Uni of York Stops Use of Lifts, Discriminates Against Disabled Students

The Uni Of York has shut down all lifts in university buildings due to the coronavirus, a move which has angered many people. In an email sent to postgrad students and staff, the University states that “we do understand that closing lifts reduces access, but the decision was made to reduce the risk of virus transmission in enclosed spaces. This took place some days after staff and PG [post graduate] researchers were advised to work from home and after other students were advised to leave campus if possible”. Critics have said that this move actively discriminates against disabled students and staff, as it means they wont be able to access most of the building. Ally Smith, an activist at the University of York told York Vision “during the closure of the lifts, those unable to walk up stairs would have been completely unable to access the building above the ground floor. This is blatant discrimination given that the buildings were still open to able bodied people”.

This isn’t the first time this week that the University have been accused of discriminatory behaviour. Information on the University’s website went viral on Twitter a few days ago, where user @Tain0191’s tweet said “uni of York said: stop being poor”. The original text on the Uni’s website reads “in the case that we are unable to support students with access to equipment or that students are unable to source it themselves we will recommend that students take a leave of absence”. The website appears to have changed in the past day to appear less direct, instead saying “if equipment and internet access cannot be arranged, then you may wish to consider a leave of absence”.

The NUS’ disabled students officer, Piers Wilkinson told York Vision “during this crisis, it is widely known that disabled people are one of the most at risk. Yet removal of our basic access, and the disregard for our rights by an institution that purports to be inclusive stands in stark contrast. Universities should be actively finding ways to support disabled people during this pandemic, not make any of our lives harder. The University must listen to its disabled students and staff, and do much more to support them than just reactivating the lifts”. Piers also told York Vision that he has emailed the University.

The University told Vision “

“We need to close our lifts as we do not have the ability to maintain them during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have limited access to the parts and labour required to keep them functioning safely, and there is a requirement to inspect and maintain lifts on a regular basis. We have therefore taken the difficult decision to isolate our lifts, starting with non-residential buildings on Wednesday 1st April. We intend to begin isolating residential lifts on Wednesday 8th April. Our priority is the health and safety of our staff and students and we are working with our remaining residents on alternative arrangements. The University is committed to equality and diversity on campus. We believe we are taking all necessary and responsible action to keep members of staff and those students who remain on campus safe during this unprecedented time.”