Ben’s story: Improved access to a university’s facilities and cinema

I have a physical disability and use a powered wheelchair for mobility. While studying at university, I experienced several issues with regard to wheelchair access to the various facilities on campus. I worked with the university’s disability officers to successfully and speedily resolve many of these issues before they became problematic. However, one major building refurbishment on campus which presented ideal opportunities to correct long standing impediments to access for people with disabilities was particularly challenging.

The university’s on-campus cinema had an appalling and unsafe standard of wheelchair access into and within the cinema. This included a very narrow access way with a steep drop-off to be negotiated to the ‘wheelchair access’ seating. On hearing of the proposed refurbishment, I was excited and eager to ensure that the cinema would finally obtain first rate wheelchair access. I wrote to the project team requesting details on wheelchair access provisions, with the response assuring me that “Access for people with disabilities is very important and will be properly considered in the design…” At that stage, warning bells and flashing red lights filled my mind having previously experienced how such vague statements usually fail to deliver. So I shot back a letter requesting a meeting with the architects and project team. After some deliberations, a disability access expert and I trundled in to meet them.

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