Disabled students have devised and launched a new mobile phone application that enables them to log instant feedback about access across their university.
The accessible app and a linked website are part of the “No Go Southampton” investigation into access by disabled students at the University of Southampton.
The team behind the app are now encouraging disabled staff, current and former students, and visitors to share their feedback about access to university buildings.
They want to hear not only about problems with step-free access but also issues such as heavy doors, background music for hearing aid-users, the colour contrast on stairs, and signage typeface.
The app includes a map showing the feedback received across all of the university’s sites, with buildings colour-coded to show how accessible staff and students find them.
Matthew Higgins, the disabled students’ officer for the university’s students’ union, who led the project, said he and his colleagues were “very proud” of what they had achieved, including a set of e-tools that were “unique” in higher education.
He said: “These data will show us how accessible we, as members of the university, find our buildings and campuses, and exactly where we should focus our attention to improve the experience of students with disabilities even further.”
He said the university had made it clear that it could not fix every access concern, although it had promised to fix “simple things”.
The project will also assist in drawing up some “recommended routes” around campus, which will be included in a booklet for new students.
Higgins said: “The will to improve tends to be there on the part of the university, but it is not without difficulties with timetabling, the number of older, unadaptable buildings and similar little problems.”
He said the biggest problem was the steep slopes between buildings on the main campus, which he said were “dangerous both to ascend and descend in a wheelchair”.
Higgins said the project team of volunteers were hoping to encourage change across the country.
He said: “If any city council or similar was to ‘steal the idea’, I would be delighted, and hope to make the code available for anyone else to re-use in the future for a similar project.”
Tim Hiley, a final year student and wheelchair-user, said: “I’m very encouraged by the work being done. I only wish it was done sooner!
“This would have made my life much easier, and my experience as a student much more enjoyable.
“I only hope that the next ‘me’, who starts in October, will have the information I would have loved, and an equal opportunity to access everything the university has to offer.”
A spokesman for the university said it was “in principle totally in agreement with the app”, but had not yet discussed with Higgins how the feedback of access information would work in practice.
He added: “In principle, it is a great idea and we think it will be a useful tool.”
The app works as a web page on most smartphones, tablets and computers, and can be seen online at: www.susudisability.org.uk/access