Disabled students say they are unable or struggle to access parts of the UEA Library and Arts Hub.
At the most recent Union Council meeting, a motion was passed for the students’ union to lobby UEA “to ensure there is equality of access for all students including wheelchairs users and other students with disabilities to all facilities but particularly the Library and the Arts Hub.”
Emily Cutler, SU Disabled Students’ Officer, argued access to the library and Arts Hub requires immediate attention as it restricts students learning.
Ms. Cutler said: “Accessibility on our campus is a joke- the fact that some students can’t access their own hub has a major impact on their access to education especially when it comes to extensions, module changes and handing in coursework.”
“As Disability History Month begins, we’re calling on Uni management to invest in access and set out a detailed plan for fixing these problems in coming months and years.”
Hannah Murgatroyd, Peer Support Societies representative, said campus is ill designed to accommodate disabled students needs. She said “students who are not able to use an evacuation chair” are completely unable to use floors of the library which require a lift to access.
“There is one wheelchair accessible study room on floor 01 of the library. However, it’s not that accessible. While the length of the room has been increased the room isn’t wide enough. To get my wheelchair in I have to go around the corner to wait for the door to close and then park my wheelchair in front of the door which is a fire risk.”
She said the library toilet facilities are insufficient as there are also no disabled toilets on floor 0 of the library and “the disabled toilet on floor 01 of the library isn’t a sufficient size.”
Students who are not physically able to get out of their chairs are unable to access the Arts Hub via the lifts, according to Ms Murgatroyd. The Arts Hub is essential for AMA, DEV, ECO, HIS, HUM, LAW, LDC, and PPL students.
A UEA spokesperson said the Estates department have developed a holistic Estate Strategy to overhaul huge areas of campus as well as oversee the completion of over 17,000sqm of new buildings for learning and teaching.
In the summer, UEA invested approximately £300,000 in improving disability access in the Library. This involved the replacement of two lifts and upgrading the shafts.
However, the university said because “the library is an original 1970s concrete frame building”, the lift shaft forms part of the main core structure holding the building up it means that we cannot knock it out of the building to make it fully compliant as a fire lift.”
The university said: “The designs will have to be fully compliant with Building Regulations Part M as per legal requirements for all new builds, and as far as practicably possible for refurbishments.”
“We have worked hard to make it comply as close as possible, and we are investigating how we can provide the electrical supply to a new back-up generator to one of the lifts so that it could be used in case of emergency evacuation.”
UEA has an additional design guide which exceed these regulations and includes “the requirement for fire evacuation lifts to be installed in new building projects, and wherever possible in major refurbishment projects.” These were implemented in Barton and Hickling and will be used in Building 60, which is due to start on site in January 2018.
Building Zero, the building of which is scheduled to begin in 2019, will replace the Arts building.
Refurbishment plans also include extensive plans to improve disabled students access to learning and teaching spaces on the Lasdun Wall.
Emilia Bug, Open Place officer for Disabled Students Liberation Society said accessibility issues are one of the most common concerns she hears from students for a diverse range of disabilities.