Disabled Students Group rebrand to include Neurodivergent Students

Our Vice President Equality, Diversity and Inclusion discusses the recent proposal.

The logo of the Disabled Students Group

Dear Members, 

We hope this message finds you well. As you may or may not be aware, at their July meeting, the Student Leadership Team voted in support of unification of the Neurodiversity Club with the Disabled Students Group to form the ‘Disabled and Neurodivergent Students Group’ (DNSG). This decision was made following a proposal from the Club Lead for the Neurodiversity Club and consultation with the Disabled Students Group Committee.  

At the Students Association, we have both ‘Clubs’ and ‘Groups’ that both operate very differently. 'Clubs’ run as a Facebook Group with a Club Lead and a Secondary Lead, receiving a little support from the Students Association (mostly in the form of promotion). Clubs tend to be social, and promote a community with a shared interest or trait. ‘Groups’ also bring together students of a particular background to a supportive space, but also have the benefit of support from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Student Welfare staff team, as well as more regular and formal support from the Vice President EDI. They are a place of community, but also perform a representational function due to the direct line to the Student Leadership Team. These Groups are also regularly consulted by the OU on relevant policy and process changes.  

We had originally planned to work with the Neurodiversity Club and Disabled Students Group to prepare for a launch during Freshers. However, we understand that a post was shared with the Neurodiversity Club which may leave you with questions. We are therefore seeking to clarify the current situation for you.  

The proposal shared by the Neurodiversity Club Lead made a compelling case to unify these two groups, and the Student Leadership Team stands by its decision to vote to support this proposal. We believe that the merger between the Neurodiversity Club and the Disabled Students Group will bring about positive changes and greater representation for our members by:  

Amplifying voices to increase impact: By merging, we create a unified platform that amplifies the voices of Neurodivergent and Disabled Students. Together, we can advocate more effectively for our needs and concerns, ensuring our voices are heard by the broader student community and decision-makers. By uniting under a single banner, we can make a more significant impact in creating an inclusive and accessible University for all. Our joint efforts will contribute to raising awareness about neurodiversity and disability, fostering a culture of acceptance and celebration of individual differences.

Supporting intersectionality: The merge allows us to recognise and embrace the intersectionality of neurodiversity and disability. By working together, we can better address the unique challenges faced by individuals who may identify with both groups, fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for all. 

Adding strength in numbers: Joining forces means we will have a larger, more diverse membership, providing a stronger and more influential presence within the student community. This will enhance our ability to push for positive change, policy improvements and greater representation across the University. 

Offering opportunities to learn from each other: Quite often, Disabled and Neurodivergent Students need to navigate the same systems and processes, such as applications for Disabled Students' Allowance, requesting adjustments within the OU, diagnosis pathways and so on. The merge facilitates the sharing of experiences, knowledge and perspectives between the Neurodiversity Club and the Disabled Students Group. This exchange will deepen our understanding of each other's challenges, and will foster a culture of empathy, support and cooperation, acknowledging the existing community of Neurodivergent Students that are already a part of the DSG.


What are the next steps? 

There will be a period of transition, allowing us to ensure that we get this right. This includes reviewing the remaining proposals put forward. We are committed to ensuring there is space in the committee for a dedicated Neurodivergent Student Rep (as suggested). We will also look at ways in which we can incorporate these proposals into the ongoing work of the Association’s EDI and Accessibility priority area, as we have committed to improve the learning experience and journey for our Neurodivergent Students.  

It is also important to note that this is by no means a final decision. We will continue to review and adapt all our Support Groups to ensure they are an effective source of support and representation of our students. There is no 'one size fits all' solution – just as not every person will have the same experience, diagnostic traits, personalities etc – but this is an important first step in Neurodivergent Students' advocacy at the OU.


Can I feed into the process?

We acknowledge that change can be met with mixed emotions, and we are committed to fostering open and transparent communication channels. We therefore encourage you to share your thoughts, feedback and suggestions with us via oustudents-support@open.ac.uk.  


Natalie Baker 
Vice President Equality, Diversity and Inclusion