A BLIND student from York has won a £5,000 settlement after she was unable to fill in a student loan disabled students application form - because it was inaccessible to visually impaired people.

Holly Scott-Gardner, a 27-year-old masters student in Social and Public Policy at the University of Leeds, launched legal action against the Student Loans Company after several attempts to access its Disabled Students’ Allowance form resulted in her having to fill it in over the phone.

Kate Egerton, a solicitor at Leigh Day, wrote to the company on her behalf to point out its duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students under the Equality Act 2010, which includes the provision of information in an accessible format.

She said Website Accessibility Regulations, which came into force for public sector bodies in 2018, built upon duties in the Act and required websites and apps to be more accessible.

She said the SLC first offered Holly a settlement of £500 but the offer was increased to £5,000, and its chief executive had invited her to work with it by giving feedback on the updated DSA forms.

Holly, who is registered blind, said:“Their actions were clearly a violation of the Equality Act and it was incredibly frustrating to firstly be ignored, and then be passed around from person to person whilst the SLC insisted they did not need to provide me with an accessible copy of the form.

"I hope that in future, the Student Loans Company commits fully to creating an experience accessible to all.”

Ms Egerton said in her view it was 'unlawful and frankly bizarre' for the SLC to provide a form aimed at disabled people in a format inaccessible to blind and visually impaired students.

“Holly’s case illustrates how many public bodies still do not understand their obligations under the Equality Act and the Web Accessibility Regulations.”

An SLC spokeswoman said it took its duty towards meeting the needs of customers with disabilities very seriously and 'deeply regretted' the difficulties Holly encountered.

She said its form was now fully compliant with accessibility regulations and, since they came into force, SLC had delivered a significant programme of work to ensure its online content was compliant.

"We are always striving to ensure that our application process and other services are flexible and adaptable to individual customer needs," she said.

"All staff are provided with annual training on equality and diversity, including the duty to make reasonable adjustments for our disabled customers.

"Members of our DSA team have systems in place to ensure they can accommodate customer needs where reasonable, such as assisting customers to complete applications over the phone, and providing a named caseworker they can contact.

"We look forward to working with Holly in the future as per the offer made by our chief executive.”