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University Of Sheffield Apologises To Blind Student Over Lack Of Support

September 9, 2021

A blind student who withdrew from his university course after promised learning support failed to materialise said his future had “evaporated”.

Daniel Swain left the University of Sheffield a month after starting because of failings which he said meant his learning was inaccessible

The 19-year-old said he had “really struggled” since ending his philosophy degree course in October 2020.

The university has apologised and reimbursed his tuition fees.

Mr Swain, who began losing his sight aged 15 due to a genetic condition which affects the optic nerve, needed to know his timetable in advance so he could learn routes to buildings.

The university also said it would make teaching materials accessible to him.

Mr Swain, originally from Bridlington in East Yorkshire, said a learning support plan put together by the institution was not circulated to his lecturers.

‘All avoidable’

Mr Swain, who achieved two A* and one A grade in his A-levels, withdrew from the course because he was falling behind due to being unable to access materials effectively.

“I’ve been left in a really low place by the university… because I essentially had to see my future evaporate in front of me,” he said.

“It’s frustrating for me to see the university’s explanation for what happened.

“Everything could have been avoided if they’d just done what they were supposed to do.”

“Essentially, the university had inefficient systems for sharing support plans for disabled students,” he added.

“I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to other disabled students.”

The University of Sheffield issued a full apology and reimbursed Mr Swain’s tuition fees.

He was also offered some compensation, but his maintenance loan has not yet been repaid and he said he has been put off returning to education.

A university spokesperson said they were “very sorry” the support plan was not “fully implemented by a student’s department”.

“We are working proactively with our Students’ Union to improve our disability support and producing extensive guidance on implementing Learning Support Plans and the recommendations they make.

“We continue our commitment to addressing barriers to participation to ensure we provide inclusive curricula, learning and teaching environments.”

The Students’ Union said the issues raised were not unique to Mr Swain’s case and it was “completely unacceptable”.

‘Future stolen’

Mr Swain said: “I went to Sheffield and came back with nothing. I don’t know [now] what I want to do.”

“My future has been stolen from me,” he added.

“Going to university with a disability is hard enough.”

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