University Marine Biological Station Millport
Working environment of UMBSM
The University Marine Biological Station, Millport, is located on the Isle of Cumbrae, which is in the Firth of Clyde about 2 km from Largs, which in turn is due west of Glasgow. Owing to the remoteness of the location and the rigours of field-work on the seashore, underwater, or at sea, academic and technical staff, and resident or visiting students, are normally expected to be able-bodied. However, the overriding policy of UMBSM has always been to avoid discrimination against the disabled wherever possible. Any physically disabled student or staff member who visits the Station will be accorded maximum assistance to take part in as many activities as is possible without compromising their safety. Where, as is sometimes the case, visiting groups are not undertaking fieldwork, but only attending lectures or seminars, then facilities are suitable for disabled students or staff. The Marine Station also incorporates a public museum and aquarium that attracts several thousand visitors each year, including the physically disabled.
The Marine Station itself is composed of a collection of buildings, most of which are old (and even historical) and have had multiple uses over time. The ground floor of the Hostel is fully accessible to wheelchair users offering access to the dining room via a platform lift. One twin bedded room is also available complete with ‘en suite’ facilities for the disabled. There is wheelchair access to classrooms, the lecture theatre, to a new section of the student Hostel, and to the ground floor of the Station, including the Museum and Aquarium. Disabled toilet facilities are also available at ground level in the main building and in one of the classrooms. In addition, car parking is available immediately adjacent to both the Station and the Hostel. There is, however, no wheelchair access to the floors above ground level.
It should be noted however that the numbers of disabled students participating in field work courses at the Marine Station has been very small. Although more than 25,000 students have visited the Marine Station in the last 30 years, with only one or two exceptions, disabilities have been limited to physical restrictions on movement that have fallen short of the necessity for a wheelchair. It should also be noted that the selection of students attending courses at the Marine Station is normally the responsibility of the students' home institutions, and thus not under the control of the Station.
- Any physically disabled student or staff member who visits Millport will be accorded maximum assistance to take part in as many activities as is possible without compromising their safety. However, safety considerations mean that they cannot use steep or otherwise hazardous rocky shores. If students are particularly limited in their movements, teaching material will be brought to them.
- All efforts are made to transfer disabled students (wearing life jackets) by hoist from shore to ship (and vice versa). However, once on board, they may be restricted to particularly safe areas of the vessel, unlike more able-bodied students. Wheelchair access to the research vessel is not possible but once on board R.V. Aora, the student can use his/her wheelchair (with some assistance) over the majority of the main deck area, which includes after deck (where specimens are landed), wet and dry laboratories and a toilet suitable for the disabled. The upper and lower decks are not accessible to the disabled.
- Diving by all students is subject to special legislation. Disabled students will be assisted to dive so long as they are a member a recognised club (e.g. the British Sub-Aqua Club), possess an appropriate certificate of diving competence, and hold a certificate of fitness to dive from their medical practitioner.
- Dyslexic students taking examinations at the Marine Station will be allowed extra examination time, as at the main campuses of colleges and universities. It has been standard practice for some years that postgraduate students suffering dyslexia will be supported by extra supervisory effort during the write-up phase of their programme.
- No special charges are levied in relation to disabled students, but no special financial assistance is available.
- Disabled visitors are welcomed to the Museum and Aquarium where there has been good wheelchair access and toilet facilities for the disabled since 1995.
- Administrative staff with physical disabilities have equal job opportunity with the able-bodied, but this cannot be applied to those technical and academic posts for which staff must be capable of work under arduous conditions. Relatively minor physical disabilities are not a bar to appointment, but each case must be dealt with on its individual merits. This approach has been adopted since 1970.
- The Marine Station is too small to operate a dedicated counselling, welfare or advisory service for the disabled.
Medical and First Aid Provision
On the island there is both a doctor's surgery, with doctors available to students at all times, and a small hospital. There is also access at all hours (by ferry or air ambulance, depending on the level of emergency) to the Inverclyde Hospital at Greenock. In addition, various of the Station staff have first-aid training and experience. The Station also has a recompression chamber for the emergency treatment of diving casualties.
The Director is responsible for the Station's disability policy, including addressing the needs of disabled students. Enquiries regarding provision for disabled visitors are welcome.