Katie Brown-Greaves and Haley Martinez
While many students press the blue handicap button to open doors on campus, Laura Greenwood relies on accessibility push plates everyday. Greenwood uses a mobility scooter to get around due to a leg injury from a car accident. The accessibility push plates to get into buildings are a necessity in her life.
Maneuvering around campus is already difficult enough for students who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Currently, the campus is a field of green fences that block certain pathways, making it an obstacle for Greenwood to get around.
However, Greenwood must also deal with the fact that accessible push plates don’t exist on the second to fifth floors of the University Library.
Brian Carey, assistant director for the Stephen Benson Learning Disability Program at the Bob Murphy Access Center, has helped Greenwood navigate around campus throughout the semester.
“We need to make accessibility a forethought rather than an afterthought,” Carey said.
“I have very much enjoyed the process of troubleshooting accessibility issues on campus, while working alongside Laura.”
Greenwood has talked to the university administrators about her concerns on the push plates and other issues, such as construction.
“Nobody looks at anything from an accessibility standpoint,” Greenwood said. “I shouldn’t have to beg for a solution.”
However, the office of Dean Roman Kochan of the University Library, said the glass doors on the floors of the library do meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, which have to have additional signage to provide assistance, a certain amount of pressure and have electronic actuators on the doors. There is also additional signage offering a phone number to call for the receptionist to assist them.
“The building code requirements do not require all doors to have an electronic actuator installed,” said Larisa Hamada, assistant vice president of the Office of Equity and Diversity. “Due to budgetary constraints, we are not able to to add additional electronic actuators to all campus doors in our buildings.”
According to Hamada, the library administration has a list of all the doors they would like to add the accessible push plates to and are only waiting for the construction funding to become available.
“We are confident that the university is in compliance with federal and state accessibility standards,” said Lauren Williams, a communications specialist for the university. “In many instances, facilities on campus exceed the minimum standards and that is something of which we can be proud.”
Although the library is ADA compliant, Greenwood said she feels degraded when she struggles to open a door and has to call someone to assist her.
“You have to try and crawl through a damn door…[I have to move] back and forth 15 times,” Greenwood said. “I am not even exaggerating because the angle is so tight you can’t get in and you just have to keep trying. But I’m trying to hold the door open at the same time and my arms [are] only so long.”