Accessibility: where there’s a wheel, there’s a way

By Justine DiFilippo
February 21, 2002

Justine Di Filippo

Students that are wheelchair bound have found a few changes on this campus in the past year. There are still many problems on this campus that are a daily obstacle for disabled students in wheelchairs.

The major change was the new path that went from Woodcrest to Xavier, and ran to the new dorm and to house one. Today it is now a sidewalk that is safer then the previous painted streets. As a request by the students many power-operated doors were placed in several of the campus buildings.

New automatic door openers were placed in the radio station and Xavier.

The last time campus went through major changes was in 1993, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) called for changes a year before. The Mansion and House one received ramps to make them more accessible. Sidewalks were built all over campus making it easier to get around, and a path was painted onto the street between Xavier and House one to make a safe path between each building.

The 2000-2001 school year brought a lot of changes to the school. A new wing was added to Founders Hall, a new dorm had been constructed and at the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year Woodcrest received new steps.

The new dorm has many accessible features, ramps and elevators, big bathrooms, water fountains that can be reached by a wheelchair bound person and room to get around in. Tina Shelley lives in the new dorm and said, “This is the most accessible building on campus. I can get around a lot easier in this dorm then I could in Xavier.”

On every floor in the N wing of the new dorm there is at least one accessible bathroom. The first floor has one bathroom in all of the wings that is accessible. These bathrooms come equipped with lower sinks handrails and a handicapped shower. The elevator has a new design as well instead of using a key to turn on the elevator it had an id scanner and only those who have access can open the doors to this elevator. The elevator is also the biggest on campus both Caldwell and Shelley could fit inside without a problem. The New Dorm also has wider hallways, crossing paths with another wheel chair bound person is no longer an obstacle. The only problem that Shelley has with accessibility in the New Residence Hall is the laundry room. There is not enough space for her to get around to the back washers in her wheel chair. Shelley says, “If there are no available washers in the front I have to walk to the other side and between balancing my laundry and myself it is a real challenge.”

Founders Hall Communications Center was given new technology in accessibility. The radio station has remotes that look like garage door openers to get into the radio station.

Getting into the COM Center if the main doors are closed is a different story. Many times these doors are propped open but when they are not they become difficult because of their weight. Caldwell was lucky enough to have a training specialist in high school. She said, “She taught me how to open doors. In case I was ever by myself I would be able to get in and out of buildings and to know that I can do things for myself.”

Woodcrest received new steps this past summer. Last year, we were told that the main reason was that the older buildings, Woodcrest and the Mansion, were not accessible because “There were not standards that had to be followed in the construction of these buildings [when they were built]” (Loquitur, March 22, 2001 no. 19). When the new steps to Woodcrest were built, they were still not accessible. To April Caldwell this was one of the improvements she was hoping to see come out of last year’s lobbies for more accessibility. Caldwell said, “I wanted to be able to get into Woodcrest for three years. Woodcrest used to hold all kinds of activities but I could never go because I couldn’t get inside.” Mike Caranfa chief facilities officer said, “[Making the Woodcrest entrance accessible] was discussed, but since the building is not accessible once you get inside it was decided not to build a ramp.”

Throughout her three years here, Caldwell and many others have tried to make this campus more accessible. She feels annoyed and upset that besides herself and many others tried to get more accessibility on campus and still there was “no great improvement to this campus.”

Caranfa said, “There are still areas that are not accessible, mostly due to architectural impediments, but as buildings are renovated they will be brought up to the current standards. All future construction will meet the requirements of the ADA.”

If there was one thing that Caldwell wants most it’s “better maintenance of the doors. These are the biggest problems that I face during the day.”

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Justine DiFilippo

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