I asked some fellow disabled tauira what they would like to see improved on our campus to accommodate our needs. Here’s what they had to say.
Recording all lectures, tutorials, and lectorials
University Policy requires all captured lectures to be released, but not all lectures are captured. I once had a marketing lecturer say “We don’t record lectures because in the real world, your meetings aren’t recorded.” In that case, we’d all love a vay-cay in your faultless utopia.
Offer live streaming
The University of Otago has had live streamed classes for at least a decade so we’re either way behind or just refusing to equip lectures with facilities that support disabled students. It seems lecturers fear that if a recording is made available, people won’t turn up to class. But trust us, if we could turn up to class instead of listening to a lecture over computer speakers, we would.
Offer breaks every hour
Students may need to take medications, stretch, get a breath of fresh air from people, read an inspirational quote, use the bathroom or slather Voltaren on their bums. Give them the chance!
Don’t assess on attendance
Or if it’s a necessity, allow options where students can catch up later. Sometimes we have to wait months just to get 15 minutes with the specialist and it will always land on the most inconvenient date. That, or have a very grumpy, green student in the class.
Chronically ill students shouldn’t have to constantly provide proof of illness
Chronic (krɒnɪk) means persisting for a long time or constantly recurring. Going to the doctor and getting a medical certificate is like a whole day event for some of us, so please don’t make us do it often. Chronic illness isn’t just the illness itself, but also the side effects of medication, not getting enough rest, and its effect on mental health. Compassionate consideration should also support those experiencing distress from non-sudden situations or periods where the medical certificate doesn’t cover them. Shit happens, and recovery time can vary.
Reduce construction noise
Why does all of the clankiest of construction noises have to happen during class time, and right next to classrooms and silent study spaces? Construction is apparently inevitable at the University of Auckland, but we know that soundproofing is a possibility.
Quieter social spaces at events
A large part of University social culture is booze, dancing, crowds, and loud music. But for many disabled folk, our hearts say yes and our bones say no. Loud parties like O’Week events shouldn’t happen so centrally, to care for the people with noise sensitivity and anxiety around crowds.
Long access routes
The way that access routes are designed at the moment show that wheelchair accessible routes are an afterthought. Ramp users shouldn’t have to travel three times the length a pedestrian does. The Student Union Building, an example of a well-neglected building by the University has one lift, which has been faulty for months and lands so that you have to travel through other rooms and spaces to get to destinations like BFM. Need a ramp to get to Munchy Mart from any part of the University? Good luck figuring out the access route any other way than the ramp entrance on the Symonds Street crossing.
Maintain lifts, and…actually make them accessible?
Imagine navigating the maze of access routes, only to find that the lifts don’t work. Or that you need to get past a heavy door to access the lift. Or that you’re locked in/out from the access path because you’ve worked a little past 6pm.
Shuttle busses between campuses and major transport stations
At peak hours, you’re quite likely to have to stand on a bus — and this is after your pre-commute. This can be dangerous for disabled students and nuisance for people with chronic pain.
Obliterate 8am classes
No one is ready to be a capitalist slave at 8am, especially when you need to commute at least 45 minutes from any part of Auckland. Happier and energetic students = better outcomes and engagement.
Subtitles and/or transcripts for lecture recordings
Silly that this isn’t already happening, really. If Instagram can perfectly dictate my story rants, then so can our technology.
Readability of text on lecture slides
White text on sky blue background—do you want us to be here?
Include disability studies in the curriculum
Many of my courses have included a lens of gender and/or post colonialism. Disability studies are well neglected in the high school curriculum and otherwise hard to come by in real life if you have no exposure to disability advocates. Including background knowledge on disability studies is not only helpful for everyday life, but also to ensure equitable and safe care for disabled people in healthcare, planning and policy, among many things.
A word on bathrooms:
More accessible furniture
Especially in smaller lecture theatres. I mean lecture theatres suck anyway, both for our butts but also for our engagement learning. Imagine a future where all of our desks were adjustable for standing and sitting too! One can dream…
The Law School
That janky old thing might as well be built on Baldwin Street. It needs to move, or be made more physically accessible from the Waterloo Quadrant side. It is far too dangerous to move up and down the stairs meaning it may take a student to walk up to ten minutes going around the block to reach the disabled access entrance.