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Criticism of Sussex University accessibility is unfair

Dear Badger,

As a physically disabled student, I read with some laughter your article on the question of access to campus, mainly because it was factually inaccurate and completely misses the point.

Let’s start with some basic factual inaccuracies. In the article it was maintained that it took the author half an hour to get from library square to the accessible entrance to the library.

This simply cannot be possible, for as a person who does this trip regularly, it takes ten to twelve minutes in an electric wheelchair, depending on how busy it is.

Secondly and perhaps the most problematic is the way the article was written. In deploying the term ‘ableism’ the author presupposes that part of the problem is the attitude towards disabled students by the campus management.

This isn’t true, by and large the Sussex community is one of the most welcoming environments I’ve been to, where people are accommodating.

Of course, there is a physical geographic problem with the campus, the fact that its built in a valley, but this does not translate into some sort of cultural attitude within Sussex.

The idea that the management do not care about this issue is far fetched. For instance, I was recently in a meeting between an un-named member of the Access Campaign and two senior members of the HAHP faculty where the discussion was generally sympathetic and cordial.

Before I go, I also want to make a general comment on the way that this article was constructed; the tone of the article suggests that no progress on this issue has been made. I have been here four years and on day one I realised access was a problem.

The fact that the Badger is running an article on this issue on the subject of physical accessibility, is in itself progress. It is my understanding that in writing this article, the author went around campus in a wheelchair.

As someone with cerebral palsy who has to use a wheelchair on a daily basis I cannot endorse going around campus for one day in a wheelchair as being equivalent to understanding what it is like to have a physical, let alone unseen disability.

The people that organised this I’m sure had good intentions but they misrepresent the problem by undervaluing the progress that has been made in certain areas whilst also underestimating the commitment and ability of disabled students to deal with the challenges they face every day of their lives.

Best wishes,

James Cullis

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3 Comments

  1. Hiya,

    Just to clarify, the tour around campus was a guided tour where I pointed out different access problems. This took longer than a usual trip as I was stopping to explain different issues. Wheelchairs weren’t provided, people came as they were (by foot, with wheelchairs, with walking sticks). The usual trip to the accessible entrance is still far longer than it is for people who can take the stairs.

    It’s certainly true that people are welcoming, accommodating and sympathetic to the issues we are facing at Sussex. Staff are usually very well-meaning. However the inaction and length of time for changes to happen is a sign that there is an institutional problem with making changes to accessibility here.

    The inital article this is a response to can be found here: http://thebadgeronline.com/sussex-campus-inaccessible-and-unacceptable/

    Miriam Steiner
    Access Sussex

    Reply
  2. I also have a physical disability (Right Sided Hemiplegia and Cerebral Palsy) I don’t use a wheelchair, I use a four wheeler walker and the route to the library is a long and difficult I certainly couldn’t walk it in ten to twelve minutes.

    I agree that some progress is being made

    However other buildings weren’t mentioned such as Arundel which is a logistical nightmare, unless a student is in a room on the first floor. The lift in Arts you need to continually press your finger on which isn’t great when you have one working arm and are unsteady on feet!

    The access success team are trying to make a difference, I’m only in my first year so I can’t comment on how things have changed in the last few years but on my first day there was no sign posts to tell me where the disabled access was to Arundel and it took me 40 minutes to get to the back of the science block and left me extremely stressed. I only found access Sussex when they did the most recent campaign

    I’m not trying to start a massive argument, but the trip to the library for me was factually accurate.

    I’d like not to have to leave lectures early to get the next one but realistically that at times cannot be helped but why should I have to walk sometimes twice as far as others ?

    The staff I’ve been in contact with have been brilliant especially within my school. (HAHP)However I think their hands are tied with what can actually be done.

    Reply

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