University Post
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TEST: Can you get around the Faculty of Law in a wheelchair?

Accessibility — The Faculty of Law is well equipped for wheelchair users. We were given a guided tour by law student Emilie Ghali, who has only positive things to say about the accessibility at her faculty. She feels one hundred percent included.

The buildings are only a few years old. But can a law student with a physical disability get around and participate in the same way as the other students?

Emilie Ghali should know. She is 26, a wheelchair user, and has cerebral palsy – a brain injury that typically occurs very early in life and causes problems controlling body movements.

She gives the University Post a tour, and she has told us in advance that — except for a few minor exceptions — she is very positive about being a student and wheelchair user on South Campus.

»I can’t point to many problems, and I’m happy to study law, with all the opportunities I have here,« says Emilie Ghali.

It is — in other words — at the Faculty of Law that you can see examples of solutions that fit the needs of wheelchair users. And it seems more well thought out than elsewhere at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH).

READ ALSO: TEST: Can you get around Frederiksberg Campus in a wheelchair?

Accessibility was what determined her choice of degree programme

We start at the main entrance at Njalsgade 76. There is a revolving door here that can be difficult for wheelchair users to get through, but there is another option.

»They’ve made a regular door next door with an automatic door opening that I can just drive through. I use it every time,« says Emilie Ghali.

The main entrance is important when you are a wheelchair user. Emilie Ghali knows it from bitter experience.

Before starting her law studies, she studied for a bachelor’s degree in administration at the University College Copenhagen on Tagensvej. Here she could not enter through the main door, but had to resort to a back entrance. And once inside there were problems getting around.

This distressed her, and it was actually the direct reason why she quit in 2020 – and switched to Law at UCPH.

READ ALSO: Copenhagen was a shock for disabled student

The library staircase is not a problem

We enter the library (Juridisk Videnscenter). The door automatically opens for Emilie Ghali, and there are no doorsteps or other obstacles.

There is a huge staircase inside the library itself, but that is no cause for alarm:

»Over in the corner of the room there is a lift that leads up to all the floors, so I won’t be excluded in any way,« says Emilie Ghali, who can get around everywhere in the large building.

»I find it easy to get to all the places and floors at the Faculty of Law,« says Emilie Ghali.

Sitting at the back of lectures

This also applies when she enters one of Law’s two lecture halls. There is one small challenge here, however: There is no space for wheelchairs between the rows of tables in the hall.

»There is a certain distance between all the tables, and if I arrive in my wheelchair, I have to change the entire row if I try to move them. The tables can be moved, but this leads to a domino effect, so it’s not practical,« says Emilie Ghali.

She has a simple solution to the problem.

»I turn up ten minutes before each lecture and sit down at the back to make sure I get a seat,« says Emilie Ghali, who does not feel that she is missing out by sitting in the back.

And when it comes to the in-class teaching, it takes place in rooms that she can easily access, and where she can sit wherever she wants.

Only one bad experience – and that was outside the Faculty of Law

Emilie Ghali has only once experienced discomfort as a wheelchair user on South Campus, and that was when she had to attend a lecture at the Faculty of Humanities, one of the neighbouring faculties on South Campus.

»The auditorium was leaning down towards the lecturer, so I had to sit right at the front. There was not much space, and so I was right next to the lecturer. I felt totally excluded from the other students and exposed. I also didn’t have a desk to put my computer on, which I usually do at the Faculty of Law,« says Emilie Ghali.

She suspects that there may be other students in wheelchairs who experience the same thing every day if they study at the Faculty of Humanities, she says.