Teenagers with visual impairments got to grips with science and maths at a special event hosted by the University.
The event was organised by the University’s Widening Participation Office working in collaboration with the National HE STEM Programme and Sensory Support Services for Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bristol, and North Somerset.
The question of under-representation of learners with disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects in the UK universities is recognised as one of the important issues in the debate for fair access to higher education. National surveys in the UK suggest that learners with visual impairment are only a small percentage of those taking degrees in STEM subjects.
The University of Bath offered learners, their parents and teachers a creative, dynamic and supported environment that enabled pupils to meet others with visual impairments to share experiences and generate new ideas.
During the day learners, teachers, and parents were engaged in collaborative ‘different –thinking’ about higher education. They got a chance to meet Paralympian Ben Rushgrove, as well as postgraduate computer science and second year psychology students who are visually impaired to hear from them about what university life is like.
The youngsters, aged 13-17, took part in a workshop to think about how maths can be applied to computer science and parents were shown the assistive technologies available to help visually impaired students at the University. The participants also were shown around the University’s electron microscopy facility and were given a tour around the campus.
The aim of the day was to inspire young people to look at science and technology subjects in a different way and encourage young learners with disabilities to consider studying STEM subjects at university.
Jake Wiltshire,19, from the West of England School and College (Countess Wear, Devon) said: “My parents didn’t want me to go to university because of my disability but I wish I could be a student now.
“I thought I wouldn’t fit in but it is cool to be a student.”
Sue Rogers, from Sensory Support Services, said: “It was a useful day and well received. I hope that we can work together again in the future.”
Iryna Withington, Widening Participation Coordinator at the University of Bath added: “It was challenging and exciting to work on this project that brought together our University, schools, and community to deliver something wonderful and empowering for youngsters.
“It also allowed professionals to share good practice and increase our collaboration in the west region.”
The day was supported by the Department of Computer Science (Professor James Davenport and PhD Student Mesar Hameed) Department of Mathematical Sciences (Professor Chris Budd and student Nicki Godbold) , the Department of Biology & Biochemistry (Dr Momna Hejmadi), the Microscopy and Analysis Suite (Ursula Potter), the Disability Service (Louise Miller) and Ben Rushgrove whose talk opened the day.