We’re starting this conversation with Living Accessed – a series of posts outlining the lived experiences of students that have different access needs they require to create their futures at university.
Degree: Communications/Law II
Impairment/s: Wheelchair user, Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Pain
- 5:00A: Care worker arrives to help me shower
- 6:15A: Another care worker arrives to assist me throughout the day
- 6:35A: I catch this bus to the station
– With my timetable, I could catch one of the next two buses, but they are both timetabled as non-accessible, and I’d be late for my lecture if I went on the one after
– I could alternatively catch a later bus to another stations, but they are smaller stations with only a couple of workers, they may not be able to bring the ramp down to the train platform for my preferred service
- 7:15A: Once I get to the train station I have to inform the guard that I’m heading to Central and proceed to wait for them at the platforms they can get the ramp
– This is the general procedure for all train services I catch
– I have to wait 20 minutes for the next train service because the service in 10 minutes is on a platform with its lifts closed until the end of January
- During my train trip I have to deal with people pushing past, leaning and holding on to my wheelchair
- 8:05A: I arrive at Central. I have to awkwardly maneuver in the carriage and avoid running over people’s feet to get off. I have to wait for the train guard to find me to put the ramp down.
- 8:13A: Ask the train guard at the concourse for the accessible bathroom key
- 10:00A: One hour lecture at the Powerhouse Museum
– I’ve had to get permission before the semester began for my care worker to be allowed entry
- 11:15A: Lecture has ended. Needing to go to the bathroom, I find both accessible toilets are occupied. I wait for 10 minutes and no one has left. I use the toilets in Building 5 instead.
- 11:45A: I arrive back at the station. I can’t catch the next two trains as they land on the platform with no lift
- 12:37A: I arrive at the station. The next couple of buses to my stop aren’t accessible, so I grab lunch and wait
- 1:33P: Bus home
- 2:05P: Mum has gone to pick up my brother so I need my care worker to stay with me for another half an hour. She helps me transfer from one chair to the other
- 8:10P: Pain has increased so I take medication
Rest of the week is the same with a few changes to classes and events going on. Here a some different notable highlights:
- There’s a uni event that is happening tonight after classes. I attend. I have to catch a taxi home from uni as the event finished at 8:00P and relying on public transport this late with the aforementioned problems is not ideal
- No one is a Central in the morning to put the ramp down. I wait as my care worker and other passengers try to get the train staff’s attention. They blame it on miscommunication.
- Classroom for my seminar is set up with no way for me to get through around, so I sit at the back, having to move every time someone needs to get out.
- I have a hydrotherapy appointment mid-afternoon so I can’t go to a uni social event that I was planning on going to.
- My pain is increasing so I can’t do any work. I’m not sure if it will continue so it’s too soon to request for an extension.
Ideas on improvement
- With the current circumstances as mentioned above, I would make the following recommendations
- Record all your lectures and provide all your class resources on UTSOnline
- Set up your classroom/theatre space to be inclusive of all students
- Provide students the option of using digital devices
- Have breaks throughout long classes
- Avoid big chunks of text on the slides
- Discourage the use of the accessible bathroom unless you have access requirements of your own
- Alter the system of extensions for assignments so they don’t have to be requested way in advance
To me accessibility is:
- Having a safe built environment near with, and mindful of, amenities and emergency exits, assistive technology and spaces that all staff and students can get to, and stay in without much disturbance
- A plan and routine that can be relied on, but is also flexible and adaptive for different access requirements
- Constant communication and trust between staff and students to work out access challenges together
We’d love to hear about your experiences with accessibility during your studies. Drop us a comment or send an email to email@example.com if you’d like to be featured on Futures!