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Time To Take Stock: Disability and Professional Competence

22 December 2005

The RCVS has played a leading role in a three-year project, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), to investigate the extent to which teaching and learning in veterinary medicine could be opened up to disabled students.

DIVERSE, the UK veterinary medicine disability project, led by the Royal Veterinary College, has been supported by the five other UK veterinary schools, The Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine and the RCVS.

The General Medical Council and the General Dental Council were also represented, alongside RCVS, on the steering group, as the project has also had an impact upon the other healthcare professions.

The project has resulted in the publication Time to Take Stock - Disability and Professional Competence (pictured right). It addresses the essential 'Day One' competences for veterinary surgeons, set out by the RCVS, the potential impact of these competencies on disabled people and the reasonable adjustments that could be made for disabled people. 

The findings will be used to ensure that the appropriate accommodations are made whilst students are at veterinary school.

Disabled members of the veterinary profession made a direct input into the work of the steering group, along with disabled veterinary, medical and dental students, disabled doctors, dentists and other healthcare students and professionals from both the UK and abroad. 

The research used a number of cases to give examples of reasonable adjustments that could be made for a disabled person. It is impossible to refer to every individual condition which might be affected by competence, therefore the cases referred to in the report should be considered as examples only and should be used as comparators for other situations or individuals.

In the report, author and project manager Anne Tynan, from the RVC, outlined that each individual, whether disabled or not, would have a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. For instance, a non-disabled veterinary surgeon's strength in one area of competence would balance out weaknesses in another, therefore the same would apply to a disabled veterinary surgeon.

Examples of reasonable adjustments included providing tape recording equipment, screen-reading and other computer software, or colour-coded templates to assist students with reading difficulties.

It is estimated that about one-in-ten people have some form of dyslexia, which may cause difficulties with reading, writing and spelling, and it is one of the most common disabilities found among veterinary students. Adjustments are also suggested for individuals who have mental health difficulties, which occur with even greater frequency.

The report is available online or hard copies may be obtained free of charge by emailing Anne Tynan.

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