How Handicap- Friendly is Washington College?:The “What-If”s of Campus Disabilty Resources Creates Concerns

By Allison Shoenauer

Elm Staff Writer

Several weekends ago, this writer had her knee dislocated while playing in her first rugby match.  While the pain of having her kneecap jolted out of socket and then back in was soothed by Advil and cookies, when she returned to school she faced another series of painful challenges.  Specifically, she had to deal with the issues that come with using crutches to get around.  Now, crutches require a lot of hand-eye coordination, so I was already at a disadvantage, but the following two weeks on crutches and the one week in a knee immobilizer have revealed one major flaw this campus has.

It really blows at being handicap-accessible.

Being handicapped is already a physically and emotionally painful thing.  If you add to that the frustration of having to get around a campus that has little to offer in way of assistance, as well as the stresses of being a college student, an already unfortunate experience becomes nearly torturous.

Now, this writer does recognize that the school does offer assistance to the disabled.  Public Safety does provide rides to people who are unable to get to their classes due to physical disability, which was immensely helpful when trying to get from one side of campus to my classes on the other.  The school will also offer signers to the hearing impaired so that they can go to class and, well, learn.  All of the important buildings and several dorms have elevators to help with transportation; however, there are still several issues that the school needs to work out.

For instance, where, on campus, can you find Braille?

Don’t  know?  Neither do I.

So what happens if a blind student comes to Washington College?  What happens if a student already in the school becomes blind?  How are they going to read menus?  Are their friends going to tell them what the meals are for today?  Every day?  Every meal?  Displaying the names of food in the dining hall doesn’t help since ordering is half guesswork.

And for my mobility-challenged brethren, if you live “east” of Sass or Chester and not on the first floor, then you are screwed.  None of those dorms have elevators.  Some of them, such as East, Middle, West, and Reid Hall, require stairs to get into the building or to get to the first floor of the building.  What happens if a student needs a wheelchair?

The simple answer is that they get put into a building with an elevator.  To simply move the student to a more accessible building that happens to have a free space.  If such a place still exists.

Wheelchair accessibility around campus is an issue that no one seems to consider.  For instance, there are few to no automatic doors on campus, so a wheelchair-bound student will have to look for assistance in opening doors.  Then they might have trouble getting through the door since some doors, like the ones going into Hodson Hall, are questionably narrow and have a support beam in the middle of them. Then you have to find an elevator.  Most buildings have been well planned in that their elevators are near the front door or are in clear visible sight.  However, some of the older buildings that have been remodeled have elevators in the worst little corners; corners that wheelchairs might not fit into. Oh, and there’s only one, so if someone comes in and they also need to use the elevator, they’re screwed as well.

What bothers this writer the most about the (lack of) handicapped accessibility to campus is that so much of the “what-ifs” have been ignored.  Understanding this is a small school with a limited budget, there seems to be little to no thought in the possibilities that this campus is full of college students and college students do stupid things.  Like get their knees dislocated.  Or get into car accidents.  It is unacceptable that a person has to suffer more than necessary for an injury they didn’t want.

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