Students with disabilities fight for equal access on campus

The Disabled Student Cultural Center is asking the U to make Scott hall accessible to disabled students.

Cody Vanasse

For student Rachel Garaghty , Scott HallâÄôs doors are always shut. University of Minnesota building Scott Hall has multiple stairways and lack of ramps that make it inaccessible for students with mobile disabilities, including those using walkers, canes or, like Garaghty, wheelchairs. Areas of study located in Scott Hall include American studies, American-Indian studies, African-American and African studies and Chicano studies. If a student with a disability has a class scheduled in Scott, an issue facilities management said has happened in the past, the University will work with facilities management and professors to move the course to an accessible building. But this move can cause great stress for the professor and fellow students and put unnecessary pressure on the disabled student, Garaghty said, causing the student with a mobile disability to feel targeted or excluded. The Disabled Student Cultural Center (DSCC) is lobbying the Board of Regents to put funds toward making Scott Hall accessible to all students on campusâÄîincluding those with disabilities. DSCC has approached the board with the issue of Scott Hall accessibility for the past three years, most recently one year ago, but each time received no action, said Garaghty, DSCCâÄôs former programming co-chair and current graduate student,. Other Scott Hall resources, such as teacher office hours, cannot be moved. If a student wished to arrange office hours with a teacher, special accommodations would need to be made. âÄúIt goes against the UniversityâÄôs mission to have a building on campus that people like me canâÄôt access,âÄù Garaghty said. âÄúIf the U of M is willing to put money into renovating buildings that are already accessible [instead of making Scott Hall accessible] âĦ then I think the UniversityâÄôs priorities are a little bit confused.âÄù The University does eventually want to make Scott Hall accessible to students with disabilities, but it would like to wait until the building undergoes a full renovation, facilities management Associate Vice President Mike Berthelsen said. Because the building is of historic value to the University, Berthelsen said it will definitely remain a part of campus. However, due to the buildings old age, Scott will need major renovations, a project that wonâÄôt happen for at least another six years. One of the reasons for the delay is the more than $2 billion in facility needs over the next 10 years the University expects to incur, Berthelsen said, estimating that making Scott Hall fully accessible with âÄúsubstantialâÄù ramps and an addition for an elevator would cost around $1 to $2 million. âÄúWhen we have limited money, we need to target our biggest needs,âÄù Berthelsen said. âÄúThe Scott Hall renovations just havenâÄôt gotten to the top of the list yet.âÄù Scott Hall does have a handicap accessible ramp to the building from the street, but that ramp leads directly to stairs. The back door, which opens to the street, leads to a room with yet another flight of stairs, allowing students with mobile disabilities to only access stairs. âÄúWe have one of the best disability services departments in the U.S.,âÄù said DSCC co-director of programming Alex Kaminsky , one of the authors of the letter going to the Board of Regents. âÄúBut these changes are imperative and the conditions are unfair.âÄù The letter presented to the Board of Regents asks the University to address inaccessibility issues before looking at renovating accessible buildings such as Folwell . The letter also states that, âÄúSymbolically, the inaccessibility of a building as important as Scott Hall sends a negative message to students with disabilities and their alliesâĦâÄù âÄúItâÄôs very unfair to bar someone from going into a building with classes [just because they have a disability,âÄù Garaghty said. âÄúAs long as Scott Hall is inaccessible, the University should not offer classes there.âÄù