UK universities are failing to incorporate disabled students into the wider university picture, according to a survey carried about by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers network.
The survey revealed that a third of students said they felt they were limited when it came to choosing where to study and 60% said that there was not enough available information about accessible accommodation on university websites.
The Trailblazers’ survey, which included 100 UK universities, found that only half of those institutions questioned could confirm that all lecture halls, study rooms and libraries were fully accessible for students with mobility difficulties, and only a third of universities have a student society representing disabled students.
New disabled students to universities seem to also have been overlooked, with only a quarter of universities surveyed having considered disabled students when planning Freshers’ Week.
The University of Nottingham (UoN) has 341 centrally timetabled rooms (CTRs) of which 48 of these are lecture theatres.
“My experiences [at UoN] on the inaccessibility of lecture theatres have been huge”.
The University maintains that all lecture theatres are accessible to disabled students.
For students who are hard of hearing, the University has induction loop systems installed in 103 of the CTRs, approximately 35% of the rooms across all the UoN campuses.
For students who are visually impaired, UoN encourages lecturers to make use of the interactive whiteboards instead of the standard whiteboards as the text is brighter and can be larger.
Nottingham has these facilities in 223 of the CTRs, which makes up approximately 76% of the UoN estate.
“The vast majority of students have experienced a wide range of issues”.
Naomi Gilchrist, the UoN Students’ Union (SU) Disabled Officer, claims that the CTRs are not being used effectively to maximise the study experience of disabled students.
Gilchrist told Impact: “My experiences on the inaccessibility of lecture theatres have been huge, and it’s not just been me, in fact the vast majority of students have experienced a wide range of issues.”
She added, “Many lecture theatres do not have hearing loop systems installed and for those that do, the hearing loops are broken and not maintained to a working standard, also, lecturers often do not know how to switch them on. In a lot of lecture theatres the acoustics are terrible as it is.”
Furthermore, wheelchair access to lecture halls is more complicated than it needs to be.
“Often it is near to the door and so when you have a lot of students trying to get in it’s not easy if you’re sat there whilst everyone is trying to navigate around you.”
“Inter-campus transport at Nottingham is excellent”.
Elizabeth Powell, a current 4th year student, similarly noted that there were some problems with the facilities for disabled students.
Although, she did praise the transport system available to disabled UoN students. “Inter-campus transport at Nottingham is excellent, with a fully accessible fleet of transport equipped with hoists. The ‘office administration staff’ who work behind the scenes with the timetabling of this service, and dealing with changes, cancellations or alterations to your requirements are also extremely helpful.”
“There are some simple improvements that could be made”.
Powell added that, “Overall, I think that there have been significant improvements over the last few years with respect to alternative arrangements required by disabled students, however there are some simple improvements that could be made to significantly improve the current facilities available.”