The Science Centre has reversed its decision to remove wheelchair access door assist buttons on the building’s front entrance, which left students in wheelchairs using a separate side entrance beside the main door. Several other wheelchair access door assists in the Science Centre have also been broken for more than a month.

The decision has been reversed and the access buttons are set to be reinstalled so that students in wheelchairs can use the same entrance as able bodied students and staff. Three other Science Centre disability access doors have been broken for several weeks. These include the door exiting out to the Veterinary Science building and another two doors exiting to the older Science West bloc and Science bloc North.

A spokesperson for the Science Centre building management team said the parts to reinstall the access buttons on the front entrance were ordered on March 20th. ‘By Wednesday 29th March the supplier will confirm the re-installation date’ she said.

Amy Hassett is a third year Science student in a wheelchair, she says the frequent breakdown of many of the access doors is frustrating. ‘For other people in wheelchairs, it either means they have to go another way or awkwardly wait for someone to help. As a disabled person, I can tell you that we really hate having to rely on the kindness of strangers’ Amy told the Tribune.

‘As a disabled person, I can tell you that we really hate having to rely on the kindness of strangers’ Amy told the Tribune.

The Science Centre’s management had initially decided to remove the access door assists on the main entrance Amy said, and instead would have had wheelchair users enter the building through a different door beside the main entrance. But Joe Carthy, the Science college principal said the access door assist buttons will now be replaced on the front door. ‘We are just waiting for the team to come to do them’ he said.

Amy Hassett said while it was positive that all entrances to the Science Centre were wheelchair accessible, ‘they aren’t much use when they don’t work’. She said the door assist buttons were expensive to fix and maintain. ‘I’m more annoyed at the fact that the company who makes these doors don’t do a good job – they aren’t robust enough to withstand constant use, and whether people should or shouldn’t be using the buttons all the time is not clear at all’. Hassett was critical of the amount of time the door assists are left broken. ‘I don’t know if that’s campus services being slow to respond or the company being slow to work on them’ she said. ‘I would be of the opinion that they should be used by everyone – because they should be able to withstand constant use, otherwise they aren’t fit for purpose’.

Lucy Doyle is the Students’ Union disability rights coordinator, she said ‘it is not acceptable for students in wheelchairs to have had to travel around to use the back and side entrances of Science which is quite a large building. Adequate access to education is necessary and a human right. It shouldn’t be neglected for one day or even one hour, let alone for an entire month’.

Lucy also said that when she first went to check the new entrance for wheelchair users at the front of the Science Centre she found the access door was locked. ‘So between the main doors access buttons not working any more, the buttons being removed, and this new door being locked, I was quite disappointed in Campus Services as it is a lot to expect of a student in a wheelchair to have to go around to either the side or back doors’. Lucy said upon rechecking the new access door in week 7 it was operational and in use, but said that ‘even one day of that door being locked was unacceptable, with no measures put into place to assist students in wheelchairs’.

Jack Power  Editor