Bumpy and cracked sidewalks, buildings with stairs but no elevators, and heavy doors without a button to open them automatically are only a few of the obstacles people with physical disabilities are forced to face while on Berry’s campus. While there may not be many students and faculty in Berry’s population with permanent physical disabilities, how many times have you seen a student using crutches because they sprained an ankle or a sling because they broke something in their arm? Accessibility is an issue for students with temporary disabilities, too, and it is something that should further push Berry to prioritize accessibility.
One of the biggest accessibility issues on campus lies in getting from class to class. We have a lot of sidewalks that are either cracked or bumpy, which can be dangerous if you’re in a wheelchair or on crutches. Think of the sidewalks up by Ford: they’re pretty bumpy and can be annoying even if you’re walking or riding your bike. Imagine what it’s like to walk on that sidewalk with crutches – the tripping hazards are endless.
Furthermore, our transportation system isn’t adequate for the needs of students with disabilities who need to get around campus. The bus system is great in theory if you don’t have a car to get around, but it isn’t reliable enough. If you need to get from main campus to Ford during the ten minute class change because you can’t walk up there yourself, there’s no guarantee that the bus will be able to get to you in time to get up there. Yes, you can call and let them know that you’re at a certain stop, but if they’re dropping another student off somewhere else, they might not be able to come to you in time.
Accessibility in buildings is an issue, too. We have quite a few historic buildings that are inaccessible thanks to their age. As long as the buildings do not go under major renovations, Berry has no obligation to make them accessible in ways such as adding an elevator or automatic doors. If you break your foot and live on the third floor of a residence hall that does not have an elevator, you have to struggle up and down those stairs every day. Getting to a classroom or professor’s office on the second floor of Laughlin or Moon suddenly becomes a bigger issue.
Even in buildings that are meant to be accessible, there are issues with accessibility. Morgan and Deerfield, for example, have more accessibility features than some of the older residence halls, but they still lack in some areas. Not all doors are automatic, and some of them are fairly heavy – the laundry room doors especially. The buildings’ accessibility features are a step in the right direction, but there is still room to grow.
Accessibility should not be optional. Everyone has the right to exist and go about their daily life without unreasonable challenges, no matter their physical abilities. Berry has the resources to make its campus more accessible, so why haven’t we done this yet? Constructing new buildings with accessibility features is great, but should we not also worry about the problems concerning accessibility that already exist on our campus?
Fixing our campus’ accessibility issues is not something that is going to happen overnight, but it’s something we need to start really pushing for now. The technology for a more accessible campus is out there; we just need to actually implement it. Inaccessibility may not affect you personally right now, but if you get hurt and have to deal with a temporary disability, it will very much be your problem. Let’s work to make accessibility a given on our campus rather than a feature that you only get in some buildings.