A university has prevented one of its disabled students from using an accessible parking space that was allowing him to carry out vital work experience, and has now painted over the bay’s markings.
Teesside University in Middlesborough tried to force music technology student David Birdsall to use a car-park more than 200 metres away instead, simply because it had an automatic barrier.
Birdsall, who is in the first year of his course, started volunteering in October with Click, a student-run station which is managed by the university, which he knew would provide valuable work experience.
But university staff complained when he tried to use the single accessible parking space outside the Click studios – one of about 12 spaces in all – even though he has a blue parking badge.
They refused to provide him with a key to open the entrance barrier to the parking area, even after he successfully applied for a student’s parking permit they said he needed.
Walking just a few metres causes Birdsall “excruciating” pain, because of his impairment, and he rarely manages even 50 metres.
After being refused permission to park in the accessible space, he watched in disbelief as the university painted over the wheelchair logo and other markings, and replaced the space with an “ordinary” parking bay.
Because he was not able to park outside the studio, he has been forced to resign from Click.
Birdsall, who lives in Stockton, said: “This has shocked me, it really has. It is blatant discrimination. I have never in my life encountered such stupidity.”
The university claims he shouldn’t have used the space directly outside the studios because of the manual barrier – which he was happy to operate himself – and that he should instead have used a student carpark more than 200 metres away, which has an automatic barrier.
A university spokeswoman said: “What has happened in this staff carpark outside Click was there was an old disabled space that had been left. It would not be right to issue a pass into that carpark because it has a manual barrier.”
She added later: “Teesside University takes equality very seriously. Mr Birdsall has raised an issue with us and we are working to resolve this.”