Disabled student takes on law school over dodgy swipe-card access to library

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By Judge John Hack on

GDL student’s persistence sees City University comply with disability legislation


A leading London university law school is adapting access to its library after a student with cerebral palsy refused to accept excuses for an entry system that often leaves him waiting outside in the cold.

Josh Hepple, who is on the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) course at City University, complained that a ropey card-swipe system for institution’s library made it difficult for him to enter the building.

Limited movement owing to the disability means Hepple is unable to operate the swipe system and is often forced to wait for fellow students to open the door. While that is little more than a mild inconvenience during busy times, Hepple can be left for up to half an hour in the cold at weekends or in the evenings.

“There’s a card-swipe reader, which I can’t use due to my movements,” Hepple told Legal Cheek. “It’s an old reader, which takes everyone four or five goes. They have them throughout City. Even in the assistive technology rooms for disabled students.”

Several days ago, Hepple contacted university authorities asking for “reasonable adjustments” — the terminology of the Equality Act 2010 — to be made to the system, suggesting the installation of an intercom system that would allow a librarian to open the door remotely when he rang.

But initially reluctance to help was displayed by some employees of the university.

“They said it’s not the job of librarians to open a door,” reported Hepple.

However, after Legal Cheek raised the issue with the law school, City University contacted Hepple and swung into action. A spokeswoman said:

“We are in the process of installing automated doors and improving access through the building.”

Hepple told Legal Cheek that he was happy with the prospect of automated doors, but he was still waiting for the university to clarify how they would open.

The Law Society’s Lawyers with Disabilities Division said it was surprised by the initial response which Hepple received, with a spokesman offering to “take this up with the university” if there were any further difficulties resolving the issue.

In a statement the university explained that “the requirements of all students with disabilities are assessed when they accept a place at City. This enables us to make any reasonable adjustments before students arrive for their first day.” It continues:

“The disability support team also offers one-to-one consultations with students once they are at the university so they can suggest further adjustments which might enhance their learning experience. We endeavour to implement all reasonable adjustments suggested.

“In some situations, where these adjustments can’t be made immediately, the university will put in place temporary measures and these are communicated to students.”