It’s a Friday morning, and I’m late for class. The lift from the busway is crowded, but I run into a classmate who’s also late. They go one way, I go another. They easily beat me to class. I can’t go down the stairs they used. I go around, the long way, to find an elevator. I make it to class and sit in the only desk that fits me, right at the front of the room, away from my friends and classmates.
In my break between classes, I meet with my assignment group. It takes three buildings before we find a room with enough space for us to work on our presentation. My wheelchair takes up more space than you’d think. After the meeting, I meet up with a friend at Brewed Awakening. We used to try and study on campus, but she’s in a wheelchair too. We gave up finding a place we’d both fit to study months ago. People are frustrated because our wheelchairs block the walkways if we want to sit anywhere together. I don’t know what people expect us to do.
Not all of us use wheelchairs. Not all of us are visibly disabled. But the campus isn’t built to accommodate disabled students. Our mobility aids don’t fit, our medical equipment is stared at. Something as simple as the lightbulbs in the classroom frequently cause severe pain or symptom attacks for students with a range of disabilities. This isn’t a hypothetical – it’s our everyday reality. We need a place to study and rest that actually accommodates us.
We need your help.
The TL;DR here is that disabled students are calling on our classmates and we need your help, and one email is all we need. QUT is getting approximately $9.3million through the Student Services and Amenities Fee in 2024, and we need you to email firstname.lastname@example.org to tell the university that you believe some of that money should go towards creating a Disability Room. There’s a template at the bottom of this article, if the thought of writing emails stress you out. You’ll need to send the email before Monday, November 13, but logging in to your student account and sending this email will take less than five minutes. Please help us out.
Here’s why we need it.
QUT has a wide range of places for students to study, socialise and rest. Most of these places are not accessible for disabled people. There are rooms on campus for women and for queer students; places to exist away from harassment and discrimination, where they can find community with others. Disabled people are left with nothing. We are forced to use facilities which range from partially accessible to not accessible at all. If multiple people with large mobility aids want to meet up, they’re forced to sit outside due to limited space in most rooms. If it happens to be raining? Better luck next time. For some, the lack of a disability space even blocks access to the campus entirely, due to there being no accessible place to recover between classes.
A disability room would (hopefully, if Disability Collective requests are listened to) include dimmable lighting, a variety of seating, ample space for multiple large mobility aids, wheelchair accessible tables, accessible power points, and other accessibility features. This would give disabled students a space to recharge themselves (and their mobility aids), socialise, and study that is guaranteed to be accessible. It would work the same as the Queer and Women’s rooms, being leased by the QUT Guild and managed independently by the Collective.
The fight for a disability space at QUT isn’t new. Since the Disability Collective’s establishment in 2019 we have been fighting hard for it. Students around Australia voted in support of this last year at a national conference, and QUT was one of few universities represented to not have a disability space. Some campuses even had multiple; UQ has a space with multiple rooms inside it. The Guild committed in April to make substantive progress towards securing a space within a year. It’s been more than 6 months since that commitment. No progress has been made.
QUT is currently accepting feedback on how our Student Services and Amenities Fees (the money we pay at the start of semester) should be spent in 2024. It’s $9.3million of our money, and we have a rare chance to tell the university how we think it should be spent. If you care about disabled students, and believe we belong at QUT, you can help us. Email email@example.com and demand that our SSAF be spent on a dedicated disability space on both campuses.
QUT says it supports the right of disabled students to work, study and participate in all aspects of university life under its very own Manual of Policies and Procedures (MOPP). If they truly believe in this commitment, then they will listen to the reasonable request from disabled students at QUT and our allies, and will create a dedicated safe space for disabled students to exist, study, and rest.
We know sending emails sucks, but we need your help. You can make a difference. It won’t take long.
Please help make campus accessible for disabled students.
Thank you for the opportunity to give feedback on the use of student money through SSAF initiatives. I would like to see some of this money used to create a Disability Room on each campus, in line with the voices of disabled students and the Disability Collective. The room should then be leased to the QUT Guild the same way the Women’s and Queer Rooms are, for the Disability Collective and disabled students to use freely.
I think it’s important that disabled students are included and accommodated at QUT, and I want to see the university using SSAF to commit to this inclusion.
The QUT Guild Disability Collective is the autonomous group for students with a disability, chronic illness, mental health condition, or neurodivergence. We do a wide variety of things from fostering a positive disabled community at QUT through fun events to advocating for our rights. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram and join via the link in our bio. If you have any questions feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org