Disability Discrimination at University

Hi everyone.

Just wondering if anyone has had experience with discrimination at uni (or work) and how they have dealt with it. I have just been suspended and banned from site basically due to my asthma.

To give a bit of history and the gist of the issue; since Sept 2015 my asthma has gone loopy - my preventer basically stopped working, then I caught every cold under the sun. I ended up having a 3 month 'suspension' during last year as my condition was out of control (at the time I was at a rubbish GP surgery who didn't seem to understand the situation, thought weekly nebs showed improved control, and wouldn't to refer me to a specialist). Eventually, I played the system to get referred to a specialist however I ended up having to resit the year due to missed time, no coursework, no exams etc.

Since May/June 2016 I have changed GP surgery and been under the care of the hospital, played with medication (went from step 3 to step 5) and have had better control. In Sept my uni requested that I kept the student welfare officer and clinic administrator (I'm training to be an osteopath) informed of the situation, which I did, however in Oct I had a moderate attack (my current level of control views this as a minor event) brought on by a cold and by walking 500m uphill to clinic. As clinic were panicking I went to hospital and was released in a few hours (a short one which I could have dealt with at home or at the GP), I stayed off uni until my cold had resolved but on return got suspended and banned form site under fitness to practice for 2 weeks (which lead to 5 whilst waiting for GP/Hospital letters stating I was fit to be there). This was 6-8 weeks before my dissertation due date meaning that also being banned from the library was a pain. I spoke to CAB towards the end of the ban, but we left it as see how it goes. My GP advised me not to discuss the situation with the 2 that I was told to by uni as they over-reacted to the situation and didn't understand my disability, but to inform him and my tutors (who all have medical training as they are osteopaths) when I have any issues. Part of the unis demands for my return was fortnightly meeting with the 2 mentioned above, which I had to (grudgingly) agree to. After my return I was admitted overnight in hospital in Dec, however only my colleagues and tutors were aware of it, and there were no issues, and I got my dissertation in on time!

Since the beginning of Feb my asthma has worsened to the point of bouncing between yellow and red continuously, and I have been on high dose steroids basically continuously since then (only just got down to 20mg), as well has having a home neb kit. I had 2 exams during this time (one of which I had to fight to do as the meeting people didn't want me to fail it - I passed it well despite being in A&E for 4 hrs 4 days prior!) which my GP supported me through. The meeting people were unaware of the above situation, commenting on how well I looked and that I just needed to stay healthy until graduation (roll eyes...oh that was what I was doing wrong...!).

In March/April I had 3 hosp admissions totalling 13 days, and started, stopped and restarted uniphyllin (I had bad side effects, GP took me off until I saw a consultant, 5 days later back in hospital...) - I rang in and informed staff during these times, attending when I felt well enough to etc. Now the uniphyllin is working really well with little/no side effects, however the 2 previously discussed have only just discovered the situation (I was asking for an extension on a piece of coursework). Now I have been suspended until after my first appt in Brompton in 6 weeks time (possibly starting Xolair injections...) despite graduation being in 8 weeks and my 2 final exams happening in this time. I currently feel more controlled than I have in a long time so it isn't fair to ban me when I'm well and stop me attending lectures based around exams which wont be repeated. They have told me to I'll do my exams in August.

I have had to put up with comments such as I'm not taking my condition seriously enough (cause I talk about it with a smile as a coping mechanism), and they know people who have died from asthma... I'm the ill-est student they've ever had... they don't want me to die onsite etc. I have done my best to keep those I like/think are relevant informed, none of whom appear to have any issues with me and have been supportive (again this has been a very brief outline of the year!)

I am currently in the process of appealing my suspension (and have discussed it with CAB, my GP and EASS and been told I have a case for disability discrimination), but I'm wondering if anyone else has been in a similar situation and what was done about it.

Sorry for the long rant, but as you can probably tell I am very frustrated! The road to hell is paved with good intentions, I think describes the situation best!


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7 Replies

  • It,sounds to me like you ARE being discriminated against. The university should be doing everything in their power to enable you to attend and especially to sit your exams. In fact even if you were ill and in hospital arrangements could be made for you to sit exams at the hospital.

    Effectively suspending you is totally unacceptable.

    Have you spoken to the student union? They should be able to,support you.

    Hope,you get things sorted soon. The stress of this situation certainly won't be helping!!

  • We are a tiny uni - grand total of students less than 300 - and we don't have a union only and association to raise funds for graduation each year, so no help there. Also because we are treating members of the public, there are slightly different rules which come from our governing body. I have spoken to the GB in the past who say that its not the condition, but the management of it they care about eg not treating when ill etc, which I feel as though I have fully complied with.

    My main issue is with these 2 people as all other staff I've come into contact with are supportive, which makes it harder on my end to complain, although I have put an informal complaint in my appeal about the situation. I'm trying the passive aggressive route first to basically inform my principle that he is being stupid and discriminatory (because he is nice otherwise and doesn't actually know the situation - just been advised to suspended me). However if this doesn't work I will take it further and EASS have given me advice on that venture (which I really don't want to have to do as everyone else is great).

    Yes, they banned me to 'reduce my stress' to help me to control my condition - yeah because its so less stressful to be up reading uni policies, acts and legal documents and writing appeals when I know I should be learning/revising...

    AHHH... hopefully this complete ban will be revoked soon!!!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my essay :P x

  • Hi I study with the open university and they are brilliant, making sure people with disabilities are well care for. Xx

  • As a general rule my uni has been fine, I just have 2 people (student welfare officer and clinic admin) who think they are doing the right thing, but are actually making life a lot more difficult for me by banning me... think they just don't understand that severe asthma is a disability, not a short term illness that will get better after a break, and that this also means I'm covered by disability discrimination laws (which I don't think they get)... frustrated cause everyone else I'm in contact with are great :/

  • Please don't give up, keep putting your point across or give them the BLF number and they can get in touch with them ,then they will know that what you have is a disability. Good luck, please let me know how you get on.Take care 😊 xxx Bernadette

  • I greatly admire your determination and strength to carry on with your degree whilst you are so ill and have missed so much of it. You must be incredibly bright to do so well and I salute you. I hope things work out for you and the ban is rescinded.

    Your positivity and courage will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

  • Hi everyone

    Just a quick update of the situation. I have appealed the suspension (through a 6 page, 4500 word letter 😅) and today met with my principal to review the situation.

    He cannot stop the suspension however he has pushed it to stage 2 which is a case review panel who will ask to do a medical review to assess whether they think I am well enough to be on the course and to into the profession. I may be asked to provide more information or evidence about my asthma. He has acknowledged that I have moved from having an illness to having a disability so this panel can also discuss support mechanisms they can put in place to help me (such as a taxi to uni [500m uphill] which I have always struggled with) as part of their reasonable adjustments.

    This review will take at least 2 weeks (where I'm still not allowed onsite) before meeting with me where I can bring a colleague/lecturer/specialist to support my case. I'm tempted to ask my GP of it would be possible to 'hire' him privately to come along, however as I don't have a date or time yet not sure if this is feasible.

    I'm currently worried that the panel will kick me off the course (even tho the dean has tried to reassure me that this is not the aim) and so I am stressing about that, as well as the fact that I've already missed 1 final exam, and with it being at least 2 weeks til the panel review I will not be able to sit the other as that's in 3 weeks and involves having enough clinic time/patients for it. I am not allowed onsite until the panel has decided my fate and so cannot prep these things. We are now getting to the point of there only being a few lectures left, and they may all be over before I'm allowed back to lectures 🙄.

    Currently at the point where I'm worried, stressed and frustrated about the situation and I'm not 100% sure what I need to be doing next 😬😖😤😕. Why did it all have to happen now when graduation is in less that 8 weeks? I'm having to accept that even if it's found in my favour I won't be able to graduate (and the principle thinks he's done the right thing so...). If everything had flared up next year once I'd qualified none of this would be happening (tho I do think it's the stress that's caused me to go from 'ill' to disabled).

    On the plus side I'm currently feeling all of this emotion (and researching a lot about law/policies) and my asthmas been ok other than having to take my reliever regularly throughout the day- much better than I was a month or so ago (adding more frustration to the ban).

    Anyhoo just wanted to let you all know what's going on and to thank you for the support I've got from you all! No doubt I'll be on here to update you again in a couple of weeks xxx

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