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The Lancaster University Students With Disabilities Forum have proposed an open letter to the LU Facilities Team regarding the recent policy change for disabled students who will no longer be able to apply for a free parking permit on the Bailrigg campus, instead having to pay £142.
This change came into play on the 1st October, as detailed in the Car Parking Policy Documentation released for the 2021/22 academic year.
As well as the transition from free to £142, students attempting to obtain the permit will now have to go through the process of providing the car parking office with a letter signed by a medical professional showing their eligibility for the permit. This should be dated within the last 12 months and is often something that could incur a separate fee.
The policy does note that for one-off occasions and for visitors, a blue badge will suffice however, for students and permanent staff the purchase of an accessible parking permit is compulsory.
The inflated cost of the accessible parking permit is now the same price as the current option available to all students; the only benefit of the accessible permit is it’s availability to park in any space across campus – including accessible spots – whilst the ‘Student Parking Pass’ is only useable in the South West Campus.
However, even this has been clouded with confusion as the ‘Accessible Parking Permits Eligibility Guidelines’ states, “University AP Permits are valid in all car parking spaces on campus in any parking zone, including all accessible parking spaces,” whilst the ‘Car Parking Principal Document’ goes on to contradict this, stating, “Student Accessible Permits are valid only in the South West Campus.”
This is yet another example of the hurdles that the University has placed before a proportion of its students that should be entitled to support NOT obstruction.
When price matched against other Accessible Public Parking Permits such as the Blue Badge, it’s clear the £142 proposed is anything but accessible with the Blue Badge incurring a cost up to £10, not over £100.
In their open letter to the Facilities Department, the Students With Disabilities Forum describes the permit as, “a vital accessibility requirement” – based on the shared experiences of students within the Forum – and notes the lack of consultation with or consideration of Lancaster’s disabled students as exclusive.
This lack of inclusivity fuels uncertainty surrounding Lancaster University’s commitment to facilitating the educational pursuits and quality of life of all of its students; implementing the same cost for an accessible parking permit as the standard parking permit is arguably an implementation of active discrimination against students-with-disabilities.
In their letter, the Students With Disabilities Forum note the lack of financial support proposed in conjunction with the fee for those who may not be able to afford it. They question whether the money from the permit is intended to be used to create more accessible spaces around campus and address the possible educational, physical and mental effect of the new policy:
“Students will face greater difficulty participating in university life and achieving their academic potential. In turn, the barrier created by this change is likely to have a severe impact on these students’ physical and mental health during their time at Lancaster.”Excerpt from the open letter to the Facilities Team
SCAN reached out to Students with Disabilities Officer, Lozzie Széll, for details on this issue; they stated that the aims of the letter – which is intended to be sent to the Facilities department at the end of next week – are:
“To publicise a decision that was conducted beneath the radar and without the consultation of disabled students despite directly affecting them”
“To reverse the introduction of this fee, and either refund the money they have already collected or provide evidence that it will be put towards the improvement of facilities for disabled students.”Lozzie Széll, Students with Disabilities Officer
Lozzie further commented:
“I first found out about it when a member of the Students with Disabilities Forum, who had been trying to renew their permit, sent me a message about the charge.”
The immediate effect of the policy change on students and the underhand way in which the University has attempted to introduce the new fee without spreading awareness and wider publicity within the student community is far from supportive. If the fee had been introduced with acknowledgement from the University and relevant financial support, then it may have given students a chance to voice their opposition before it came in immediate effect at the start of the academic year.
VP Welfare, Amy Merchant, also commented on this issue:
Support will be essential in spreading awareness of this issue, overturning the policy or enacting some form of response from LU about the use of the profits made.
The open letter can be found here and includes a link to add signatures before it is sent to the Facilities Department next week.