Concerns have been raised regarding the disabled facilities in the new Langwith buildings on the Heslington East campus.
Last week members of the Langwith JCRC raised their concerns with the University over the fact that the rooms which catered for disabled students, which have lower sinks and appliances, had been placed on the top floor of one the new Langwith Buildings.
Lauren Bray, Langwith Welfare Rep explained that this was problematic as, in an emergency or even a fire drill the lifts would automatically shut down leaving any disabled students with “no way of getting out of the building of their own accord.”
She added: “Disabled students would have to wait for a fire officer or a member of the emergency services to carry them down stairs.”
The issue was raised at YUSU’s Disabled Students’ Network, where the implications of this matter were also discussed.
Emma Hersey, YUSU Disabled Students Officer, said: “I will be raising this issue with the University as I am very concerned about these planning decisions, as they do not seem to have been taken with the best interests of disabled students in mind.”
Bray commented on the situation saying that: “It seems like a massive over sight for a campus which is meant to be ‘so wonderful’, it just demonstrates a lack of common sense”.
Concerns about the design of the new building were also raised by Bob Hughes, YUSU Welfare Officer. He stated that he was “still a bit concerned that the planning went ahead this way, and I think that students with mobility issues should be put in ground floor rooms wherever possible.”
Anna Lewis, a second-year History and Politics student, commented that she thought these plans were “a massive oversight, a waste of money and hardly encourages disabled students to come to York”.
Suzanne Dekker, Langwith College Administrator, was questioned about whether she had heard of any problematic issues, but she said: “I have not heard of any issues with the buildings. I have only heard really positive things”.
However, when the concerns were highlighted to Dekker she commented that: “The Fire Officer also works out a personal escape plan for anyone with special needs or disabilities to ensure they can escape should the unthinkable happen”.
Dekker added: “These rooms are not just for wheelchair users, indeed they are usually occupied by students with other needs and, more often than not, by able bodied students.”
She continued that in her 12 years of involvement in University life, she had found that “demand for these rooms is fairly low”.
Hughes also added: “I have had some assurances that the lift operates regardless of fire (unlike many lifts where the power stops working in this circumstance).”
Indeed, Mick Elliot, the University Fire Safety Officer commented: “There is no problem with the design in terms of fire safety.” However, there are still concerns that the perception of placing accessible rooms, which cater for disabled students, on the top floor of the new Langwith building on Heslington East, might discourage disabled students from applying to York.