hour support for those in distress or despair) – 0808 808 8000 | 18001 0808 808 800 Deaf and hard of hearing –Textphone users can call Lifeline on this number

Samaritans helpline (Listening ear to those in distress) – Freephone 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org

Police (PSNI) (Will connect you to your local station) – 101

H.E.A.R.T.  (The Maureen Sheehan Centre) – 028 9031 0346

East Belfast Community Development Agency (Provides accessible, confidential counselling in East Belfast) – 028 9046 0489

Inspire (formerly NIAMH) (Local support, including housing schemes, home support, advocacy services, information services and education) – 028 9032 8474

Praxis Care (Services for adults and children with a learning disability, mental ill health or acquired brain injury, and for older people, including people with dementia) – 028 9023 4555

Mindwise (Support for people recovering from mental illness) – 028 9040 2323

Threshold (Residential and supported housing/floating support) – 028 9087 1313

Action Mental Health / New Horizons (Support the recovery of adults experiencing mental ill health interested in progressing towards FE/training) – 028 9027 8283

OASIS – IMAGO Project (Committed to helping people overcome loneliness. A professional befriending project) – 028 9087 2277 ext 203

Eating Disorders Association (A charity based in supporting anyone affected by eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS or any other difficulties with food, weight and shape) – 028 9023 5959

Aware (A listening ear helpline and support groups) – 028 9035 7820

The Conservation Volunteers NI (Green Gym Project) – 028 9064 5169

Mencap NI (Works alongside and represents the interests of people with a learning disability and their families) – 028 9069 1351