By Brinkwire on February 16, 2020
The University of Hull has launched an investigation after a disabled student shared a photo on Twitter showing how its lecture theatres are inaccessible for wheelchair users.
The photo shows Sarah-Marie Da Silva, a zoology student, sitting in the doorway of a lecture theatre which has no accessible ramp allowing her proper access to the room. She added in another Tweet: “As a wheelchair user, I don’t have any option , most days I don’t even have a desk.”
Da Silva told the Tab that the university has repeatedly failed to accommodate her disability.
The incident occurred last Friday, when she ended up stuck in the corner of the stairwell after realising there was no means for her to get down into the room.
“I turned and saw the stairs and panicked, I stopped,” she told the Tab. “The next 10 minutes was people arriving, them looking at me and then sometimes asking what was going on. I just told them I can’t get down and to just go past me.”
The first-year student said the problems started with her first lecture in September, in a lecture theatre where access to the room was at floor level.
“Everyone walked up the stairs to take their seats and I was left with nowhere to go ” no desk, no seats next to me for other students and I’m right next to the lecturer. I was made to feel like an ‘other’,” she said.
Da Silva told the Tab she had raised the issue “countless times”. But the student added that, while the university had made room changes for some of her lectures, she still repeatedly found they were held in inaccessible spaces.
“A lot of the time there are no desks for me. If there are, they’re moveable desks, but the wheels are always locked and I can’t bend down that far to unlock them, so everyone in the theatre looks on at me whilst I struggle to get a desk,” she told the Tab.
Dr Anji Gardner, Hull’s Director of Student Services, said: “We’re very sorry that this has happened, clearly it is not acceptable. We take these matters very seriously and are looking into what has happened.
“We are committed to working with our students to put in place any additional support or adjustments where needed. Unfortunately, it is clear this hasn’t happened in this case. We will immediately look into this and ensure that we take necessary steps to make sure this does not happen again.”
Piers Wilkinson, disabled students’ officer, for the National Union of Students, said: “Universities across the sector are still consistently failing to provide basic access for disabled students. Disabled students deserve inclusive access to the entire university experience, and that starts with being able to get into our lectures.”