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Disabled are told they can't return for courses; Wheelchair user Nigel is barred from education centre.

Byline: Katie Norman

WHEELCHAIR-BOUND students have been asked to leave their education centre after a change in safety regulations rendered the building out of bounds for people with mobility problems.

Spina bifida sufferer Nigel Partridge, 40, is among the learners asked not to return to adult education courses at The Friary Centre, in Greyfriars Road, Cardiff, until further notice.

Disabled students including Nigel, of Whitchurch Road, Cathays, Cardiff, were sent letters asking them not to attend until further notice because the Cardiff council-run building did not meet health and safety requirements.

Nigel, who has learning difficulties, has attended courses at the centre for four years and is currently studying for GCSEs in English and maths.

He said: "I'm really annoyed because I'm supposed to be doing an exam and I really liked going there. I've really adapted to it. They're very friendly, they have good tutors and I have very good mates there."

Nigel has always used the lift to access the centre's upper floors but a council spokeswoman said the building did not comply with today's health and safety legislation because the device could not be used in an emergency and there were not enough staff to help wheelchair-users down the stairs.

Nigel's mumElizabeth, 62, a nursing auxiliary, said: "It absolutely stinks. It's as if they are discriminating against wheelchair-users.

"Nigel has been going there for four years and nothing has ever been mentioned about the lift before.

"It's absolutely disgusting.

"His tutors didn't even know anything about it. They wondered why he wasn't in class.

"But what's annoying me more than anything is why they have been letting him use this lift for four years if they've now decided it isn't safe.

"The upsetting part is that all his friends are there and he couldn't even say goodbye to them or his tutor.

"The students are wonderful and his tutor is first class.

"He's going to be really unhappy now.

"The whole thing is disgusting. And for them to have told us all this in a letter, which arrived on a Saturday morning so we couldn't even call them about it, is a disgrace.

"He's paid fees and there's been no mention to us of him ever getting the money back."

A spokeswoman for Cardiff council said it would try to make up for the loss of less on sin the summer term and would reimburse the learners for course fees if requested.

She said the decision to ask wheelchair-users not to use the building had been taken because "the safety of learners with a mobility impairment cannot be ensured".

She added: "In order to ensure the safety of learners, we are currently exploring alternative arrangements to transfer programmes to another venue where the welfare of learners can be safeguarded.

"We will keep all learners informed of the progress and apologise for any disruption."


LEARNING BLOW Nigel Partridge is furious that wheelchair users have been asked not to return to The Friary Centre in Cardiff. PICTURE: Mark Fraser Y
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 3, 2008
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