Choosing a University – A Wheelchair User’s Guide

It may seem like only a short time since term started, but somehow it’s already November and University applications are looming.

Choosing the right university to attend is stressful for any student, but even more so when you’re a wheelchair user and need to factor in accessibility. And it’s not just as simple as choosing a place with halls that have disability access accommodations…

Student housing

Student housing can often get a bad reputation, so finding safe, secure and accessible halls or dorms is step one. You’ll need to find out if there are accessible rooms – ones that will be large enough for you and your wheelchair. Do the halls have ramps/lifts? Is there the option of an ensuite bathroom that is adapted to your needs?  Find out if your needs can be met, before you fall in love with that University!

Is everything accessible?

Don’t just think about your living accommodation (although obviously that’s crucial), but also the University buildings and the local area. Are the streets cobbled?  Are the student halls miles away from the campus, or does the route to your classes have steps or steep hills?

Obviously only you will know what you and your wheelchair want to deal with, so these considerations are just a guide. The main thing is that you know you’re able to get around easily – to classes and to the pub!

Talking of which…

Will you be able to get the most out of your experience? For most of us, University isn’t just about the lectures, it’s also about the clubs, societies and social events that go on. So check if the student union is accessible, how friendly the clubs might be, and if there are even groups that you might want to join. The last thing you want is to arrive at University only to feel excluded from things you want to enjoy.

Finding the support

One of the places you can find out about how friendly and accessible the social scene is, is the University’s disability office (and if they don’t have a disability office, that tells you everything you need to know!). They should be able to indicate how effectively the University caters to the needs of wheelchair users and students with disabilities. The quality of these offices can vary from University to University, so get in touch with them in advance, and see what provisions are in place.