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Wheelchair-Using Student Calls Out University For Discrimination After Being Forced To Sit In Stairwell Of Lecture Halls

Wheelchair-Using Student Calls Out University For Discrimination After Being Forced To Sit In Stairwell Of Lecture Halls

A wheelchair-using student claims her university has failed to accommodate her disability - and she is forced to sit in the stairwell of lecture halls.

Sarah-Marie Da Silva says she has repeatedly been forced to sit in corners, close to the lecturer, by entrances or without a desk to make notes.

The 21-year-old veterinary student at Hull University said it is "humiliating," and has said her time at the university is being blighted by the lack of provision.

Last week, Sarah-Marie, a freshman, was waiting to get into a lecture hall but, when she pushed in, ended up in the corner of the stairwell because she had no way of getting down the stairs and to a desk.


Speaking to student news site The Tab, she said:

"I turned and saw the stairs, panicked, and stopped. Then I realized I was in people's way. I adjusted and moved myself against the wall, so people could get past."
"During the next ten minutes people were arriving, looking at me and sometimes asking what was going on. I told them I can't get down and to just go past me."

Sarah-Marie, who plays wheelchair basketball, said the lecturer was helpful and offered to let her use one of the seats.

But she said:

"My wheelchair is made for me, other seats cause me to spasm and cause me an incredible amount of pain."

She was also offered a piggyback by a fellow student but declined.

She said:

"It's humiliating in a public place, but her intentions were very kind."

Eventually, Sarah-Marie told her lecturer to begin as "there wasn't an alternative and we were all there to learn, I didn't want to take up anymore of people's time."


This is not the first issue Sarah-Marie has had since she started her course in September.

She said the difficulties make her feel like an "other" and added:

"I've raised it countless times, and the only thing they will do is do a room change."
"My first lecture was in September, I pushed in and there was nowhere for me. It was a lecture theatre where you go in on the floor level."
"Everyone walked up the stairs to take their seats and I was left with nowhere to go – no desk, no seats next to me for other students and I'm right next to the lecturer. I was made to feel like an 'other.'"
"A lot of the time there are no desks for me. If there are, they're moveable desks, but the wheels are always locked and I can't bend down that far to unlock them, so everyone in the theatre looks on at me while I struggle to get a desk."

Sarah-Marie said she's raised the issue "countless times," and, while individual lecturers and the university's disability team have been helpful, no progress has been made beyond offering room changes.

She said:

"I'm back in a lecture theatre with the moveable desks that I can't move, where no one can sit with me or next to me and I'm on the floor with the lecturer."

The University of Hull told The Tab they're carrying out a "full investigation" into what's happened after Da Silva raised her concerns on Twitter.

Dr. Anji Gardner, Director of Student Services, University of Hull told The Tab:

"We are very sorry that this has happened, clearly it is not acceptable. We take these matters very seriously and we are looking into what has happened."
"We are committed to working with our students to put in place any additional support or adjustments where needed. Unfortunately, it is clear this hasn't happened in this case."
"We will immediately look into this and ensure that we take necessary steps to make sure this does not happen again."