University Access Guide now includes information on all colleges

The Guide provides comprehensive, up-to-date information on how accessible University buildings are for staff, students and visitors with disabilities.

For its first few years, the Guide had very limited information about colleges, focusing mainly on buildings operated by the central University.

This changed when Ben Smith, Accessibility Advisor within Estates Services, reached an agreement with the Disability Sub-Group of the Conference of Colleges, whereby the colleges funded a post in his team to gather information on the accessibility of their main buildings.

This paid for Janet Higham to join the Conservation & Buildings team as Access Auditor, and since early 2020 she has been systematically visiting and auditing the University’s colleges and permanent private halls. She reported on features that could help or hinder disabled people – from wheelchair-accessible entrances and hearing induction loops to high-contrast decorative schemes for people with sensory issues or even the potential to accommodate carers.

She also provided formal feedback report to the colleges she visited, recommending potential improvements to support disabled users. These ranged from minor projects like adding new handrails or hearing support systems, through small refurbishments such as making bathrooms and toilets more accessible, to major interventions such as installing lifts or creating new entrances.

All 43 of the colleges and permanent private halls have now been audited and added to the online guide; Janet will now remain with the team on a part-time basis to maintain the resource, updating it to reflect new construction, accessibility improvements and other relevant changes.

The Access Guide brings together information about the accessibility of the entire collegiate University in one place. It will be helpful for everyone from people with disabilities planning to visit a college to disabled prospective students looking to decide which college would suit them best.

Until now there has been no comprehensive central place to look for this kind of information. An earlier crowdsourced initiative, the Oxford Accessibility Project, helped inspire the University’s own guide, and the information it contained has been incorporated into the official guide wherever applicable.

You can view the Access Guide here.

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