Disabled Students Claim Commonwealth Games Have Worsened Accessibility Problems

On August 2, the Disabled and Mental Health Students’ Association (DAMSA) at the University of Birmingham posted a message on Instagram calling the University of Birmingham “inaccessible” and claiming that the Commonwealth Games had exacerbated the situation.

This was due to the experience of one of their members. On July 29, the member found that as a wheelchair user, the Games had become a barrier to his entering campus. The only abandoned curb leading to campus from Selly Oak had been blocked due to the Commonwealth Games. So they were forced to take a longer route that still didn’t have a lowered curb. Eventually, they had to be worn by members of the public and offers from the police, which the DAMSA post described as “humiliating and degrading”. The member, who was still trying to find a way to access the campus, had to take the road which is particularly dangerous as there are an increased number of buses on the roads due to the Games.

Clara found that as a wheelchair user, the Games had become a barrier to her entering campus

DAMSA said many roads around and into campus were blocked due to the Games. This, they said, is problematic because it drains the wheelchair’s battery. Additionally, they complained that some of the available routes have uneven surfaces and “cause more pain”.

DAMSA wrote “it goes without saying that this experience is horrible and could have been avoided with proper care and planning”. They argued that “no one should be stripped of their dignity in this way simply by trying to gain access to their place of study”. They were particularly concerned that “the Commonwealth Games are supposed to be accessible events”. They argued that the UoB has a ‘duty’ to ensure accessibility ‘especially when they are paying £9,000 a year for the privilege’.

it goes without saying that this experience is horrible and could have been avoided with proper care and planning

DAMSA made the following requests:

‘- A public apology from the Academic Successions Office and the organizers of the Commonwealth Games

– Compensation for the humiliating and dangerous experience, and the lost time

-An answer to whether there were wheelchair users or students with disabilities involved in the accessibility arrangements

– If the answer to this question is no: why this was not the case, and the assurance that wheelchair users or students with disabilities will be properly consulted in the future.

DAMSA filed a complaint but asked others to make theirs and share their message. They said, “Students with disabilities at this university are rarely listened to – we frequently struggle with poorly maintained elevators and tied cords in accessible bathrooms – and your ally in these situations is truly helpful”.

Redbrick contacted the University, whose spokesperson said, “We take our community’s accessibility requirements very seriously.

Throughout the planning for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, we have been committed to ensuring that our campus remains open and accessible to all of our staff and students.

Although the incident happened on a public road and not on University of Birmingham property, we acted immediately with Birmingham 2022 to make temporary changes to improve accessibility on public roads during the Games .

We are committed to ensuring that our campus remains open and accessible to all of our staff and students

Within 24 hours of news of the incident, our Estates team also installed temporary ramps on University grounds while further improvements were made. We continue to work with partners to ensure a safe and accessible campus.

They also provided this additional information:

“We accommodated over 200 para-athletes and team staff with disabilities at Vale Village during the Commonwealth Games period. We hosted the GAPS program on campus, which saw 33 para-athletes from around the world take part in a six-day preparation camp. The para-athletes stayed at Peter Scott House and the Edgbaston Park Hotel during their stay, both of which are fully accessible. More information is available here.

We are hosting the 2023 International Blind Sports Federation World Games on campus.

Finally, our Pritchatts Park development has a strong focus on accessibility and will double our capacity for wheelchair accessible rooms by 2024.


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