Web Exclusives Freshers

Welcome from the YUSU Disabilities Officer

Your college, the University and the student union (YUSU) all strive to make your transition to your new uni as smooth as possible. Thomas Ron explains where you can turn for help.

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The YUSU Student Centre, located next to James College. Credit: Tom Witherow
The YUSU Student Centre, located next to James College. Credit: Tom Witherow

Hello, and welcome to York. I am the YUSU Disabled Students Officer. My job is to be your voice in the student union (YUSU), fighting to make the university a better place for disabled students. Whether it's installing benches on Hes East, lobbying for financial relief, launching empowerment and employability campaigns, ensuring that exam arrangements are provided, or coordinating disability sport efforts, I am your campaigning voice within the University.

I, along with the Disabled Students' Network, work to ensure that disabled students get the best out of university and can leave it as enriched as any other student. So, whether you self-define as disabled, or use disability services, I am here to help you and ensure your years at York are the best you will be the best you have ever had. This introduction is to provide information that should help you upon arriving in York.

Support and Welfare

The University and YUSU are dedicated to providing support to all students, and disabled students are no exception. Every college has trained welfare tutors who are available to be contacted at any time to deal with any problems. Most colleges also have a specific disability rep that is a liaison between their Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC) and the Disabled Students' Network.

College representation

Alcuin: Alistair Bochel
Hi, I'm Alistair. I'm a second year Politics student and the Disabilities Officer for Alcuin College. My job is to work as part of the welfare team in Alcuin, with specific focus on disabled students. If you ever have any comments or problems to raise about anything at all, feel free to get in contact by email at alistair.bochel@alcuincollege.com or come along to a welfare drop-in session in the common room. I'll be happy to help as best I can. I hope you enjoy being part of Alcuin as much as me!

Derwent: No position (but I am a Derwent student who lives on campus)

Goodricke: Bill Timpany
Hi, I'm the Disability Officer for Goodricke College. Although I'm not disabled myself, I have worked with Thomas Ron and the rest of the DSN since my election and I'm willing to help any new students with any queries or issues regarding access on the Heslington East Campus.

Halifax: Jessica Smith
"Hi I'm Jessica, the disabilities officer for Halifax College, welcome to York! I'm here to listen to any concerns you have and help facilitate any changes which may be needed. This year I'll be specifically focusing on improving disabled student welfare facilities and access within Halifax. After living in Halifax myself last year I am certain that you'll absolutely love your time there, but if you have any difficulties I'm here to help!"

James: Zohra Khan
"I'm Zohra and I'm the Access rep for James College. My job involves looking out for the welfare of students with disabilities. I provide information with anything regarding disability services, welfare support and advice regarding all issues relating to physical or mental disabilities. I also represent student views on disability matters to the college and YUSU. If you have any problems or just want a friendly chat, contact me on access@jamescollege.com. The Welfare Team will also be holding weekly drop-in with free drinks and biscuits if you fancy a chat about how you're settling in or if there's any problems regarding support or general university life. There's plenty of support available and the sooner you let us know, the better we can help!"

Langwith: Calum Stewart and Tay Whitehead
"As the Langwith JCRC Disability and Access Officers our main responsibility is to represent the views of students within Langwith College with disability and access concerns. We do this by participating as active members of the YUSU Disabled Students Network, highlighting issues both for Langwith students and students university-wide, as well as running regular drop-in sessions offering one-on-one support. During Freshers Week we represent the JCR as Disability and Access STYCs (Second and Third Year Contacts). We believe it is important to ensure students with such concerns are directed to the appropriate support services, this may be the centrally located Disability Services, or the more locally based Langwith College Welfare Team. As one of the only colleges with disability and access specific officers, it may also be appropriate for us to provide support through our own experiences as both officers self-identify as having an ongoing disability or access concern. We want to ensure that students do not experience unnecessary hindrances whilst studying at York and that where support is available, it is given, and where it is not, something is done to provide such support in the future."

Vanbrugh: Position open

All of the undergraduate colleges hold events in Freshers' for information and answer any questions you may have for your disability rep and JCRC, Disability Services, or me. Here's the line-up:

-Alcuin: 3 PM in the Alcuin JCRC on Monday 30th September
-Derwent: 3pm in Derwent JCR on Tuesday 1st October
-Goodricke and Langwith: 12.30pm in Goodricke Nucleus on Thursday 3rd October
-Halifax: 3 PM in JJ's on Wednesday 2nd October
-James: 1pm at Lakeside JCR on Friday 4th October
-Vanbrugh: 2 PM in the JCR on Wednesday 9th October 2013

JCRC reps are there to represent you, however, important issues should be taken to the welfare tutors, who will introduce themselves at the beginning of term.

University representation

I am elected to be your voice to the University. I am contactable on my e-mail address, access@yusu.org. I also work closely with George Offer, our Welfare Officer, and Dan Whitmore, our Academic Officer, who are both based in the YUSU student centre, next to James College. We also have a staff member, Mel Fox, who deals with Academic and Welfare casework who can be contacted during office hours or on m.fox@yusu.org.

In addition to YUSU, Student Support Services, based in Block B of the Sally Baldwin Building, cover Disability Services and Open Door Team. Disability Services are in charge of assisting disabled students during their time at York working with the Exams Office to provide specific exam arrangements. The Open Door Team is here as the first point of contact for students with emotional, psychological or mental health difficulties.

College Accommodation

All colleges have rooms set aside for access needs. The first point of call to contact in terms of college accommodation is your college administrator, details can be found on your college's website (all available in the Nouse college guide). On a personal note, I must Point out that Alcuin, Goodricke, Langwith, and the blocks in the Barbara Scott/Donald Barron courts of Vanbrugh all have lifts, and are probably the most accessible halls of accommodation.


YUSU are launching an initiative to promote disability sport, and will be selecting a 'disability sport activator' soon. All the sports clubs will do their best to be as inclusive as possible. Additionally, all sports clubs have a commitment not to allow bullying and have officers who will work to ensure that everyone feels able and is willing to participate. Our YUSU Sport President Cass Brown is here to help, and can be contacted at any time if you have a question or a problem. There are also great opportunities in college sport, with a wide range of sports and teams to cater for everyone.

Nouse says:

The work of a number of union officers and campaigning students has resulted in a variety of types of support, and a high standard of disabled accommodation and access across campus. Access to sports remains poor as a recent report flagged up, but this is expected to be a YUSU priority this year.

Sometimes individual cases do slip under the radar, but as Thomas describes there are people you can go to. The support system can look complicated but really there are three areas: College (welfare tutors, emails to be found on the college pages of the University website), The Student Union (YUSU), and the University. Good 'first port of calls' are your college welfare tutors, or the YUSU welfare officer, George Offer.

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1 Comment

Brian Posted on Sunday 25 Aug 2019

The idea of telling ppoele that they must have an STD test before starting at university is deeply offensive and a massive infringement of human rights and personal freedom. Just because the US Army does it, doesn't make it right.What if someone refuses the test on the reasonable grounds that they either abstain from sex or only practise safe sex? Will they be excluded from attending? What if someone refuses on the even more reasonable grounds that it is none of the university's business. What about ppoele who don't attend university until later in life? Do they have to have tests as well? Or can you exclude them because of age? If so, what age? What you are suggesting is highly dangerous state control. Where will it end? Why not impose a curfew on all men at night to prevent attacks on women. Let's close all the pubs to stop drunk drivers. Children should be wrapped in cotton wool in case they fall over. And let's close down the internet as well because a few ppoele use it in an unlawful way.The most important lesson in life is that actions have consequences. People must take responsibility for their own actions. In a free and democratic country you cannot punish the majority because of the actions of a small minority.


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