Various facilities labelled as accessible remain difficult to use for disabled studentsLouis Ashworth for Varsity

A Varsity investigation has revealed disparities in the amount of accessible student accommodation available at each College, and found that various facilities labelled as accessible remain difficult to use for disabled students.

Varsity spoke to students and JCR representatives at various colleges about the accessibility of college buildings and facilities.

One student at Lucy Cavendish told Varsity that the lift in their college library is currently “out of order,” with the College in “no rush to fix it.” This is despite the College’s Disability Access Guide stating that the library has a lift, with some rooms only accessible by stairs.

This has rendered “all but the ground floor out of use,” the student said. The ground floor “becomes extremely busy and there are not many seats anyway,” they added.

Similarly, Trinity Hall’s Disability and Special Considerations Officer told Varsity that “the basement and the mezzanine are inaccessible” and “the toilets are not very accessible.” The College’s Disability Access Guide, however, says that there is a “lift between all floors” and a “fairly large toilet at ground level.”

Newnham’s library is also somewhat inaccessible, Varsity has been told, due to building works which have rendered the lift out of order. The College’s website mentions that the lift is inaccessible, suggesting that students should “ask a member of staff to fetch books.”

Beyond the academic, students have also faced issues accessing social spaces around colleges, Varsity has learned.

Lucy Cavendish bar is described in the College’s access guide as “fully accessible,” but a student has said that the space is difficult for disabled students to access.

The automatic door in the bar has been broken since installation, and the room’s main doors are “quite heavy,” and the internal door is “not automatic at all and still quite heavy,” the student said.

One student at Lucy Cavendish experiences accessibility issues with the College’s hall, too, the doors to which “are not easy to open whilst operating a wheelchair.” The hall, however, is described online as “fully accessible by wheelchair via a ramp.”

Other essential facilities can be harder for students with physical disabilities. Newnham’s Welfare Officer told Varsity that a laundry room in one of the buildings with accessible rooms is “too small to fit a wheelchair in.”

The accessibility of student accommodation also varies across the collegiate University. Colleges must provide some rooms which are specifically designed for the needs of disabled students, but the number of such rooms varies widely.

While Murray Edwards and Lucy Cavendish offer nine such rooms, at other colleges such as Magdalene this figure drops to two. Robinson only has one room completely adapted for wheelchair use.

Some colleges have included rooms suitable for visual or hearing impairments within their accessible accommodation list, while others have focused on physical access and wheelchair accessibility only.

When these numbers are put into proportion with the average number of undergraduate students in a college, Trinity emerges as the college on this list with the highest number of undergraduate students per accessible room (at 183 undergraduates per room), and Lucy Cavendish the lowest (at 40 undergraduates per room).

Members of eight different college JCRs reported a range of ratings for their colleges’ wheelchair accessibility. On a scale of one to five, where five was “completely accessible” and one “not at all”, none rated it to be completely accessible. The Trinity Hall DSO rated their college a two, and Magdalene, Lucy Cavendish, Newnham and St Edmund’s were rated a three.


Mountain View

Queens’ wins appeal for controversial accommodation

Newnham College told Varsity: “The College has been and will continue working with our students to improve their access around the College site. In response to an increasing number of students using wheelchairs, the College identified a group of 4 ground-floor bedrooms which could be converted to being wheelchair accessible, as well as creating an accessible bathroom and also making a kitchen wheelchair-accessible. ”

“As a result of ongoing consultation with our student body, we have installed automated doors to the Library and Health Centre and hold-back doors throughout the College,” the College continued.

A spokesperson for Trinity Hall said: “The College has just carried out a Master Plan exercise and improving accessibility was one of the key goals this focused on.”

“We are aware that some areas of our site, especially in our older Central Site, are difficult to access. This is something we take into account in any refurbishments and new building work we undertake,” they said.