Disabled student faces missing graduation due to university ‘not accommodating him’


A disabled student who suffers from photosensitive epilepsy is afraid that he may have to miss his graduation ceremony – claiming that his university will not accommodate his needs.

Harry Jones, 24, states that graduation on April 27 should be a special moment for him to celebrate with his family.

However, instead, the events management student who attends the University of Chester claims that he could be left with no choice but to miss the ceremony as he is unable to be around any form of flash photography, adding that it is “like I am being punished for being disabled”, Cheshire Live reports.

Harry, who lives in Wrexham and attends the university as it closes by to his home in the event of him suffering a seizure on campus, was born with his condition.

He states that the university has been supportive of his needs throughout his studies but claims that when it comes to the graduation ceremony, they have rejected his request for there to be no flash for any of his images, or for him to receive his diploma first .

The University of Chester says “several options to mitigate risk” have been suggested during “a series of constructive and sympathetic communications”.

The institution added that it has consulted with “national disability networks” on the matter and will continue to work with Harry to find a solution.

Harry has since gone on to study for a masters degree in sports management but says he will move to another university because of what has happened over the graduation ceremony.

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He is a member of the university’s wheelchair rugby league and basketball teams.

“As you can imagine the graduation ceremony is the highlight of one’s studies and I’ve been waiting for this moment since I started my studies in 2017,” said Harry.

“Due to my disability I am unable to be around any form of flash photography, especially indoors. I made the request to the university if it would be possible for there to be no flash for any of my photographs as I believe it to be unfair that I ask all attendees to turn their flash off.

“I was told that this is not possible on the grounds of it not being fair on the other 1,000-plus people in attendance that the flash gets turned off to cater for one person’s needs.

“I also suggested that I receive my diploma first so they can turn the flash off for me and keep it on for everyone else.

“I was told that this is not possible because it wouldn’t allow the photographer enough time to turn the flash on and off between individuals.”

University of Chester student Harry Jones
University of Chester student Harry Jones

He claims the university has ultimately left him with three options – risk having a seizure, don’t attend or have his own ceremony without anyone in attendance.

Harry added: “The university were happy to publicize that I was the first ever disabled athlete to receive a sport scholarship for being an international wheelchair rugby league player as a part of the Wales national team, as well as being the founding member of the university’s own wheelchair rugby league team and a member of their wheelchair basketball team.

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“This has really left me feeling shook up. It has made me feel like I am being punished for being disabled and has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. How is this fair?

“I am currently working on completing my masters degree at Chester University but due to this I will not be completing as I am not having the same problem again next year.”

Cheshire Live put Harry’s claims to the University of Chester and received the following response.

A spokesperson said: “The University is committed to ensuring all students and their guests have appropriate access and that reasonable adjustments are made, enabling students to celebrate their achievements in full at graduation ceremonies, for example sign language interpreters, wheelchair-friendly access, prioritized seating.

“Inclusivity is at the forefront of planning for these events, which can often present complex situations requiring the University to determine the safest route forward.

“Where specific reasonable adjustments cannot be provided due to health and safety factors or the impact they would have on the ceremony, the University will always explore equitable alternatives to ensure the student’s experience is not negatively impacted.

“On this occasion, several options to mitigate risk were suggested in a series of constructive and sympathetic communications. This included consulting with national disability networks to confirm professional best practice before equitable alternatives were offered.

“We continue to work with this student to find the best possible outcome and to ensure their views are included in the decision-making process and hope they will choose to join us for their graduation.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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