Rolling Forward: Wheelchair Campaign

This campaign is to amplify the voices of disabled students and highlighting the need for better support.
This campaign is to amplify the voices of disabled students and highlighting the need for better support.

Since taking on the role of vice president, I've met several wheelchair users who have faced significant challenges studying in Cornwall. They've shared their frustrations and disappointments with me, expressing how difficult it can be to feel fully included on our campuses.

These students have emphasized the importance of being recognized and treated as equals within our community. They've expressed a desire to raise awareness about the challenges they encounter, from navigating to lecture buildings to advocating for greater transparency and support from the universities.

I want to emphasize that this campaign isn't about attacking the universities' reputations but rather about amplifying the voices of disabled students and highlighting the need for better support.

Our primary goal is for the communications teams at Falmouth University, University of Exeter, and FXPLUS to provide more transparent information to incoming disabled students.

Sam and Reece wish for greater honesty about campus accessibility. While Reece & Samantha acknowledges the efforts of the Estates accessibility team at Penryn Campus, they believe more proactive communication is needed to keep students informed about accessibility improvements.

- Orestis Collins-Alamanos, Vice President


- Ensure transparent communication regarding accessibility issues, providing prompt notification to students when spaces are inaccessible, or facilities are non-functional. This information is crucial for disabled students to effectively plan their routes and attendance at lectures.

-Set realistic expectations for disabled individuals regarding life in Cornwall.

- Provide regular updates on accessibility projects from the estates team.

- Ensure all student facing staff & academics know the locations of evacuation chairs and fire exits.

- Collaborate with the timetabling team to ensure lecture rooms for disabled students have accessible desks.

Updates as of April 2024 

Estates Accessibility Team Updates

  • Replacing the lift in SOFT, crucial for the accessible route to IOP and Peter Layon due to frequent breakdowns and long lead times for parts.
  • Installing power-assisted and hold-back doors across Penryn Campus, enhancing accessibility to campus spaces such as the Upper Stannary, DDM, and Tremough House
  • Adding power-assisted doors at Glasney to improve access to flats and laundry rooms.
  • Making Chapel Lecture Theatre accessible from both entrances.
  • Introducing Soft Study space in the Library at Penryn Campus
  • Purchasing 15 accessible desks for lecture theatres and seminar rooms on both Penryn and Woodlane campuses, with plans for additional desks this year

FXPLUS Events Team Updates

  • Prioritizing accessibility in all event planning.
  • Ensuring graduation ceremonies are meticulously planned with accessibility in mind.
  • Receiving positive feedback from wheelchair users over the years.
  • Acknowledging appreciation for events hosted in the campus bar, as mentioned by Reece.


‘’I met Andy Mortimore, Fire Safety Advisor, a couple of months ago. He is the best and reassured me that everything is in place in case of a fire.’ - UoE, Student.

‘’Kat Jolly, Accessibility Leader, has been interacting with me since day 1. Your hard work is seen; thank you for making my uni experience better.’ - Falmouth University, Student.

Sam and Reece's Story

Sam's story

    Before arrival Sep 2020 (Covid Year):
  • FU advertised accessibility but uncertainty existed; previous open day had unsure ambassadors about accessible routes in 2019.
  • Offered wheelchair-accessible flat in Glasney Village; accommodation team requested wheelchair dimensions which was reassuring & very helpful.
  • Welcome Week:
  • Tour experience disappointing; lecturers led through gravel path, wheelchair broke, accessed lecture room via stairs, felt humiliated but received apologies.
  • Accessing ASDA is difficult due to gravel pathways.
  • Living in Cornwall:
  • Beach inaccessible due to lack of concrete; frustrated as heavily advertised by uni.
  • Accessing private housing challenging; had to hide wheelchair use from landlord, sought council support for temporary ramp.
  • Chose to move from Glasney Village; only able to live in Penryn due to travel complications.
  • Many shops on Highstreet inaccessible due to narrow doors & a steps. Moreover, hills make independence difficult & sometimes impossible.
  • First Lectures:
  • All lectures online due to Covid; recordings lacked captions, frustrating
  • Course Building inaccessible; started formal complaint.
  • Staff lacked knowledge on accessible routes; not fully supportive.
  • Entertainment:
  • Bus used to reach Falmouth town is overwhelming & packed over September & October. Also, unable to take train independently due to accessibility issues.
  • Highstreet difficult without support due the cobble stoned ground.
  • Limited venues felt accessible besides Wetherspoons.
  • Thoughts on becoming an ambassador:
  • Ambassadors followed up on accessible map before arrival; thought about becoming one but concerned about accessibility issues representing uni.
  • Support:
  • Had non-medical helper, Nicola Stephens, best support she could have asked for.
  • The SU Advisers really helped her with her complaints
  • Overall:
  • Grateful for SU disabled network.
  • Not what was expected.

Reece's story

    Before arrival in September 2022:
  • Reece wasn't aware of accessibility challenges in Cornwall but assumed they existed.
  • Communication-wise, he didn't engage with the accessibility team until receiving a final offer.
  • An Individual Learning Plan (ILP) was implemented, but campus accessibility details were lacking
  • Initial impressions:
  • Reece was pleased to find pre-requested accommodation in place.
  • However, there was no accessibility tour during orientation.
  • He attended quiet hours during Welcome Week and was very pleased.
  • First lectures:
  • Reece experienced a gap between promised accessibility and reality.
  • Despite being known as a wheelchair user, often accessible desks lacked in lecture halls.
  • Timetabling lacked consideration for his needs.
  • Social interactions:
  • Reece found it challenging to make friends, especially sitting alone at the very front in lecture halls.
  • Concerns raised with lecturers and accessibility services yielded no practical solutions until the beginning of his 2nd year. He is extremely thankful for the support & help received by Katrina Jolly (Accessibility Team Lear) & Andy Mortimore (Fire Safety Advisor).
  • Entertainment and living:
  • Initially refrained from exploring Falmouth due to transportation difficulties.
  • In his second year, he ventured into town with the Student Union (SU).
  • Finds the town inaccessible but appreciates the Penryn campus bar.
  • Enjoys living in Cornwall despite expecting limited accessibility.
  • Accommodation:
  • Reece likes his flat but finds it nerve-racking to meet new housemates yearly.
  • Values friendships with staff at Glasney Lodge and prompt maintenance responses.
  • Thoughts on becoming an ambassador:
  • Reece considered it but feels conflicted due to ongoing accessibility issues.
  • Academic experience:
  • Enjoys his degree but might have chosen differently if visited during an open day.
  • Overall experience:
  • Reece is content with his Cornwall experience, crediting support from the SU, the accessibility team & the accommodation team.

Reflections from the tour of both Penryn and Falmouth Campuses

Penryn Campus

10:00am: Student Union (SU) During our tour, some staff members joined us. It was my first time using a manual wheelchair, and I found it quite challenging. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating; it was chucking it down.

10:15am: Chaplaincy Initially, I attempted to reach the chaplaincy without assistance, but it proved difficult, so I had to ask for help. The narrow doors made it hard to enter. Inside, we noticed there was no accessible bathroom, and the prayer room had a step, making it inaccessible. The experience was eye-opening, seeing these challenges firsthand. It’s worth mentioning there’s another prayer room on campus with an accessible route, however there are maintenance works happening at the moment.

11:00am: Campus Shop We were able to access the campus shop, and it felt fairly easy to move around the aisles. However, reaching some items required assistance.

11:20am: Glasney Lodge & The Wheelchair Accessible Flat Navigating the hill to Glasney Lodge was challenging, and it was my first time feeling vulnerable in a wheelchair. The student-facing staff at Glasney Lodge were accommodating, but they weren’t sure about the number of wheelchair accessible rooms on campus. Despite some issues with doors due to the rain and a broken fire door, the kitchen in the accessible flat was 100% accessible.

11:30am: Peter Lanyon This location posed challenges, with some doors not being electrically operated. I had to push one door with my wheelchair while trying to open another without falling out.

12:00pm: Daphne du Maurier Getting to this location felt like a gym workout. The Fire Safety Advisor, Andy Mortimore, demonstrated the use of evac chairs for mobility impaired in case of a fire. It was reassuring to see the preparations in place for everyone's safety.

12:30pm: SU We concluded our tour at the SU. It was a mix of emotions, and I was quite exhausted, but we had to prepare for the Falmouth Campus tour. Staff members mentioned that the tour was eye-opening for them, and they were grateful for the awareness it raised about accessibility and the identification of inaccessible buildings.

Falmouth Campus

1:30pm: Fox Car Park Our tour began at the Fox car park. As we walked toward the bottom entrance of Fox Café, we encountered a challenge—the electric door was out of order, so we had to manually open it. The heavy doors made it quite difficult.

1:40pm: Fox Café & Tree Tops Navigating Falmouth Campus firsthand revealed its accessibility challenges. Relying on multiple lifts to move around proved time-consuming, with some lifts frequently stopping having to keep pushing the buttons. Pushing the doors was also a struggle. The experience was overwhelming, leaving students and staff passing by speechless.

2:15pm: Library Accessing the library in a wheelchair was impossible due to the steep and dangerous hill. While Sam managed to reach the library in her electric wheelchair, she expressed caution and concern. Despite this, the librarians and staff at the compass warmly welcomed us and addressed our inquiries. However, we noted that the fire exit near the quiet space had steps, posing a potential safety issue.

2:35pm: Architecture & Fine Art Buildings We opted not to visit these buildings due to our overwhelming fatigue.

3:00pm: Reception Although our itinerary included visiting the architecture and fine art buildings, exhaustion and frustration overwhelmed us. Personally, I felt disheartened witnessing the campus's lack of accessibility.

Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union logo

Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union
Penryn Campus
Penryn, Cornwall
TR10 9FE

© Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union 2021

Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union is a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) registered in England and Wales, charity number 1193045