As a wheelchair user, due to the layout of both The Ashley Building and The Science Centre lecture theatres, I have to sit at the front. During my first week when I attended my first lectures in these two buildings I also realised that there were no tables in the lecture theatres for me to use.
As a student, a table is a fundamental requirement for writing notes during lectures and it is especially so for me as I have a spinal problem and a full-leg amputation so cannot lean forward for long periods of time and have no lap to lean books on even if I could.
To try and help me with this problem one of my fellow students had to take a table from the lecturers’ plinth in The Ashley Building and a table from outside the lecture theatre in The Science Building and put them in front of me before every lecture.
Having approached members of staff and seeing nothing happen, I spoke to my course Student Representative, who agreed to bring the issue up in course meetings. After the first meeting, they reported back to me that there was some confusion over who had to supply the tables, and in subsequent meetings were told that I was not able to get a table as it was a health and safety issue.
Not content with this answer my Student Representative approached Jaime-Lee, our president, who agreed to help and very quickly organised a meeting with members of the Estates Management team.
Finally, in January, I was contacted by a member of the team who organised a meeting to discuss my requirements and agreed to supply tables for both lecture theatres.
I think other students just need to be aware of disabled students and give help where needed. Two examples of where this would help since I have started at Staffordshire are making sure that if you smash glass onto a pathway you report it straight away as it can damage wheelchair tyres and inner tubes. Holding doors and lifts for disabled students is also important.
The main thing that other students can really do though is to treat those with a disability the same as they would someone without.
The big issue I have had recently is in finding accommodation which is suitable for a wheelchair user.
The phrase I keep hearing is that “I am part of the minority” and so there is not a system in place to help. I feel that if the university is intent on attracting disabled students then they should have systems in place to deal with “the minority” which can also benefit the majority if there are no disabled students in need at that moment in time. Links with local councils may help in getting suitable accommodation but these do not appear to exist.
The other issue that the university is lacking in is disability sports opportunities. I know that there are probably not enough disabled students attending Staffordshire who are interested in sport to make it worthwhile investing in weekly sessions, but I know other disabled people who attend different universities around the country which put on monthly taster sessions for sports such as wheelchair basketball and open them up to all students. This would be a good way of both giving disabled students a chance to participate in sport and in helping able-bodied students get to experience life from a disabled point of view.