Students with physical and invisible disabilities


The nature of clubs and societies means that everyone is different, and the worries and barriers are therefore different too. This means that there is no one size fits all but doing something that encourages your club or society to examine the issues people may encounter specifically to your club or society is a good starting point.  

Potential barriers for students with a disability joining a student group 

  • Their own perceptions 

  • The perceptions of others 

  • Physical barriers 

  • Lack of provision 

  • Not wanting to “Put other out” 

  • Confidence  

Here are some potential areas your club or society could focus on to make your activities inclusive for ALL students: 

DISPEL MYTHS explain how people can participate if from the outside they may have assumed they wouldn’t be able to. 

CONTACT have a specific person a potential member can contact to discuss solutions for more specific accessibility enquires. With personal matters, people are often more receptive to a designated committee member rather than a general email. This could be a good role for your equality and diversity officer. Keep their disability confidential, as a student may trust you with the issue or need you to know to help them participate but they might not want all members knowing. 

SHOWCASE DIVERSITY – make all students feel welcome to join by creating a promotion that showcases the diversity in your club or society. 


The Union holds a £2500 grant pot to help student groups who would like to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of their society or club. You can find out more here 

There is a whole range of activities or events you could host that would help to make your student group more accessible and inclusive. Please see below for some ideas;  

  • Adapting your current sessions, events or socials to be more accessible and inclusive e.g. Introducing a quieter part of your session for students that would benefit from more 1-2-1 support or may feel overwhelmed in large social settings.  

  • Purchasing equipment that makes your activity more inclusive e.g. hearing loop (also known as an Induction loop). 

  • Running a session, event or social that breaks down barriers to your activity for a specific target group e.g. family event on a weekend for those who have caring responsibilities alongside their studies.  

  • Resources to upskill current committee members or other student groups e.g. UK Coaching online course for Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity 

COMMUNICATION  This is key. If you put on an event and there are barriers (e.g. part of the building is not wheelchair accessible) then clearly communicate this. Commute on your webpage and your social media that you can support all students to take part in your club or society activity, students just need to let you know how you can best do this. It is important to note that not everyone will feel comfortable revealing a disability, so if someone does it is important to reassure them and try to be accommodating with the activities you organise. If you are ever unsure of how best to do this, please get in touch with the SU, including the physical and invisible disability officers. If you are a club, your uea+sport coordinator is a good person to get in contact with.  

DISABILITY IS ON A SPECTRUM  It is important to remember some conditions are a spectrum, with symptoms that vary from person to person. Therefore, do not presume you know exactly what one person’s needs are because you know someone with the same condition.  

CLUB GOOD PRACTICE EXAMPLE – SUB AQUA Sub aqua started a campaign called “I want to scuba dive, but…” This series of social media posts will pick common accessibility issues, groups that may be more apprehensive than others, common worries, and explain how the club makes sure that those things aren’t a problem for members. We’re starting with things like – I have a physical disability, I have an invisible disability, I have a mental health condition, I’m transgender, I’m worried about wearing swimwear, I can’t swim very well.  


Some disabled people may use controversial language when talking about themselves. That’s their choice, but it doesn’t mean they’d be happy for you to use it. 

There are some words that many disabled people find hurtful or harsh because they: 

  • suggest disabled people are helpless 

  • are pitying 

  • are often used abusively. 

Here are some tips on language that most people prefer: 

You could say 

Never say 

Disabled person 

Disabled people 

The disabled 

Non-disabled person 

Non-disabled people 




Deaf person 

Deaf people 

The deaf 

Blind person 

Blind people 

The blind 


Person with Dwarfism 

People with Dwarfism 


Person with a learning difficulty 

People with learning difficulties 




Person with Down's Syndrome 

People with Down's Syndrome 


Person with Downs 

Challenges of mental health 

Mental patient 




A wheelchair user 

Wheelchair users 


Confined to a wheelchair 


Less common 



There are also some terms that people commonly used conversationally that have origins discriminating against disability- consider whether you would like to keep using these words after discovering they may cause upset to some... These include dumb, cretin, insane, maniac, psycho, moron, batty, daft, delusional, gimp, hysterical, imbecile, junkie, lame, thick