Contributions from the margins: How people with intellectual disabilities engage in Higher Education activities
- Martin Bollard
- Senior Lecturer Health and Life Sciences Coventry University
- PhD student (Part time) School of Health and Social Studies University of Warwick
People with intellectual disabilities are amongst one of the most disadvantaged groups within society. Less than 10% are in paid employment and many individuals and their families are reliant on the benefit system. By nature of their learning difficulties very few people with intellectual disabilities enter Higher Education or are viewed as capable of contributing to Higher Education.
This abstract outlines how since September 2005 members of an advocacy organisation and individuals with intellectual disabilities themselves, have contributed to designing, recruiting, teaching and evaluating a BSc in Learning Disability Nursing at Coventry University. For example individuals have contributed to interviewing prospective students, attended open days, shared their own ‘lived experience’ of having intellectual disabilities and mental health difficulties and assisted in the assessment of student’s to help shape future practitioners in this field. The individuals, if they wish, are paid £39.07 an hour for their contribution or as an organisation are paid £18.48 an hour. For some individuals who have recently lost employment due to health and social care cut backs, this type of paid involvement is a way of supplementing their income, whilst making a significant contribution to student learning. Every effort is made to prepare, support and induct individuals before they engage in any educational activity. This model of learning has not only provided a rich learning experience for students but also through the contributions of people with intellectual disabilities themselves, improvements in self esteem and well being have been reported.
This approach to learning within Higher Education, although not new, redefines the traditional role of the academic as expert and affords those ordinarily on the margins of society, an opportunity to contribute and shape health care professionals of the future.