The Great Hall, University of Leeds
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Walking Aid, Wheelchair, Powerchair
The Great Hall hosts all University of Leeds graduation ceremonies, and I have been both as a graduate, and a guest at someone else’s graduation. The disabled access into the hall is via the Clothworkers Yard, to the left of the main entrance. On graduation days going to the main entrance and displaying your ticket will prompt a porter to escort you to this entrance. The paving stones in this yard have one or two small protruding edges, but mostly provide smooth access to the button-operated automatic door. The corridor leading from the door to the lift, and from the lift to hall is narrow and it can be difficult to manoeuvre around corners. The lift door swings outwards, so you cannot position yourself opposite the door as you wait for it to arrive. It is just large enough for one wheelchair user and one standing person to fit into. At the top the lift door also swings outwards, and there is a pillar to the right of the lift. There is room to manoeuvre, but it is tight and a little awkward. The entrance into the hall is double doors, which are propped open until everyone has entered the hall. Once in the hall, chairs can be moved to accommodate wheelchairs as needed. There is one seating area on an inaccessible mezzanine level at the back of the room, but everything else is accessible. There is a lift on one side of the stage that allows disabled graduates to collect their certificates and have their photo taken just like the able-bodied students, but if preferred the certificate can simply be passed to you from the stage by a porter.
Transport & Parking
For graduation days, a nearby zone is reserved for disabled car parking. Only cars who have booked to use these spots, and show their valid blue badge on the day may use these spaces. There are other small areas dotted around campus that are accessible with a blue badge, but on the whole car parking on campus is not viable. There are several nearby bus stops on prominent bus routes, and also a rank of taxis outside the famous clock-tower on Woodhouse Lane. The pavement is smooth and mostly level, making pedestrian access ideal.
There is a disabled toilet available on the corridor between the Clothworkers Yard entrance and lift, but given the narrow corridor this is impractical to get in to. There are several other more accessible toilets available in other buildings, including full changing facilities, if preferred (see Leeds University Union review).
The porters employed by the University of Leeds are highly proficient at their roles, providing a warm and welcoming reception to disabled graduates and guests alike. They are reassuring for nervous graduates, and very respectful to all under their care. Some staff on the day are hired in from agencies; these tend to be less helpful as they do not know the building too well, and are often less flexible in their ability to accommodate the disabled. However, even agency staff have never failed to ensure that I was in the right place at the right time.