Students with disabilities have been dismayed to find that the University of Sussex has permitted builders to occupy disabled parking spaces with a portacabin, skip and vans, meaning that the spaces at the Swanborough Car Park have been unavailable to the students, staff and visitors who need them.
The University claim that occupying the spaces is necessary to accommodate the six-week repair of the Swanborough residences, despite the fact that the East Slope Car Park is just metres away.
University figures reveal that 79 vehicles have been issued with tickets over the last six months for wrongly parking in disabled spaces. However, an investigation by The Badger has discovered 22 cars parked incorrectly in just one day.
Two members of staff told us that disabled parking rules have not been properly enforced in the recent past.
Parking rules are enforced by Sussex Estates and Facilities (SEF), a company owned by the University of Sussex and services corporation Interserve.
Between 1 September 2015 and 31 March 2016 SEF have handed out 79 tickets to vehicles not authorised to park in the disabled parking bays. In this same period there have been 2488 tickets handed out in total.
David, who is studying for an MA in International Security, noticed the contractors parked in the Swanborough disabled spaces.
He said: “This particular car park is clearly marked out for Disabled use, and is absolutely essential; especially in its location, which affords ease of access to important areas on the University campus.”
“I am able to use this car park and do have the required authorisation, but the blocking of these bays made me very angry indeed.”
“Whomever authorised this site office needs to fully explain why disabled students parking bays are no longer deemed important, and why such blatant disregard for disabled students is being perpetuated in this way.”
“I hope that by highlighting this important issue, measures are put in place that acknowledges this is completely unacceptable and to return these spaces to provide disabled access to students whom need it.”
Sussex student Aisling Murray told us about her experiences with disabled parking: “I have to use my car to get onto campus every day because of my disability. So often I find that people are parked in disabled bays without a disabled badge or that disabled bays are filled with equipment for building work.
“On Monday I had to miss my lecture because I couldn’t find anywhere near enough to park. All the disabled bays were taken even though none of the cars had a disabled badge. By the time I had found somewhere to park it would have taken me the remainder of the lecture to walk across campus to get to it.
“It is vital that people understand that disabled parking spaces are there for a reason. The only penalisation I have witnessed in relation to this is people giving me dirty looks when I park in a disabled bay, presumably because my disability is invisible.”
Miriam Steiner started the Access Sussex campaign in 2014, with the aim of making Sussex more accessible to students, staff and visitors with disabilities.
Commenting on the latest revelations about disabled parking, she said: “Access Sussex have told the University on numerous occasions that there aren’t enough parking spots for visitors, staff and students with disabilities.
“The fact this is going on is further evidence that we need, at the minimum, an Equality and Diversity Director for the University to prevent further mistreatment of people with disabilities.”
A University Spokesperson said: “The enforcement of disabled parking on campus by staff is carried out.”