BY CHAPIN KARTSOUNES
You don’t necessarily know that something is missing until you need it. For me, that thing was handicap buttons, ramps, and other means of accessibility on campus.
Throughout the summer, I became semi-dependent on mobility devices to get around, especially when I was going long distances or had a really active day.
When I got to campus, I knew there was a lack of ramps, but I didn’t think the issue would be as difficult as it quickly became for me.
I live in Newberry, which, for those who don’t know, does not have a ramp or access to any dorm room without taking at least five steps up or down. Luckily for me, I am still extremely mobile and can handle a few stairs.
There are some who are not as lucky as I am and cannot walk at all. If they ever wanted to spend time in a Newberry dorm room, it would be nearly impossible unless someone physically carried them up the steps.
At one point, I decided to use my motor scooter to get from Newberry to one of my classes. On the way out, I noticed that there was absolutely no handicap button, so I had to try and drive my device while opening the door at the same time. This task is even more difficult on the way into a building.
When you have to deal with these things regularly, you get used to them. However, I, and any other handicapped student on campus, should not have to.
I do not believe that it is too much to ask to install a button on each door that leads outside of the buildings on campus. All I am asking for is to have the ability to enter and leave a building independently.
Not only do a lot of doors lack these, but the ones that do have them don’t always work. There have been some instances where I have pressed the button, just to test it, and the door has not opened.
That means that the buttons need to be kept up with somewhat regularly to make sure they are in order. If a student reports a broken handicap button, the first thing that needs to be done is repairing it.
Something else that needs to be addressed is the lack of elevators in dorm buildings. Yes, Newberry is the only building on North Campus that does not have complete accessibility to any dorm room, but if you have friends on the second or third floors, you are out of luck.
Not having accessibility also takes a toll on mental health. Personally, I feel as though my needs as a person with a physical handicap are not a priority to the higher powers of Alma College whatsoever.
Along with this, it is easy to feel like a burden to your friends when you have to ask for help doing things that should be easily done with handicap accessibility. Going back to the elevator situation, someone in a wheelchair would have to depend on their friends coming to their dorm if those friends lived on a second or third floor.
We have expensive new chairs, academic technology and more but some buildings have only one or no handicap buttons. While these are all very beneficial to our campus, there are other issues I believe need to be addressed that seem to be constantly thrown under the radar.
A common opinion in the disabled community is that we just want to have the option to be independent and do things for ourselves. Sometimes, it is necessary to ask for help, but having our choice stripped from us is borderline inhumane.
Installing a handicap button, more ramps, and options to get up the stairs in the dorm buildings seems to be a minor thing to ask for, however, it comes down to more than just asking for help. We want to be seen, heard, understood and want to finally see action take place.