Accessing the Baseline

Alfred University is well known for its steep climbs. The hills are featured prominently in every brochure and tour and is a shared joke between faculty and students once classes begin. For freshmen, this is an extremely annoying realization. Where once students were able to leisurely walk, classes demand a little more pep in their step. While for many of the individuals on campus this is more of an irritating compromise, it’s a detriment to the university’s disabled population.

The university isn’t completely blind to this problem, with the state-issued handicap buttons, parking spaces, and elevators. However, there’s a slight problem—those are only bandages on top of a much bigger issue.

Take the Science Center, for example. To access the elevator in that building, students must request a copy of the key. While the faculty are good at looking at a student with crutches and accepting their request, it gets harder when a student is still disabled—but less visibly.

It’s even more of an issue when one considers that some residence halls fail to have an elevator installed. For example, look at the Moskowitz-Tefft buildings. The Link, when it was created, was allegedly supposed to have an elevator. However, that amenity did not make it. Disabled students, who live on the first floors, must go outside of the building and enter from the back to get to their rooms. Even so, those on the upper floors still have to take the stairs.

Another instance of inaccessibility comes from Ade. The dining hall notoriously has one-way back doors, with the only interior way of getting to the dining services being the stairs inside.

“Ramps exist on campus, but [hell] if there is any way for us to use our damn wheelchairs,” says a second-year student who wishes to remain anonymous. “The hills are too steep, it’s a safety issue. And the crutches and walking sticks get to be a problem after a while.”

During the first two weeks of this fall semester, a few students noticed that the handicap buttons wouldn’t work. Though there aren’t many of these buttons across campus, the ones that do exist are placed for ease. It wasn’t until the FOBs were turned on that the ones for Moskowitz and the Link seemed to work, for one student.

“Even the ones that do work are janky as hell,” says a student, “They’re not reliable.”

Alfred University has made attempts to make campus as accessible as possible, but there is still far to go. Many disabled students have thoughts and ideas for implementations or alternative accesses, and the idea of having a more action-heavy disability advocacy group on campus is one of those.

“Finding mental and physical help in the Wellness Center is tough. The walk is extremely far from many of the dorms, and after a whole day of nothing but walking, it’s exhausting,” says Echo Castine, a first-year Environmental Science major.

Ultimately, there is not much that can be done overnight. However, genuine attempts to listen to what the disabled population of AU has to say, as well as making plans for accessibility would be a strong move forward.

By Sam Sage

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