Leeds University Union, University of Leeds.
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Walking Aid, Wheelchair, Powerchair, Mobility Scooter
The union is a large building at the centre of the University of Leeds campus, and has several bars, clubs, and meeting areas available for use. There are multiple accessible entrances into the union; the main entrance is at the top of a smooth, wide, and shallow ramp, and the double doors are usually propped open. There is a similar, albeit it narrower and steeper ramp also into the forum by the refectory, which has a button-operated automatic door for the disabled. The lip through this door is quite sharp, and on occasion this automatic door has been left locked and not switched on. There is also a lift at the south entrance to the union, although this has been blocked by security barriers or left locked on occasion as well. The forum and atrium are spacious, containing a range of tables and seating areas for casual gatherings, and a reception desk manned by students who can provide advice and help where needed. There are more enclosed meeting rooms near the reception desk, but I believe these must be booked to be used. There is a lift on the wide corridor between the forum and the theatre to the left, and a larger lift in the atrium outside the refectory. The lift by the refectory has a narrow passageway which can make moving in and out of this lift difficult, especially if there is someone coming out of the lift while you try to get in and vice versa. The theatre has level access through double doors, and the floor is smooth. There are no specific wheelchair spaces in the tiered seating, but given that all the seats fold up when not in use it is simple enough to fold up a seat and reverse into the space anyway. I do not believe that the stage itself is accessible, but as I’ve never had cause to use it I wouldn’t know. The counters where food is ordered in the Refectory are quite high and can be difficult to reach from a wheelchair, but staff are happy to assist and carry trays where needed. The same applies to the tills. Wheelchairs can only really sit on tables at the edge of the seating area, as the tables are tightly packed together. However, the sheer number of tables means that there is rarely a problem in accessing such a table. The Terrace bar can be accessed from the forum of the union, or from the corridor running alongside the refectory. There are ramps up to all of the areas including the outdoor part bar one small platform, and most of the tables are at a suitable height for wheelchair users. The bar has one lowered end that servers are happy to use if required. Floor 1 contains all the offices for staff at the union, and also for the university newspaper. All of the offices are accessible, but some of the doorways are narrow. There is usually little need to use this floor, even as a student. Floor 2 contains all the meeting rooms available for hire by university societies, which vary in size but are all accessible. The corridor connecting all of these rooms is narrow in places. The basement contains several shops, mini-banks, opticians, and hairdressers, all of which are accessible. The Hidden Café has a wide, smooth ramp down into a wide area with spread-out tables and flexible seating arrangements. The counter where food and drinks are ordered is low enough for wheelchair users to use comfortably. There is also a ramp down into Old Bar, which again has flexible seating although the tables can be packed tightly together. Part of the bar is lowered for wheelchair users. There is some outside seating, although the tables are close together and difficult to negotiate. There is an exit in Old Bar that does not serve as an entrance, although the small concrete ramp is not up to the standard of the rest of the facilities. All of the clubs have lift access into them, provided security remember to switch lifts on and unlock them. Perhaps the best of the clubs for access is Stylus, which has level access onto all of its floors and is spacious, although the bar is very high up.
Transport & Parking
The union does not have its own car park, but there are a few car parks dotted around campus that will admit blue-badge holders. There are several prominent bus routes and stops in the surrounding area. The pavement is smooth and relatively level, making pedestrian access ideal.
Every area is accessible, but sometimes access routes are obstructed or locked by security.
Disabled toilets should be nearby in pretty much every region of the union, and are kept clean. Given that they serve as gender neutral facilities, there can be a wait to access the toilet. Not every disabled toilet has full-changing facilities, but there is at least one that does (it may be best to ask staff about this).
On the whole, the union staff are friendly and approachable. Some of the student workers lack experience so may not be sure of how to work with disabled people immediately, but are usually very apologetic and quickly find someone who can help. The cleaners are very helpful, as are the majority of the administrative staff who run the building. The staff in shops, bars, and eating establishments are all very friendly and accommodating. At times the security team can be off-hand, and often “forget” to keep accessible routes clear during opening hours. Most of them seem to consider the disabled to be an inconvenience, so if possible, speaking to other staff is preferable.