Disability Awareness and Accessibility: Is King’s Doing Enough?

Arabic, Urdu and Swedish – just three of the 26 evening courses offered to King’s students by the Modern Language Centre. Excluded from this diverse list is any opportunity to learn sign language or Braille.

My aspiration to take up sign language was short-lived when I learned that King’s does not offer a sign language course other than an optional component through the Clinical Communication Unit at the School of Medical Education. When I inquired further into this, a spokesperson from King’s gave me this statement:

“In the past the demand for sign language courses has not been at a level to offer BSL (British Sign Language) courses. Should this change we would consider offering courses in the future.”

However, when The Disability Awareness Society offered a taster into BSL during their awareness week in October, they told Roar 50+ people attended.  If this isn’t enough demand for the College to reconsider, then what will be?

This is just one of the many changes needed at King’s with regards to disability awareness and accessibility. It was the Disability Awareness Day earlier this month and with 2,427 self-identified disabled students in King’s, there is no better time to start addressing these issues.

Georgie Spearing, the Disability Student Officer, told Roar why raising awareness for disability at King’s was important to her:

“A lot of disabled toilets can only be accessed by stairs and the rest are locked. Where’s the Braille? Where are the hearing loops and sign classes? One professor also asked me where my epi-pen was as I have epilepsy (and those are for allergic reactions.) If I had known it would be so difficult I would really reconsider going to King’s. For a uni that prides itself on being so liberal, it is absolutely shitting on its students.”

Georgie also rose concerns over lecture captures; many of which are only available before exams as revision resources, which fails to respond to those who are absent due to regular illness or hospital appointments.

Other student’s gave their opinion on whether King’s is doing enough for the Community:

“Disability is a taboo subject; you have to go out of your way to try to get your own inclusion plans sorted. No one ever tells you what you’re entitled to. Instead, you have to hunt it down, and even after you do, you’re told there’s nothing they can do because the building/the lecturer don’t work that way. People rarely think about things that don’t affect them, and I have found that most people have no idea that disabled access at King’s is really bad, which is why we need awareness.”

-Anonymous student.

“I hadn’t thought about it until the other day when someone in a wheel chair was asking how to get to different parts of the uni. It seemed really tough for them to get around since there are so many stairs to all the classrooms.”

– Stephanie Burns 

With plans for Bush House underway, one big issue to overcome is making grade 2 buildings accessible when construction is limited. With so many disabled students at King’s, we should be doing more to, firstly, improve access and, secondly, to raise awareness into the stigma of disability as a student community: this includes making sign language and Braille accessible to all.

If you are keen to find out more get in touch with the Disability Awareness Society or the Student’s Officer at:

https://www.facebook.com/KCLDAS/?fref=ts

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