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Top award given to head of DMU's disability services team

The head of the team which has pioneered better ways to support students with disabilities at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has been honoured with a prestigious national award.

Tina Sharpe has been chosen by the directors of the National Association of Disability Practitioners to receive this year’s Deb Viney Award.

Tina Sharpe award NADP

Tina Sharpe (centre with her award) and her team

She leads the Disability Advice and Support Team (DAST) at DMU which has helped introduce the DMU Replay lecture recording service, quiet-themed accommodation for people with autism or mental health issues, and improved assistive computer software.

The award is given annually in honour of Deb Viney, who died in 2014, and was one of the founders of the National Association of Disability Practitioners (then named the National Association of Disability Officers).

She worked tirelessly to promote good practice in the sector and gave invaluable support to many colleagues nationally and internationally.

Tina was nominated by one of her team, assessment centre manager Ursula Bilson, who highlighted the positive impact of her leadership of DMU’s Disability Advice and Support Team (DAST).

Ursula gave a glowing report of Tina’s activities which have made a positive difference to the experiences of disabled students at DMU, recognising her role in creating an inclusive learning environment.

Tina said: “I always think it’s wonderful to be recognised by your peers so it was really nice to be put forward for this award by a colleague.

“The work we do is all about my team, the students and the desire to make the university as accessible as possible to all so that one day there will not have to be a disability officer or team.

“We’ve had a myriad of successes with our support projects this year, but in particular we are getting people to see students with disabilities as university students first, rather than as people who are just the responsibility of my team.”

Tina was presented with her award at the charity’s annual conference and gala dinner at the Jurys Inn Hinckley Island Hotel on Friday.

Earlier this year her team and DMU’s innovative work to support disabled students earned a runners-up place in The Guardian University Awards in the category for the best Student Diversity and Widening Participation Scheme.

They were also shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Leadership & Management Award (THELMA) for Outstanding Student Services Team, recognising the impact of implementing Brain in Hand, a personalised support system for autistic students.

Eighteen per cent of students at DMU are registered disabled, the fourth highest proportion among UK universities. Tina’s team set out to make the experience of disabled students as good as it can possibly be – in keeping with the university’s core values of diversity and inclusivity.

It introduced a Disability Enhancement Programme which aims to increase the independence of disabled students and to narrow attainment gaps.

The principle of Universal Design for Learning was introduced, which recognises that learning variability is the rule rather than the exception.

An example of this being put into practice is the DMU Replay policy which ensures that lectures are recorded so all students, including those with different learning needs and styles, can review the lectures in their own time.

Quiet-themed accommodation was also established to cater for the needs of autistic students and those with mental health conditions.

New assistive software was introduced, as well as enhancements to the university’s approach to providing study materials in accessible formats.

Posted on Friday 7th July 2017

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