Leeds student repeatedly unable to attend lectures due to accessibility issues on campus

Grace was unable to attend her lecture on the first day of term due to there being no step-free access


A University of Leeds student has revealed how she has been unable to attend scheduled contact time due to repeated accessibility issues on campus.

Grace, a final year student at University of Leeds, is a full-time wheelchair user and is completely blind. Speaking to The Tab, Grace explained how her lectures had repeatedly been scheduled in rooms that she couldn’t access as a wheelchair user, including one of two lectures scheduled on her first day of term.

The English literature and creative writing student said she had encountered difficulties with timetabling throughout her three years studying at Leeds. As a result, she says she has missed a lot of teaching, which she feared will be affecting her studies.

Using the example of a Latin discovery module she took in her first year, which was continually held in inaccessible rooms, Grace told The Tab: “I was barely able to attend the aforementioned Latin module due to illness and, whenever I was well enough, I was repeatedly placed in classrooms with steps leading up to them”.

She emphasised how the continued mistakes with scheduling has prevented her from reaching her full academic potential: “I’m quite seriously ill, I sometimes need to miss uni as I’m unwell. When I’m well enough to attend my classes there shouldn’t be preventable boundaries – it’s just not fair!”

One of the rooms in which Grace’s first year Latin module was held

Speaking specifically about the incident on 2nd October, Grace described how she was frustrated that the disruption had “occurred so quickly in the term and that it’s come after so many previous incidents and so many assurances that it wouldn’t happen again.”

Despite her access requirements being known to the university, Grace revealed that Disability Services had failed to contact her tutors ahead of the start of teaching to make them aware that they would have a disabled student in their class, and therefore would need to make suitable arrangements. She subsequently had to reach out to her lecturers herself during the first week of term.

Although, the response to the above “was incredibly swift”, Grace admitted. “I was pleased with both my tutor and the timetabling team. In the past…they have let me down.”

Although, the response to the above “was incredibly swift”, Grace admitted. “I was pleased with both my tutor and the timetabling team. In the past…they have let me down.”

“I’m also missing two classes as a sighted guide (PA) has not been able to be been allocated.”

Another of the rooms in which Grace’s Latin classes were taken

In a video posted on TikTok, Grace highlighted how the number of disabled students at Leeds, and particularly those in wheelchairs and with the same accessibility requirements as herself, makes up a very small percentage of the total 39,800 students enrolled at the university.

She said: “There are not that many disabled students, even fewer in wheelchairs and with the accessibility requirements that I have. So why is it that the university can’t get it together?”

@gracemarshx

@University of Leeds I have loved my time here, but there have been significant issues surrounding my disability — from resources being sent over to the RNIB far too late, to Minerva not being accessible via screenreader. Timetabling problems like these really exemplify ‘everyday ableism’ perfectly.

♬ original sound – gracie

Grace continued: “I’m paying £9,250 a year to receive a service which I am not receiving; this lack of access is completely unfair and it either needs to change right now or disabled students who aren’t getting what they need should be compensated.”

In addition, she highlighted how the union building has no braille on the lifts, while also drawing attention to how Minerva, Leeds’ online learning platform, “is incompatible with (her) screen reader.”

Grace reports how the lifts in LUU don’t have braille

Aside from problems with the delivery of her course, Grace further explained to The Tab how she faced issues whilst staying in Charles Morris Hall student accommodation: “The lift in my first year accommodation was broken for months when I initially arrived.”

The response from Charles Morris’ residence site team, after Grace raised the issue of the lift

After raising the accessibility problem with the residence site team, Grace was told that a delay with the supplier that made the parts needed to fix the lift meant the “situation was out of (their) control.”

Summarising her experiences, Grace explained to The Tab, “I just want to communicate how much inaccessibility affects disabled people and our studies.”

A University of Leeds spokesperson said: “The university has 7,000 registered disabled students. As soon as we are made aware of a student’s disability, we put appropriate provisions in place and communicate these requirements across our community. Any student with a disability who feels that they require additional support – or who feels that they have not been given the support they need – should contact our disability services team.”