I posted this rant on my Facebook Page but think it should also go here.
What’s up University of Cape Town, UCT Upper Campus? I’m a Second Year Humanities Student. I happen to also be in a wheelchair. While the University of Cape Town Disability Service is fantastic – truly, I cannot fault them – I’m getting increasingly irritated that my personal access to venues etc., as well as the access of my disabled friends is being impeded.
Yes, I understand that certain changes may take time to effect and that I cannot expect ‘all my problems to be solved with the snap of my fingers’ but I feel distressed that, because of no fault of my own, access to key buildings in my university career may well be denied to me for the remainder of my Degree.
The Beattie Lift, the only lift in the building in which the Humanities Faculty is housed, is constantly breaking down. More recently, the lift even broke down with me in it. I heard from the Disability Service a couple of days ago that the Beattie Lift is due for replacement but, due to circumstances out of their control, it will take 12-18 MONTHS FOR THE LIFT TO BE REPLACED.
While it’s possible for most affected parties to have their schedules re-arranged so as to accommodate for the broken lifts, there are some key lifts whose functionality plays a significant role in the lives of disabled UCT students. For me, and no doubt several others, one of the most crucial of these is L50.
L50 is broken – again! While I am sure that this has already been reported to the relevant individuals, I’m deeply distressed at how many times the lift breaks down. I put it to you then, UCT, that while you repair L50 (and other frequently breaking lifts) something is being done that makes them continue to break down on a semi-regular basis making the lives of the disabled students who depend on it all that more difficult.
Personally, I have lectures on the North and South sides of Upper Campus – a journey that should be easily manageable if L50 was working. However, due to the consistent erratic behaviour it displays, I’m forced to walk virtually the length of UCT’s Upper Campus to get to another lift (which, thank God, is reliable) to take me up two or so floors and then have to battle a heavy door – not the easiest thing when you are in a wheelchair, especially a manual one – as opposed to going half (if not less) the distance and taking L50 up the short staircase and being completely unencumbered the rest of the way to my lecture.
With the Beattie lift being out-of-commission for the foreseeable future, if I need to get to the Beattie Computer Labs (as I need to for a Psychology Tutorial), I must take the lift in the neighbouring Arts Block and use take the pathway that links Arts and Beattie together to get one floor down in Beattie. If having to do the extra ‘leg-work’ wasn’t enough, the door from Arts to the pathway is narrow and weighs a ton to open – that’s assuming the door has been unlocked at all.
Just today, travelling with Kirzy Nell to the Beattie Computer Lab: the Arts lift nearly closed on her; the door was closed (again) but we finally got it open and managed to latch it in place; there was broken glass left directly outside the door (which would easily cause a puncture, never mind what it would do to my Service Dog’s paws) but we managed to move that out of the way; and, finally, the Beattie Entrance ALSO HAS A RIDICULOUSLY HEAVY DOOR which was closed.
No doubt when I leave the Computer Lab I will have to repeat the process again. The return journey, perhaps, is worse than on the way here. The door will, no doubt, have been closed by the cleaning staff (again) and I will have to try and open it alone – which will be all the more difficult given that there is a slight ramp on the outside which means I will not only have to contend with a heavy door but gravity will be working against me and, in order to counter the gravity, I will almost certainly be required to hold on to the other door. Given the weight of these doors, though, there is a chance that I will not be able to hold the door open long enough to get through and the door may close on my other hand – something that already almost happened once.
I can only speak from my own experience but, I’m sure, others have had similar or worse experiences. Even with the Disability Service’s help, it sometimes feels as though the only way UCT listens to its disabled community on these issues is through protests and public posts such as these.
It also occurred to me that non-disabled students may well not be aware of the extra hassles disabled students have to go through in order to get to their classes and get the education they pay for. I ask you, therefore, to SHARE this so that we might increase awareness of the access and other struggles disabled students face on a regular basis.