2nd November 2017. (432nd Meeting Union Council)
Responsible officer: Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer & Disabled Students’ Officer(s)
What is the Policy:
This motion is asking:
- The Students’ Union to lobby the University to ensure that all new and redeveloped buildings across all University campuses are accessible for disabled students;
- The Students’ Union to regularly consult with disabled students through the Disabled Students’ Network to collect insight on the actual accessibility of buildings across the campuses;
- The Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer and the Disabled Students’ Officer(s) to establish an Access and Inclusion working group, to be chaired by the Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer, with membership to include the part-time student Officers, student representatives from the Networks, and relevant SU and University staff;
- The Students’ Union to work with the University Estates Office to conduct an accessibility audit of all University campuses and identify problem areas on campuses;
- The Students’ Union to work with the University Estates Office to ensure that disabled students are represented at the planning and consultation stages of any new buildings across all University campuses that have a student- facing function;
- The Students’ Union to lobby the Estates Office to review the process for communicating access changes to students and the reporting procedure;
- The Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer to be mandated to work on this policy alongside the Disabled Students’ Officer(s) and the Disabled Students’ Network.
Why have you proposed it?
Accessibility survey responses:
There were 101 student respondents to the “Mobility Around Campus” survey that was commissioned in the Summer term of 2017 by the then SU President. The survey collected qualitative and quantitative data through 14 questions. Below is a summary of the responses and findings; any comments in “quotations” are taken directly from the survey responses compiled by SU Insight. It should be noted that the majority of student respondents (70.8%) selected University Park as their main teaching campus.
On accessible parking spaces across campuses, the areas identified by students who used disabled parking spaces as problematic (defined as where the spaces hadn’t been thought through properly or were in an inappropriate space) included Keighton Auditorium where “parking [is]not on same level as entrance”, Portland Building “Near the Atrium [where] the disabled bays are on sloped ground” and George Green Library where there is a “steep hill from parking spaces to library”.
On wheelchair access to buildings, despite the quantitative data suggesting that the student respondents who used a wheelchair do not have great difficulty in getting around campus, free text comments indicated otherwise: “pathways/pavements too narrow for wheelchairs”, “building works block drop kerbs/accessible entrances” etc. On signage, 51.5% of student respondents thought that the University does not have enough signage. Qualitative comments indicated that “maps and signs should clearly show accessible routes”, “there is not enough signposting to lifts” and that “it can be trick to navigate new buildings”.
On advanced communication of changes to building works, accessible routes and parking spaces, a high proportion of respondents (59.2%) said that they were not told in advance of changes to parking spaces or building works. A further 9.9% stated that they were not told far enough in advance to be able to make changes, with multiple comments made about the changes to accessible entrances and lifts during the Portland redevelopment. 42.4% of respondents answered that they received information on changes through “word of mouth from other students/friends”, with 33.3% of respondents stating they heard about the changes from “no one”. Of the 10.6% of students who specified “other”, the majority stated they received information from the Disabled students Facebook page. This indicates a lack of consistency between individuals and how/when/if they find out about changes to access.
On general suggested improvements to campus, feedback that was mentioned three or more times included “maps with accessible routes and disabled parking bays”, “clearer signage on campus”, “better information communications with students” and “drop curbs where needed”.
Feedback from Disabled Students’ Officers 2017-18, as well as feedback from individual disabled students and the Disabled Students’ Network.
Continuing difficulties have been flagged by many students, even independent of Portland Redevelopment including:
- Lack of permanent drop kerbs outside Portland Lakeside; New accessible entrances frequently blocked or leaving too little room to fit a wheelchair;
- Access routes providing space for the passage of a manual wheelchair, but difficulties with wider electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters;
- New/existing signage indicating accessible entrances pointing to routes that feature heavy, manual doors that are sometimes bolted shut;
- Out-of-date signage; for instance, Accessible toilet signposted on Portland C floor does not lead to accessible toilet;
- Academic Support Services only accessible via stairs; this has disadvantaged students with combinations of both physical, particularly mobility related, disabilities, and specific learning difficulties and ADHD.
- The Portland Redevelopment has highlighted ongoing issues with access.
This is an objective shared by Laura Bealin-Kelly, Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer 2017-18, and Alice Armstrong and Eden Smith, Disabled Students’ Officers 2017-18. Officer objectives are based on manifesto points.
To give the campaign longevity.
The Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer has historically focused on ‘welfare’ based initiatives and campaigns during their time in office. As a result, the ‘Equal Opps’ part of the role has largely been neglected, and campaigns have been left to the part-time student Officers to organise within their networks. This has in the past resulted in stagnation of campaigns and limited progress, as the part-time Officers have had to juggle running a network, organising campaigns and completing their degree. This policy mandates the Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer to support the Disabled Students’ Officer(s) in working on this policy. As the success of this policy is not based on a binary measure, the guaranteed support of the Equal Opportunities and Welfare Officer is necessary to ensure that momentum and support does not diminish after the current Officers leave their post at the end of this academic year.
The support of a full-time Officer is particularly useful for policies attached to the Disabled Students’ Officer(s). The nature of the self-defining characteristic that entitles an individual to run for this role may impact on that individual’s ability to fulfil their role – hence why the Officer role is usually a job-share. The support of an additional individual, in particular one who works full-time as an Officer, should assist in the progression of this policy.
In addition, it is helpful for there to be a full-time Officer attached to this policy, as it involves lobbying the University, and the full-time Officer team have significantly more opportunities and established relationships to facilitate this.
Who have you consulted?
- The current Disabled Students’ Officers, Alice Armstrong and Eden Smith;
- The Disabled Students’ Network membership;
- Disabled students who responded to an Accessibility survey commissioned by Ismail Sadurdeen, SU President 2016 -17 (n=101);
- Full-time SU Officer team 2017-18: Adam Pratchett (Sports Officer), Alan Holey (President), Cassie O’Boyle (Education Officer), Ellie Mitchell (Community Officer), Martin Nguyen (Activities Officer), Yolanda King (Postgraduate Officer);
- The University of Nottingham Chief Estates and Facilities Officer, Chris Jagger;
- SU Central Liaison Meeting members – 11/10/17;
- SU Trustee Board – 13/10/17.