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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