A sign at the University of Exeter’s Sports Park has been taken down after concerns were voiced over what it implied. The quote at the Russell Seal Fitness Centre read “There is no short cut to success. You have to climb the stairs”. Student Ruby Jones communicated her discomfort towards the sign on the stairs to the university after visiting the gym for the first time in months. Jones commented: “I first saw the sign at the beginning of the term when I was finally well enough to join the gym after months of physical rehabilitation. At first the sign made me uncomfortable but I tried to ignore it and carry on”.
Despite attempts to ignore the sign, Jones still felt it to be highly inappropriate. A few weeks after her initial discomfort, she tweeted a photo of the sign and discovered that many people felt the same way; confirming her feeling of exclusion. Jones commented “As a disabled student I have to take the lift every time I use the gym. The quote clearly states that there is no short cut to success, and therefore implies me using the lift is a failure and to forget any other successes that may be measured differently”.
Jones emailed the university voicing her concerns. She added “the quote strongly excludes disabled students and a better one could easily be found. The email was non-confrontational, and the response was brilliant. They agreed they did not want anyone to feel excluded and therefore agreed to remove and replace the sign. The sign itself may seem insignificant – but it is part of a much bigger problem that is often overlooked; ableism”.
Although Jones received a positive response from the university, other media outlets have not been as supportive. Jones commented that “there was some real negativity on the Tab article” about the sign but that the support she had received from Twitter has made that easier to dismiss.
After the initial complaint and after seeking advice from accessibility the Sports Park added: “We appreciate all our customers providing feedback on all aspects of the Russell Seal Fitness Centre, therefore we would like to say thank you for bringing this to our attention. It is most helpful that we understand your point of view Following feedback we do not feel that the sign should be changed and replaced as we would not like to see any potential misinterpretation of this sign which is intended to motivate those to overcome adversity. We cannot provide a timescale on this but can assure we do plan to replace the sign”.
Alison Davidson, Director of Sport, said: “The University of Exeter is committed to supporting our students who wish to participate in all levels and types of sport and exercise and use the facilities on campus. As part of this support, we always encourage users of the Russell Seal Fitness Centre to offer feedback about the facilities. Following recent feedback from a student, we are replacing one sign to avoid any potential misinterpretation.”