Lawrence has completed a number of renovations around campus within the past couple of years. From reconstructing bathrooms to lounges, it is clear that our university is striving to make student lives better. However, it’s questionable if Lawrence is taking all the necessary steps to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to be successful. Despite many recent efforts to make Lawrence more accessible, students with physical disabilities may be left wanting more significant improvements around campus. Accessibility has been, and continues to be, an issue on our campus.
Many housing options on campus are not accessible to students with physical disabilities. For example, Ormsby Hall’s only disability entrance leads to the basement of the building. Because the basement only houses women, male identifying people who are unable to use staircases would not have the option to live in Ormsby. This is the case for women in Trever and Plantz as well, as the accessible first floors houses only men. Brokaw and the North Wing of Colman have similar accessibility issues. All of these dorms lack elevators or stairlifts that can get students where they need to go. This not only prohibits disabled students from having their choice of housing, but alienates them from their classmates, as they most often cannot access their friends’ dorms.
Students with temporary impairments, such as an injury that prohibits the bending of the leg, are sometimes forced to move to a more accessible dorm. Students should not be forced to move out of their choice living spaces simply because they are no longer able to climb stairs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that schools that provide housing to their students must provide comparable accessible housing to students with disabilities at the same cost as the others. There should also be an equivalent quantity and variety of housing available to students with disabilities. Although Lawrence complies with this definition, current facilities have yet to meet the needs of students with physical disabilities, especially with the inconvenience caused by the lack of elevators.
Often times, resources to aid disabled people are not well maintained. Many of the push-to-open door buttons around campus are currently out of order. When the elevator was assessed in Colman Hall last year, it was determined that it needed to be improved. Instead of making the necessary repairs to the elevator, access to the elevator was limited, and students with disabilities were required to request keys so that they could operate the elevator for themselves. This was unfair as students with disabilities had to jump through additional hoops to receive the accommodations they required.
There are some options and recent improvements around campus for students with disabilities. Dean of Students, Curt Lauderdale, is a valuable resource for students with disabilities. Lauderdale is more than willing to talk with students about their accommodations and to help them find a housing situation suited to their needs. Additionally, the front of Sage Hall was renovated over winter break to include a paved entrance, making it more accessible to students. Sage’s elevator was also renovated during this project.
While Lawrence is taking steps in the right direction, there is still a lot that we could do to make the lives of disabled students better. Elevators could be maintained more frequently to prevent damage, as was done in Sage Hall. There could be more warnings on the class schedule to inform students of which rooms may be inaccessible. There could be more ramps installed around campus, following the recent renovations to Sage. These changes, which may only affect a handful of people within our community, are invaluable to those who need them. Lawrence must do more to be more inclusive to all members of our community.