Lauren Tasker

Candidate for Disabilities Officer

Photo of Lauren Tasker

Key Points

  • I will advocate for you.
  • I am relatable and will listen to your concerns.
  • I will keep you updated.
  • I aim to educate myself, students, and staff.
  • I will advocate for change.

Why vote for Lauren Tasker?

For fifteen years of life, I was a non-disabled individual, whose only contact with the world of disability was a double-amputee father. I became a young carer at an early age, advocating for him and helping him complete daily tasks. Whilst I saw the challenges he faced, and was usually the one pushing for resolutions, I never truly understood how different it was. I am now an ambulatory wheelchair user with a dynamic disability that became apparent in the past five years. This led to me feeling very isolated due to a lack of understanding and inaccessibility. Ever since, I have endeavoured to educate myself about a wide range of disabilities by listening to the experiences of disabled individuals. Many people are upset and struggle to see the positives when they acquire a disability, which is a normal response to a life-changing event. However, I have tried to reflect on my life as a non-disabled person rather than grieving it, which has been a long process! My experience of acquiring a disability has made me a more thoughtful person, always proactively looking to solve problems.

Unfortunately, I experience a wide range of symptoms that impact on my everyday life; however, this means I relate to the challenges of many students on some level. During my two years at university, I have been noting all accessibility issues that I have encountered, addressing as many as possible with enabling services. Whilst it is possible that I could have worked around some of these issues with extra effort, they are just as important to me as I never want another disabled individual to face the same preventable challenges. I’m sure there are lots of accessibility issues that I have missed, which I am keen for people to share with me.  

Individuals with disabilities are not a homogenous group. Even people with a shared condition are not a homogenous group. There are common threads that run between us. I’m sure many of us feel a sense of anxiety, trying not to stand out and trying not to make a fuss. We might share a feeling of isolation or exhaustion at explaining ourselves time and time again. But whilst we may share some challenges, there are so many unique experiences that need to be heard. Disabled individuals are just that – individuals.

I have personal experience with neurodivergence, as well as mental health challenges, and have fought for the rights of family members to have their needs met. I aim to do this for every fellow student (a big aspiration I know!) Although much of my own experience is with physical and visible impairments, I aim to improve accessibility for students who are neurodivergent, have mental health challenges as well as those with physical disabilities, and will welcome any input. I would love to hear the experiences of other students, positive and negative, as I am only one person and there will be many unique ideas and issues that I feel passionate about addressing.

Questions & Answers Ask me a Question

I love that you made sure to recognise that disabilities are such a diverse category. How do you hope to improve accessibility for disabled students? Please be as detailed as you want!

I have been making a list of the accessibility issues I have faced throughout my time at university. Here are a few I have noted and the changes I would aim to implement: - Inaccessible lecture theatres – I usually look up the accessibility online due to previously being allocated to rooms that are unsuitable. Many of these rooms have inaccurate/missing/ or just confusing descriptions online which does not help my stress. Updated pictures and descriptions are a must. Before I was a wheelchair user, I would research the layout of a room to help my anxiety, therefore this is not purely a mobility-related issue that needs addressing. Additionally, I would work with timetabling to ensure that their understanding of what makes an accessible room aligns with the needs of disabled students. - Inefficient services – Whilst it is great that there are many places of support and resources, keeping tabs on where to access them can be its own challenge. I would be interested in streamlining services (as much as it is possible with the different teams), to ensure finding support is not another stress. For example, whilst I personally do not have issues navigating the various web pages, I find it challenging to locate some of them and often give up due to it being more stressful than I deem worth it! Additionally, I know many people struggle to know where to go for support. Due to the various sources, people often get passed from pillar to post, which can be frustrating and overwhelming. - Heavy doors – As a wheelchair user, these are part of my nightmares! They often zap a lot of my energy and are sometimes a health and safety issue. Therefore, I aim to investigate the possibility of more electric doors and propping open doors that can be, due to fire safety. I believe signage is also important when leaving doors open as they are often shut due to people not understanding. - Inaccessible seating - Yes, I do come with my own wheely seat, but finding a desk I can sit at properly is often a challenge, for example, the entry-level of B46. Comfy booth seating has recently been installed around the only desks that were my height on this level – now I love a comfy seat as much as the next person, but this presents me with a problem due to limited space. Some people may prefer to transfer, however, due to the nature of my disability, it is often safer to remain in my chair which can limit my options. This could be addressed by ensuring disabled people’s voices are heard in design processes. I would encourage as many people as possible to give their input as I am only one person, and many people will have different requirements that I may not see! - Disabled bathrooms that are not really fit for purpose – For example, I have seen broken red pull cords that appear to have been out of action for a while, facilities that are small and lacking equipment, and heavy doors. I believe it would be useful to complete a survey of disabled bathrooms across the campuses to identify potential problems, adopting a proactive approach. Again, everyone’s feedback would be greatly received! - Unable to find many disabled bathrooms – this could also be achieved by listing them on the MySouthampton app like showers. This is a huge source of anxiety for me and I’m sure I’m not alone. This is especially important when disabled bathrooms double as the baby changing facilities and/or a shower as many people who need these facilities cannot wait. Implementing adequate signage throughout buildings would also be a solution. I often cannot go hunting around different floors to find a free disabled bathroom, therefore clear signs/maps showing other bathrooms around the building would be helpful. - B44 lift – I would love to know what the permanent solution is to this issue. It causes a nuisance for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one! A map, that is easy to locate digitally or on campus, demonstrating a viable route with a description of the terrain would be a good starting point. - High hedges – now I might sound like I’ve lost the plot, but this is a source of frequent annoyance. It often means I come close to running peoples’ toes over when turning corners due to not being able to see them (I promise I’m not speeding around!) Additionally, students who have visual impairments or are hard of hearing may struggle with high hedges. I would aim to lower the height of hedges whilst not impeding too much on existing wildlife. Please let me know if you have changes you would like to see, I will always be open to listening to other individual’s perspectives!

This question was only asked to LaurenAnswered by Lauren on 16/05/23 20:06

Which of your policies/focuses is the most important to you, and how do you plan to implement it?

Improving access to quiet/individual working areas is of paramount importance to me. On a personal level, I am often overwhelmed by the noise and volume of people in study spaces, which makes it difficult for me to do anything productive! Additionally, trying to find a suitable space can be draining for me as a wheelchair user. Trekking across, a very hilly, campus to find a space is often not an option (but I do have a few ideas to make the journey less challenging), therefore clearly signposting these spaces would make studying on campus more accessible. I would like to see this achieved through a mixture of physical signage and virtually, for example in the MySouthampton app. This app shows the number of free PCs; therefore, I feel it would be a small but helpful change to have pod bookings e.g. Clarkson Rooms, integrated here as it can get quite confusing and time-consuming finding a space. Quiet study spaces could also be listed here. Furthermore, I often find going to new locations stressful, therefore I tend to stick to spaces I know. When you are feeling low and make it to your ‘safe’ study space to find it’s crowded or loud, it rather ruins the day. New locations are stressful for me, partly due to unknown accessibility and partly because the prospect of asking for directions fills me with dread. To remedy this, I would aim to ensure there are updated images and descriptions of learning and study spaces around the university. Whilst AccessAble has completed this for some buildings many are incomplete or lack the detail I need to utilise campus spaces without anxiety. I would also always be open to input from other students as everyone will have different challenges.

This question was also asked to Lottie James, BMO BrealeyAnswered by Lauren on 15/05/23 17:41