By Bethany Flanagan
If you walk around campus and notice a student in a wheelchair or on crutches, you may also notice that he or she has limited access to certain areas of campus or struggles to get into buildings.
Mobility is often taken for granted until we injure a leg or ankle and have to hobble on crutches. Many students on campus require handicap accessibility to get to and from classes. Challenges face these students, whether it is parking, finding ramps, locating eleva- tors or finding suitable desks.
“MVNU is committed to our policy that no persons shall be excluded or denied the benefits of access to programs and services because of dis- ability,” said David Leedy, who is disability services coordinator, “and so far we have been able to keep that commit- ment.”
Tiffany Seemann, a senior graphic design major, expressed her frustration that she has to explain when she parks in a handicapped parking slot.
“I’ve been through cancer, a seizure and a stroke,” Seeman said. “And I have an incurable bone disease. That is what makes me handicapped, and I shouldn’t have to explain why
I’m parking where I’m parking.”
Lack of parking spaces is a concern for all students but especially for students with physical challenges. Currently, only one handicapped parking space is available for the Prince Student Union and gym. On main campus, 37 handicapped parking spaces are available, while Buchwald Center and Hunter Hall have one, according to Patrick Rhoton, director of campus safety and security. One shuttle bus is handicap accessible, Rhoton noted.
However, the handicapped parking spaces on campus are not always clearly marked.
They are all painted blue with the handicapped logo, but not all of them have handicapped parking signs. This makes it difficult, especially in the winter, for a driver to determine whether a parking space is des- ignated as handicap.
“I have found cars parked in the one and only handicapped parking space in front of the PSU with no visible permits in or on the vehicle,” Seeman said. “Sometimes I call security to tell them and explain that I had to park elsewhere so they don’t fault me for it.”
In order for us to under- stand the troubles that people with physical challenges might experience, we set out on foot to each building on campus and explored its handicap accessibility. We explored the buildings’ landscape, entrances, bathrooms, classrooms and overall layout.
Throughout our experience, we found that many “handicapped accessible” buildings need improvement.
The chapel is one place that all students gather as a com- munity. In order for someone with a handicap to attend chapel, he or she must go around to the side of the chapel parallel to Martinsburg Road.
On our excursion, the side- walk was clear, but we noticed broken light posts with plastic pieces on the ground. Further, the handicapped accessibility button for the chapel building did not work.
The next building we toured was Founders Hall, which houses the communication department, WNZR, GPS
graduate business offices, and and the Mac lab—all on the second floor. Founders Hall lacks elements that are essential for most students with handicaps, such as an elevator and handicapped accessible restrooms.
A student with disabilities would find it difficult to major in graphic design, communica- tion, journalism or video and radio broadcasting if he or she could not get to the Mac lab, radio station, communication office or classroom.
“It is a high priority to get access to Founders 221 and the Maclab,” said Joe Rinehart, who is director of broadcast- ing for WNZR and a commu- nication professor. “They are used for a variety of courses across the spectrum. Access to the faculty offices is something we also need to address.
The administration is aware of the situation.
“We regularly review our campus for access and compli- ance with the laws,” Leedy said. “Second floor Founders Hall has been on the top of the list of areas not accessible and needing improvement for many years. There have been discussions and recommenda- tions to administration about this need.”
Hyson Campus Center was next on our list. The center not only houses the cafeteria,
but also the post office, the Presidents’ Dining Room and the SGA office. This doesn’t include all of the offices and classrooms upstairs.
The handicapped entrance is on the south side of the building away from the main entrance. The main entrance by the cafeteria could easily be made handicapped accessible with the installation of buttons to open the doors.
Students with handicaps not only have trouble with parking and buildings on campus, but also with sitting in classrooms.
“When it comes to desks, we work with that student individually who may use a wheelchair and make sure that our facilities staff bring in a table,” Leedy said. “With housing, we can place them in a dorm room that would meet their needs.”
From our research, we found that some places on campus just need some “ten- der loving care.” If the University added handicapped parking spaces and signs, fixed door openers, filled in cracked sidewalks and installed eleva- tors in all buildings, the cam- pus would be more accessible for all students.
We found out that “handicapped” does not always mean those in a wheel chair. Instead, it includes those who are on crutches, those who have bad hips, students who have chron- ic diseases and students who are simply ill. By realizing the problems on campus and seeing the impact they have on students, we hope that the University puts plans and ideas into actions.