mobility scooter

Plans to widen steps at Southampton University have been rejected over fears they would discriminate against wheelchair and mobility scooter users.

The University of Southampton submitted the plans to widen a flight of existing steps which connects the western part of Highfield Campus to Lover’s Walk and the wider common. However, members of Southampton City Council’s planning and rights of way panel rejected the plans after raising concerns that the new steps would discriminate against disabled users, including those using a mobility scooter.

Plans rejected over disabled access

Speaking at the meeting, wheelchair user Ian Loynes said access should be improved for everyone and that there would be the option of providing a ramp. Mr Loynes, CEO of Spectrum Centre for Independent Living, an organisation which fights for the rights of disabled people, said: “It seems to me that we should turn down this proposal because of the lack of access for disabled people.”

A local resident, Simon Hill, also told the panel that the plans went against the council’s policies in its Core Strategy to “improve accessibility throughout the city” by making sure developments are accessible to all users.

Speaking in favour of the plans, local resident Sue Ingham said there is already disabled access in the university campus via Oakhurst Road, Hawthorn Road and Chamberlain Road. She said: “People who need wheelchair access have access to the Common via the road, not just via the steps. The time taken from the university is more or less the same.”

Councillor Stephen Barnes-Andrews added: “The opportunity brought about by replacing these steps is such a chance to get that sorted out. Otherwise, we are discriminating against young students who have probably, in many cases, overcome quite personal challenges to get to this prestigious university with their disablement.”

Image credit: Monarch Mobility

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