Living accessed: Patrisha Domingo

by | 9 Apr, 2018 | 0 comments

From reading timetables and finding building to knowing where to find the subject outline and good food - navigating the university environment is a challenge. The task is even greater for students with illnesses and disabilities, who require different access needs in an environment was not traditionally created with students like us in mind.

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.

About me

Age: 20
Degree: Communications/Law II
Impairment/s: Wheelchair user, Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Pain

Monday

  • 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:

Tuesday

  • 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

Wednesday

  • 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.

Thursday

  • I have a hydrotherapy appointment mid-afternoon so I can’t go to a uni social event that I was planning on going to.

Friday

  • 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 futures.team@uts.edu.au if you’d like to be featured on Futures!

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