Disabled community

Sean Madigan

Elevators and ramps often supplement a building’s staircase to comply with disability access regulations, but these simple fixes don’t remedy inaccessibility for all disabled students, staff and faculty.
For the blind, illogical floor plans make some campus buildings difficult to use, said Sue Lindgren, a Disabled Student Cultural Center member.
“The University has a goal to make at least one door on every building handicapped accessible, but this doesn’t always mean disability accessible,” Lindgren said.
In the midst of state grants for building renovations, new construction and beautification, the University’s disabled students hope considerations will be made to create a more accessible University for all disabled students.
The University’s Disability Services estimates that 5 percent of the University’s more than 39,000 students have some kind of disability.
“Coffman Union is a great building for wheelchair users, but terrible for blind people,” Lindgren said. Each floor has a completely different layout and there is no consistency in the floor plan to memorize, she said.
Both Lindgren and cultural center member Adam Rautio cited the Science Classroom Building on the edge of the East Bank as one of the least accessible buildings on campus.
The building’s long, steep, wooden ramps are difficult for wheelchair users, especially in the winter. But it is even more difficult to maneuver around inside the building, Lindgren said.
“The staircases are set up illogically,” Lindgren said. “You think when you go up or down a flight of stairs you are on a different floor, but you are not, and the room numbers don’t necessarily correspond to the floor that you are on.”
The building’s elevators are hard to find, which makes the building hard to use, Lindgren said.
Lind Hall is one of the better buildings for the blind to use, Lindgren said. The building is divided into two identical wings and each floor has almost exactly the same floor plan.
And while the University has made great strides in wheelchair accessibility, some things still slip through the cracks.
“We at the University might think of a lot of good ideas but sometimes they just don’t work out,” Rautio said, speaking of the new signs for the campus tunnel system. The signs are great guiding tools, but they are hung too high for wheel chair users to read, he said.
With the winter months approaching, mobility between buildings will become more difficult.
Many of the buildings on the Mall have grand staircases, but few have middle hand railings, Rautio said. When it snows, the middle of the staircase is salted and shoveled. But the snow next to railings is not shoveled, causing a dangerous situation for people who rely on the railing, he explained.
Foot bridges become slippery and blind students have difficulty locating icy spots, Lindgren said.
“Snow makes things take more time; buses take longer no matter what,” Lindgren said.
The University campus buses are all equipped with wheelchair lifts.
Susan Lasoff, an accessibility specialist for Disability Services, said students who take the bus are encouraged to enroll in classes that meet later in the day to allow for snow removal.
The University also provides a paratransit service. Students whose disabilities impair their mobility can make reservations for the curb-to-curb transit service. The service is free of charge and available to all students, staff members and faculty.
More than 150 people used the paratransit service last month, Rautio said.