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Over half of Oxford libraries lack full step-free access

The report revealed the extent of the University's accessibility problems

Only 40.8% of Oxford’s libraries have full step-free access, according to an Oxford SU report released today.

The report, produced on behalf of Oxford SU’s official disability campaign – the Oxford Students Disability Community (OSDC) – also identifies a lack of accessible toilets, automatic doors, and visual aids in libraries.

Only 21% of college libraries have accessible toilets.

The number of fully step-free libraries drops to 9.2% for college libraries, a situation described by the SU as: “…detrimental not only to academic success but also to student welfare.”

Entitled the ‘Library Accessibility Project’ (LAP), the report recommends that libraries should have accessibility-specific budgets – a policy already implemented by Christ Church and Hertford college libraries. It also calls for accessibility to be “placed at the forefront” of library renovation plans.

Secretary of the OSDC committee and joint author of the report, Ebie Edwards-Cole, told Cherwell: By arming Oxford University with this knowledge and these recommendations, we are hoping that our university, its departments, and its colleges, will work with us to improve the situation for disabled students, ensuring equal opportunities, and an environment that we can all thrive in.”

The report notes the varied levels of accessibility between libraries, with some libraries more accessible in certain areas. For example, both the Bodleian Law Library and Bodleian Old Library provide “…an impressive range of visual aids,” which can help students with dyslexia, dyspraxia and visual impairments.

As a group, the Bodleian Libraries perform better than college libraries in provision of hearing support, height-adjustable desks, accessible toilets, and step-free access.

However, the report notes that “college libraries are key study venues, which typically have longer opening hours than Bodleian or other libraries.”

Kathryn Reece, the report’s other co-author, told Cherwell: It is important to note that although the two papers released today only deal with library accessibility, this is one part of a bigger picture. There are still many areas across the university that are less accessible to students with disabilities, and I hope that by opening up a dialogue about library accessibility, this sentiment for positive change will spread across the University.

In the past, students with disabilities were often forgotten by many bodies across the University. However, in recent years disability has increasingly made it onto the agenda.

OSDC believe the future is equal, inclusive and accessible, and I hope that by shining a light on library accessibility Oxford University will endeavour to work towards a more accessible future for all students.”

A special Cherwell investigation into disability at Oxford will be released on Friday.

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