Stamford Street Apartments criticised over lack of suitable wheelchair access
‘How can a disabled student have a meaningful experience here when they literally can’t get in the door?’
A frustrated student has blamed KCL for failing to tackle her complaints about wheelchair access at Stamford Street Apartments.
The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been denied an NHS wheelchair because her halls fails to comply with NHS safety guidelines. She says King’s inability to resolve the issue has had a detrimental impact on her studies and social life for the last six months.
She told The Tab: “As part of getting an electric wheelchair from the NHS, they have to assess your home and check it’s safe and compliant. Two representatives were sent to assess SSA and they found the ramp in reception is far too steep for wheelchair users. They can’t give me a wheelchair until it is changed.”
After learning this, the student says she was told the issue with the ramp would be sorted by January. However, when she contacted the hall for an update just before Christmas she was told they were “still in the design stage” of a solution.
At this point, she was told an alternative entrance would be available from January 18 which would comply with NHS regulations.
She said: “The alternative entrance sounded strange, because the SSA staff were expecting me to use an entrance which is shared with cars. This made me very anxious as I could get injured by a car.
“Unfortunately, no one really understood the implications of this for me, nor did anyone take the time to listen to how much this problem was affecting me. On January 26, I met with the senior management of residences but it wasn’t what I expected. When I asked about the safety of the alternative entrance, they told me an advisor had said it was acceptable for wheelchair users. When I asked for evidence of this in writing, it wasn’t provided.”
When applying to SSA, the student says she was led to believe the halls had a working wheelchair ramp. However, The Tab understands this lift hasn’t been operational since 2014. The student told The Tab she chose SSA on the basis of the information regarding disabled access on the website and the assurance upon visiting that it would be fully accessible by the beginning of the academic year.
She continued to say that if she had known the extent of the issues before September, she would not have chosen to live in Stamford Street nor would she have chosen to study at KCL.
A friend of the student said: “I have seen my friend go through hell back attempting to get something which is rightfully hers, her medical treatment. How they have been allowed to continually let her down is disgraceful.”
Disability officer for KCLSU, Georgie Spearing, said: “This is a major breach of the Equality Act 2010. The legislation makes it a responsibility of our institution to ‘anticipate’ equality issues, much less allowing cases of inaccessibility to go on for so long. Being asked to use the vehicular entrance is beyond insulting and shows a severe lack of empathy towards disabled students as a whole.
“How can a disabled student have a meaningful experience here at King’s, when they literally can’t get in the door?”
The accessibility information SSA links to on their webiste
In response to the complaints, KCL told The Tab:
“Accessibility is one of King’s highest priorities. Stamford Street Apartments has had a number of accessibility solutions installed over the years and we have responded to needs of the people using the property, including the requirement for a ramp. Unfortunately, however, the building is not wide enough to have a fully compliant ramp and hence the current temporary ramp was installed.
“Estates & Facilities has recently employed architects who have created two possible solutions to improve accessibility in the main reception to address the specific requirements of current building users, with a long-term solution in mind. These designs are now being looked at in detail by contractors specialising in accessibility solutions.
“Regrettably, a new solution will take time to create and build and, as Stamford Street Apartments is a Grade II Listed building, listed building consent may be required. However, we fully understand the importance of accessibility and have created an alternative access at the side of the building with motorised doors for use while we carry out work on the main reception. Students who are in need of more adapted accommodation are offered the option to relocate to other King’s Residences, which are of an even higher standard, at no additional cost, while we explore and create an alternative solution.”
At the time of writing, the student affected by the issues is yet to receive her wheelchair, a response to her official complaint or an official apology from SSA or King’s College London.
Since publication, King’s Student Conduct and Appeals Office has informed The Tab this student’s complaint is still being reviewed and has been partially upheld. They would also like to make clear the student has received updates in relation to her complaint as the investigation into it has progressed.