Many students experience difficulties accessing all areas of college life. Some students, in particular those that have a physical difficulty or mobility issue, will face greater barriers getting to college, accessing lecture theatres and exam halls. Access problems may also arise around group work or deadlines for assignments, finding a lecture room and getting involved with clubs and societies. While each situation and individual is unique and the difficulties experienced will be different for each person, these tips should help to resolve the issue.
Get to know the place – orientate yourself!
Each college is different and many have a mixture of old and new buildings with varying levels of accessibility. Make sure you go to your orientation week at the start of your college experience to find out how you will get on. Contact the Disability/Access Officer to get their support and help to get around college. They will have up-to-date information on accessible buildings on campus. They will also be a good support if something changes and you need extra help to get to a lecture or exam.
Identify the problem
The first step towards resolving a difficulty is to define it. Make a list of the areas and buildings where you are having difficulties. Then make an appointment to discuss these problems with your Disability/Access Officer. Use this list to help focus your thoughts:
1. Are you having difficulties:
- getting to campus?
- getting into campus buildings?
- getting around campus buildings?
- finding your way around campus?
2. Do you need clearer signage?
3. Do you have problems with any of the following:
- Accessible parking?
- Entrances and exits?
- Routes around campus?
- Ramps, steps and lifts?
- Corridors and doors?
- Information desks (in the library, for example)?
- Visual contrast?
- Accessing online material?
- Submitting assignments?
- Getting involved in group work/projects?
Make a plan to resolve the issue
Engage with your Disability/Access Officer to resolve the areas where you are having difficulty. Make sure you are aware of your own specific difficulties around campus so that you can find a solution to any potential problems with the help of the Disability/Access Office. Be prepared to approach your lecturers if you are having a problem accessing online documents or submitting an assignment for that class. Think about the best way to resolve the problem so that you can be proactive and get it sorted before it starts to become a problem for you.
Advocate for yourself and your needs
Be ready to advocate for your own needs. It can be very difficult to speak up about a problem so make sure that you get the support of the Disability/Access Office to get the issue resolved.
Link: National Disability Authority – Centre for Excellence in Universal Design