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College disabled access criticised

  • July 5, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

Burton Mail
by KEITH BULL

BURTON College has been accused of not being ‘wheelchair friendly’ after carers and drivers found themselves barred from dropping off disabled students at its main entrance.

12152127282607Officials are reviewing safety aspects in respect of students and the public at the front of the Lichfield Street college, adjacent to the memorial gardens.

As part of the review, vehicle movements have been identified as a ‘potential hazard’ and the area has been temporarily closed off to vehicles.

The plans have been criticised by carers, who believe the subsequent level of access for wheelchair users is not suitable. However, college bosses have defended the move.

One carer, who asked not to be named, drives two wheelchair users to the college twice a week.

She said: “I arrived at the college last Friday and again on Monday, to find the barriers down and locked. We travelled round to the side of the market, parked on double yellow lines and unloaded our charges and walked through bollards.

“I took one into the college, left him on his own while I went back for the lady. I felt that I couldn’t leave the lady on her own because of her vulnerability.

“I understand that the lock-up has been ordered to keep vehicles out of the grounds, except for motorbikes. Why should they be allowed access?

“We are told we can use a rear car park, which has a barrier and is for executives, but we can’t turn our large vehicle round and access isn’t for wheelchairs.

“While the weather is fine, the distance to the college isn’t too bad, but come a rainy day we would be soaked.

“The home from which these people come is taking it up with the council. Whoever thought this idea up obviously has never had any dealings with disabled people.

“It is not very wheelchair friendly. A lot of people are annoyed about it and I’ve been told the staff are up in arms about it. I’m seething.”

The college had also restricted pedestrian movement outside its main entrance with the creation of a walkway through the erection of temporary metal barriers, although these were removed last week.

However, college officials say that the ban on vevicles driving up to the main entrance is necessary. Deputy principal for resources and corporate services, Derek Sharp, said: “The college has been in discussion with both the Health and Safety Executive and the borough council with a view to improving safety aspects.

“The college has no intention to make access more difficult. We are, however at a transitional phase, and are gathering feedback on concerns from both our students and the public, which will be valuable in evaluating the future options.

“Regarding, disabled access, the college has been externally evaluated and we were found to be fully Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant in all respects.”