I’ve had quite an interesting experience happen to me today that I want to share with you.
As you’ll know if you’ve been ‘Keeping Up with the Diaries’, UCT and I go through an ‘on again, off again’ relationship on the Disability Front. Nothing bad happened to me today but today’s interaction reminded me that accessibility, sadly, is not something I can take for granted.
It’s the third week of the Second Semester and all tutorials are due to start this week and it’s time to start mobilizing in general: assignment deadlines are around the corner, lectures are in full-swing, and the beginning-of-semester administration is dead and gone. When I checked my timetable in Week 1 to double-check whether all my venues were indeed accessible, I found myself having to e-mail a couple of lecturers to have a couple of tutorials due to inaccessible venues. Simple right? Wrong.
Of the four courses I’m doing this Semester, two of them have resulted in tutorial problems that I can’t seem to get resolved just yet for some reason. The first course, I signed up for online like everyone else because it suited my schedule and it was in a building that I know to be accessible. The second was in a room I knew to be a problem so I requested it to be moved, as I’d done for the three semesters before. I thought that’d be the end of it for my ‘venue problems’.
Tutorial 1 for Course The First comes around on Thursday last week and I go to the building and start hunting for a room which, according to the signage and general layout of the building should be easy enough to find, after spending literally half-an-hour marching up and down the building, exploring all four floors I discovered that the specific room I was meant to be in is the one inaccessible room in a building that is otherwise largely accessible. I’m in communication with the department now to try and fix the problem and, hopefully, the fact that I missed the tutorial (of which there are only three this semester for this course). As Adrian Mole would put it: “just my luck.”
I enjoy the people in the department for Course The Second but they, too, are giving me a bit of a run-around (albeit not their fault, nor mine). The original venue for this tutorial I should be able to reach easily as all the necessary infrastructure is physically in place for me to access it. That said, the one-and-only lift that leads to the venue is the Beattie Lift – a nemesis that has caused many headaches, near-panic-attacks, and furious rants. To top off the Beattie Lift’s resumé as perhaps the most useless lift on campus, it is out of order for the next 18 months (yes, a year-and-a-half) while its replaced. Again, easy to solve in theory: e-mail + venue change = happy student, happy Department.
I can’t fault anyone in the Course 2’s Department, they’re being fantastic. Only problem: the two options they suggested as alternative venues are also inaccessible for different reasons but I don’t know how they’d be expected to know that when they made the suggestion. It’s time to return to the drawing-board, folks, and find a fourth possible venue.
So, that’s what I spent my time dealing with in between classes today. The staff and the people involved are infallibly helpful and nice. The Campus itself, though, not so much. It’s times when I’m facing inaccessible venues for no good reason that makes me wonder how I’ve not come across more protests from Disabled Students at UCT. Lord knows there have been a lot of Student protests in South Africa recently.