Not Accessible, Unacceptable.
March 16, 2010 Leave a comment
Western Kentucky University is not, by virtue of geography, a disability-friendly campus. Western students are called Hilltoppers for a reason. The joke goes that you can tell freshmen from upperclassmen simply by looking at their calve muscles. Complaints about attending class are often paired with complaints about walking “all the way up The Hill.” However, these complaints are from able-bodied students.
Steep inclines and stairs (lots of them) are not a feature of The Hill, they are par for the course. There’s no avoiding them. That’s part of the problem, but not for the reasons many students, faculty, staff, and administrators would think. Ramps are too rarely seen on campus. If a person, for any reason, must avoid using stairs, it would take much longer for that person to get where they’re going. Ramps are few and aren’t near most main walkways, curb cuts are more common, but too often they are poorly maintained. Where most students could simply take a direct route to their destination, disabled students cannot.
Building access is another issue. Stairs are everywhere. Most buildings on campus have at least one entrance that is completely unaccessible by wheelchair or scooter. Often, the only wheelchair-accessible entrance is on the side, or the back of the building (of course, front and back are relative here). Two out of the three main entrances to the main library (Helm-Cravens) have only stairs. No ramps. The Helm entrance, where one of the coffee shops is located, is one such place. If I were wheelchair bound, I would have to go around to Cravens, through the lobby, across the bridge connecting the two buildings, through the first floor of Helm, and out the door to the coffee shop.
Able-bodied students have four steps.
This is unacceptable. The Hill is no reason for Western Kentucky University not to be a physically-disabled-friendly campus. There is no reason that every entrance to every building cannot be accessible. Every door should be automated. My fellow students should not have to speed up, calling for the person in front of them to hold open the door for them. My fellow students should not have to take a wide, circling, “scenic” route to get to class. My fellow students should not have to circle a campus building to find an entrance they can use.
It is unacceptable. Hilltoppers can do better than that.